I'm a new manager (in the role, ~3 months in) and facing quite a challenge in my O3 with 1 (of the 4 directs) I manage. He is very hesitant to share anything, asks me to go first instead, and not talk about current work. 

The irony here is we're both high D, high C (based on how i read his behaviors). 

I already implemented my O3s for quite some time now, maybe around 6 weeks now. I just announced feedback and already started giving positive feedback using the model. I'm having "concerns" with this direct because he is very hesitant in sharing anything at all. I already explained the agenda (10-10-10, and sometimes 15-15) a couple of times and that the first part is theirs. I am aware the the purpose of the O3 is to build a relationship so i don't want to ruin it by "sticking with the agenda."

Here's how our O3s usually go: I start with my usual opener, "Kamusta" which is Filipino for "how are you?" or "how's it going?". 

Then he says he's ok. Then a long pause, waiting for me to start saying something. I don't want to hijack the O3 so I try to hold out for as long as i can, say 10 seconds. He doesn't speak, just looks down at his notebook (which doesn't have much written on) and waits. I then say, "ok, let's start". He replies "you go ahead." About half the O3s i remind him about the agenda and all. Half was me starting to talk already. 

I basically go through his current work and deadlines, ask some questions stated below the MT form, like "how's your week like" or "what are you working on" etc. Normally we "finish" within the first 10 minutes, except for what i noticed last week, which was the topic on the future. 

He is very much vocal about what he wants to do (contribute ideas), work on what he studied (he's in his early 20s and the work now is somewhat different from what he took up), and about the company's future. I did this again in my O3 a while ago with him and we got to fill up the time. 

Should i be concerned with this at all or just keep on doing talks about the future? I haven't had that much time to talk to him about his family (which i think he is very hesitant to share). Work-wise, he generally meets deadlines, though in my opinion, he gives himself more time than the others (i get deadlines from my team for now instead of setting them). 


- Ariel (DiSC: 7-1-1-7)

BariTony's picture

First, a few things to consider:

Are you sure that you have his DISC profile right?

You say you've started feedback already. Starting positive feedback 6 weeks into rolling out the trinity sounds aggressive for a new manager.

Are you sure he's a top performer?

I had a similar situation with a high D direct over a year ago when I was promoted. They were considered a top performer by our supervisor, but based on the quality of their work, they weren't. They were always praised by our boss for shoddy work that the client complained about, they were often insubordinate, refusing to carry out direction, and they did not communicate with the project manager, peers, or myself. Our O3s were pretty much as you describe in your post. I'd ask how things were going, they said "fine", and then refuse to give any update. Their objective was to get the O3 over with as soon as possible. I did O3s for 6 solid months before we were taking up a whole 30 minutes. Only then did I start with positive feedback, which I'd been doing with the top performers for 3 months at that point. Every time I gave this direct positive feedback, they seemed like they were on the verge of panic, like they were waiting for the other shoe to drop - eyes wide open, shoulders tensed, back straight. After 3 months of positive feedback and before I started giving them negative feedback, they resigned.

Just keep doing the O3s and don't worry about feedback quite yet. Reevaluate your assessment of their DISC profile. Start opening up a little about yourself in O3s. Take a critical look at their work and get another's opinion whom you trust about the same. Don't probe him about personal stuff he doesn't want to share. If he likes talking about the future, then let him talk about that for his 10 minutes. Or 20 minutes. Or even 25. Then tell him you need to wrap up and start asking for project status updates.


mattpalmer's picture

It's the bane of all O3s.  You ask an open question, get back a "fine", and then... crickets.  Perhaps even a tumbleweed.

While I'm sure the people-focused managers of the world could coax an engaging conversation out of a coma patient, us task-lovers (I'm 7114, myself) have a harder time of making it happen naturally.  My solution is to wield whatever C is in me to plan ahead.  After the first couple of weeks of "fine", you know you've got a pattern forming, so consider ahead of time what you say to that, and what your direct could say to that, and what you'd say, and so on.  Almost certainly the conversation won't go as you planned it, but as Eisenhower said, "Planning is everything, but plans are nothing".  The fact that you've thought about the conversation will leave you much better prepared.

