So, I have a question about the Shot-Across-The-Bow (SATB).  Basically, you give the feedback, and if the direct pushes back with excuses, you disengage.  I can understand how that sounds like the right thing to do, but I wonder about the following:

Every time you have an interaction with someone, you teach them something, either about you, or about them, or about life in general, but they (and you) learn something.  I guess the question is, what did you teach them?

If you do the SATB once, then the direct repeats the previous behaviour (because there was no commitment to change and you in fact reinforced that by saying "Ok - no problem"), and you give feedback again, and they push back with excuses, now what?  Back down?  You will simply reinforce the fact that when you tell them their behaviour is unacceptable, that they can give you excuses and it will be OK.

 And if this continues, you can never get to Systemic Feedback, becuase they never promised to change.  Ooops.

I actually have this occuring with one of my directs.  I think I taught him to be quick on his feet with excuses, and they get pretty lame sometimes.

I suppose I could give him feedback about excuses, but he will just give me an excuse.  Seems like a never ending pattern.

Now what?


rwwh's picture
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The shot across the bow works only in the early stages of feedback. Indeed, in a true fight it would be laughable to continuously shoot across the bow.

The shot across the bow works only when the direct pushes back with "no I did not". If it is true behavior that you gave feedback on, there is no question that you have seen it correctly, and even though the direct may be denying, he damn well knows it is true. In the marine fight: the enemy thought they were safe, but you have proven that you can reach them with your fire.

The shot across the bow is not suitable when the direct gives you excuses. Excuses are about the past, feedback is about the future. If you get a "yes but I" pushback, you should continue the feedback by restating the effects of the action: "I understand that, but when you do X here is what happens: Y". You already got the direct report to admit the problem, just tell him the consequences again. We are not interested in how it happened, that is the past. We are only interested in a way to prevent it from happening again in the future.