Submitted by Darko on
I manage developers in an open office plan and am interested in rolling out the trinity with the team, but have a few questions over the feedback.
I already conduct 1-2-1's (albeit monthly at the moment) and give feedback, so my question is, should I therefore stop giving feedback whilst I have 6-8 weeks of 1-2-1's and then start providing feedback again?
Also providing feedback seems more frequent with the trinity model (which is good), but does it work to save up feedback for the 1-2-1's if there was lack of privacy/opportunity to deliver it, or do you just let it go? I imagine it would not be very wise to save it all for 1-2-1's as these meetings would soon become tainted.
Finally is there any guidance on how many times a day or week you should be aiming to provide feedback to each direct i.e. what is considered too much/too little feedback?
More more more!
BLUF: I sincerely doubt that anyone who hasn't been doing the trinity for *decades* is ever going to be at risk of giving too much feedback. Don't intentionally save it up for your O3, but if that's the first time you can do it, so be it.
The rationale for waiting a couple of months before giving feedback is based around the idea that your feedback isn't going to be effective unless you've got a good working relationship with your directs, and that takes time and one-on-ones to build. If you feel that you already have a good relationship with your people, and your feedback is well received at the moment (in that the person receiving it takes it in the spirit it is intended and acts upon it) then you can continue to give feedback.
I can certainly relate to your concerns regarding giving feedback in an open plan office environment -- I'm in much the same environment, and I had similar concerns. If everyone's "around", and they can hear everything that's going on, how can I ever give feedback? The funny thing is that once I took a bit more notice, I found that a quiet voice (by far not my natural volume) didn't really carry far enough for the person at the next desk to hear well. Also, people are often away from their desks -- or the person next to them is away, and you can give them feedback in a more private setting. For the couple of bits of feedback you didn't get to deliver in the moment, you can take 20 seconds out of your O3 to deliver them.
...you don't need privacy for positive feedback. In fact, it might work better when someone overhears you.
Take the time to get it right
To follow up on what Matt said, one-on-ones are not the time or place to give feedback. The O3s are for developing a relationship with your directs. Feedback or performance communication needs to be timely to be effective. The 6-8 week recommendation provides the manager time to build rapport with the direct, so the direct is open to the feedback and the manger understands how to effective give feedback to that person. I needed to spend time, frequently and regularly with them, to develop those relationships -- revisiting a week old issue would have hindered that process.
After attending a MT conference and realizing that my O3s had been a half measure, I went back to square on and hit the pause button on feedback. I did solid, by the book, one-on-ones for six weeks before initiating feedback and began with positive feedback only. The restart was rare act of humility on my part. I consider myself a fast learner, am always impatient for progress and often overestimate my ability -- especially with people. Mike and Mark often say "with people slow is fast" and I have found them to be right. Getting the O3s right laid a solid foundation for rolling out the rest of the trinity. It was time well spent.
There is a series of emails you can subscribe to that walk you through the process of rolling out the whole trinity. They are great for keeping you motivated and on track.
"Overhearing" positive feedback is not a good thing
I don't think that "letting" others accidentally overhear positive feedback is a good thing. The general guidance about being careful about publicly acknowledging a direct's achievements (because high S/high C people aren't usually the publicity seeking types, and it just makes them uncomfortable) applies here too. If you make someone uncomfortable, you've both negated the effectiveness of the feedback (they're thinking about the discomfort, not the feedback) and you're chipped away at your relationship a little. Make someone uncomfortable with your feedback a few times, and they'll start to cringe every time they hear the words "Can I give you some feedback?", *EVEN* when it's positive. Hell of a way to run a railroad.
Even for the high D/high I directs, though, I don't see the value in it. If it's a high C/high S overhearing, they're likely to worry that others are overhearing *their* feedback, with all the negative consequences described above. The feedback is intended for *that* direct, too -- others may not need that guidance, or may need it delivered in a different way, to be effective for them.
There's also a question of ethics involved (at least there is for me). I told each of my directs, when I started feedback, that it was a private conversation between the two of us, and wouldn't be done in public. To then deliberately create a situation which makes that conversation public would be going back on my word. Perhaps others don't mention that when they're announcing feedback, but if you do, stick to it. Even if you *didn't* mention it, it would still feel a little like game playing to me. I try to live my life in such a way that if asked, I would be proud to describe exactly what I did, and why I did it, to anyone who asked. Would you be proud to explain to your direct, or the person who overheard you, what you did and why you did it?
Finally, I'm at a loss to come up a likely positive outcome of the feedback. If people are trying to "force" you to give them positive feedback by engaging in a certain behaviour ("the boss gave her positive feedback when she did X, so if I do X I'll get a good word too") then you're not giving anywhere near enough positive feedback. If the behaviour is something that everyone needs to engage in more, tell them that directly -- either through feedback or otherwise. What if your plan was to disseminate "do more of this" via overheard feedback, but the person you thought overheard you actually didn't? Whoops.
On the other hand, I don't stress too much if someone does truly accidentally overhear feedback. I've had people come round the corner while I've been giving feedback, and I don't stop mid-sentence and glare at them until they leave. But I do try and minimise the chances of such an occurance happening, and I never connive to increase the chances of someone overhearing feedback.