My favourite all-purpose question, taken from my son (who's just started to use it) is "why?".  When your direct says, "fine", you could come back with, "why do you say that?".  I've tried pretty much every other sort of question (in the "who, what, why, where, when" series), and the "why" question gets the best response.  It isn't guaranteed, but out of all questions, the "why" is the one that is hardest to dodge with a non-answer.  About all the direct can say to avoid the question is, "I dunno", for which the standard response is "I doubt that.  You really have no recollection of why the week has been fine?".

I'm sure you can come up with a dozen different things your direct might say, and for each one you should think about what your next response could be to try and keep the conversation flowing, and in their court.  Then, when your direct comes out with something totally random, you've got a dozen possible responses, from which you can pick the most likely option and send it back.

You might also like to check out the "How to be Effective in Conversation" cast for more on how to "chat".

Kevin1's picture


I agree with the other comments.

Consider what you are sharing with him?  Are you sharing personal stuff or is it all business?  If it is all business, then you can expect that they are not going to open up and give you personal stuff either. 

Maybe look at your opening.  "Let's start" may be replaced with "what would you like to talk about?" or "what have you got for me?", or "What's important to you this week?"

If he doesn't have anything, then don't sweat it.  High C's do take a lot of time to open up, and sometimes they are more comfortable chiming in on something you raise later on than to start a personal topic themselves.  Don't worry.  Eventually, if you continuously show a genuine interest in what they are saying to you, then High C's will graduate towards opening up more.  And yet sometimes they will still have little to say.  that's ok.

It may help him to have a bunch of set questions so he can come prepared.  e.g.

  • What things do you need more information or instruction from me on?
  • What things do you need help or assistance on?
  • What do you want me to review before you go ahead?
  • What have you achieved this week and need to update me on?
  • What have you noticed anything we can do better?

Another thing is to have a bank of open questions to use when your time starts.   High C's love telling you what they think about stuff. e.g.

"Wow, that <insert hot topic> is hot topic in the news right now.  What do you thinks about <insert the hot topic of the day>? 

Bottom line is not to worry to much.  See if you can enable yourself and him to prepare some kind of structured O3 from which it is safe to deviate during your time together.

Hope that helps





aylim14's picture

 Maybe i phrased the profile misleadingly. He's more of a C than a D. I haven't had the chance to introduce DISC yet. 

But that aside, top performer in terms on quality and technicality, but not in quantity and "teamwork". I rolled out feedback to all of them (but only positive), not just the top one. I've been giving both positive and negative feedback before its time (thanks for being early / can you not be late next time). 

Glad to hear other people experiencing / experienced this and sharing what you did. I only had a few weeks of O3s so i don't have much to go on. And yes, i'll be continuing my O3s, let him talk about the future and what he likes. Thanks for the input!

Doris_O's picture one wants to say anything, so it becomes just a status update. (I wish I had a better punchline.)

I've had this problem as well with a high D/C. I would start with my usual "How is your week going?" When my high D/C had nothing to say I would say "it's your ten minutes" and then wait. Sometimes I would ask about her kids or pets, or a specific project, but generally I would remind her that the first 10 minutes were hers. This went on until she finally told me that having a whole ten minute was "too much pressure". What she did not say, but I understood from having worked with her for awhile was that she felt put on the spot and had trouble coming up with things to say to me in the moment.

My response was that she could count on the fact that we are going to be meeting every week and I would always give her the first 10 minutes, more if she needed it. We did a mini-coaching session (brainstorming was also too much pressure). But the take ways were: 1) take 10-15 minutes each week before our O3 to write a list of things she wanted me to know or wanted to ask me and 2) keep a running list throughout the week as she thought of things. This seemed to alleviate some of the pressure once she got over the idea that having things written down ahead of time would somehow be "cheating".

The two things I would do differently today are: 1) I would do a more formal coaching session with specific goals/deadlines over a longer period of time, and 2) I wish I had emphasized that her ten minutes did not need to just be about work and to let her know that when she was able to share things that were impacting her life, that it helped me work with her better. For example when she was moving, I was able to make some adjustments to her work schedule that week, that she otherwise would not have thought to ask for.