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Yesterday started with asking a direct how the work I had assigned him the day before was progressing. When he told me that another direct had told him to work on something else. I gave him feedback, which was not as well delivered as it could have been.

(I give fairly regular feedback (2 - 3 times a day across 5 directs). Usually affirming, rarely adjusting.)

He then erupted.

I spent the morning putting out the ensuing fires.

The exact words I used: "When I ask you to work on a specific task, and then discover that you're working on something else, here is what happens: I feel that you don't respect me as a manager".

Is this as poorly worded as the response indicated, or am I giving my direct's response too much weight.

How could I have delivered this better.

iann22's picture

Can I give you some feedback? If so read on…

When you give feedback without individualising the response (for example, by using the DISC Model and considering your direct's motivations), here's what happens… ensuing fires have to be managed and you have a bad day.

What do you think you could do differently next time?

stephenbooth_uk's picture

Do you have any thoughts on the dominant DiSC characteristics of this direct? I can't see anything hugely wrong with the feedback you quote, it does seem to be slanted towards a high I (talking about feelings). A high D might say "So what?" and a High C might quote regulations at you, but from what was given I can't see why anyone would 'erupt'.

Can you give us a better idea of what you mean by 'erupted'? Are were talking a few sarcastic comments followed by some grumbling, shouting, throwing things around or going out to the car park and slashing your tyres sort of thing?

You mention that another direct had told them to do something. Is that person a peer of the direct you gave the feedback to or are they someone who is senior to them. A common problem in modern organisations is that it's sometimes not clear who can give you instructions and whose instructions take precedence, matrix organisations are particularly prone to this. Could the direct have thought they were right to do the work given to them by the other person ahead of the work you gave them because work from that person is higher priority?

Have you spoken to the other direct and given them feedback on superceding your instructions?

Are you sure that the other direct didn't mislead the direct you assigned work to to make them believe that you had agreed for them to do the new work rather than what you had assigned them? I narrowly avoided a major conflict a few years ago when a project manager told me that she had spoken to my line manager and was assigning me a task as a top priority piece of work to be done immediately, ahead of the top priority work assigned to me by my own line manager. It's only because I don't trust anyone futher than I can throw them that I called him to confirm and found that whilst she had spoken to him he had told her no way as the work he had assigned me was of much greater corporate priority.

Stephen

jhack's picture

Your feedback would not have been inappropriate for some people (those that respect hierarchy, for example), so iann22's advice is worthwhile.

"When I ask you to work on a specific task, and then discover that you're working on something else, here is what happens:

- I worry that you aren't aligned with the team's priorities...
- Other people have to do the work originally assigned to you, and the team suffers...
- I wonder if you can be trusted with other assignments....

The selected consequences will depend on the person.

THAT SAID....

Even if your feedback wasn't perfect, your direct should not have "erupted."

And what do you mean by "erupted"? Did he raise his voice, did he call you an egomaniac, .... specifically what did he do? Feedback on all this, too, probably.

And what were the ensuing fires? Did other folks erupt? Did they stop working? My point being:

There's more here than one poorly delivered piece of feedback. Are you doing O3's? Is everyone aligned at your weekly staff meetings with the priorities set by you and your organization? Do folks normally set their own priorities?

John

rwwh's picture

akinsgre: Two issues: one about the text of the feedback, and one about the resulting fire.

Feedback should not be a big deal. It may be that the fires erupted because this direct felt that "not respecting" the manager is a big deal. I think this may be a bit on the heavy side. You could have said "here is what happens: I do not get the result that I expect in time". Also, in step two you could avoid referring to yourself. The fact that "you discover" is not part of the issue. One possible answer from the direct to this feedback could have been: "well, I guess I could make sure that you do not discover what I am working on next time".

There is a more important issue than the wording: if you get fire as a result of feedback, you are not supposed to go into discussion. Feedback is factual. There is no interpretation. If the direct is denying the fact, you just admit you must be wrong and walk away. Listen to the "shot across the bow" podcast for more background on this tactic.

iann22: you can not give feedback in writing. Writing loads your words. And it defies the purpose of the step-one question.

akinsgre's picture

I'd guess this direct is probably more an S, then an I. Haven't done the DiSC profile with my directs, so that's just based on the understand I get from the discussions here, and the DiSC podcasts.

By "erupt", I mean he got very emotional and started firing back with excuses first, and then criticisms of my ability.

I'd have left it with a shot across the bow, but this guy really was worked up and I think talking him off the "ledge" helped him get through the rest of the day.

[quote="jhack"]
There's more here than one poorly delivered piece of feedback. Are you doing O3's? Is everyone aligned at your weekly staff meetings with the priorities set by you and your organization? Do folks normally set their own priorities?
[/quote]

I am doing O3s. Since I'm new to this team, they still don't view me as the manager. In fact, part of the ensuing fires were folks asking my boss, if I'm really the boss now (four months after my boss said, "Meet Greg. He's our new Development Manager".

Priorities could be communicated better, and I'm trying to right that wrong from today forward.

I understand that my feedback could have been better. Just that after a few months of delivering mostly positive feedback, I really didn't expect this level of emotional response for what was minor issue.

jhack's picture

If your folks are going to your boss after four months and asking if you are really the manager, then there is a larger issue here. Being new should not cast doubt on your role.

Who has been directing their work? To whom have they been reporting status? Who sets the agenda for the weekly staff meeting, and who does the "waterfall" portion? How have the O3's been presented? Who discusses their career development with them? Do your directs still go to your boss on issues that should be managed by you? What is your boss doing that might have led them to wonder who their boss is?

Your boss needs to back you up on this, and if he's part of the problem...well, that's yet a different subject.

This isn't really a feedback issue.

John

akinsgre's picture

[quote="jhack"]If your folks are going to your boss after four months and asking if you are really the manager, then there is a larger issue here. Being new should not cast doubt on your role.

Who has been directing their work? To whom have they been reporting status? Who sets the agenda for the weekly staff meeting, and who does the "waterfall" portion? How have the O3's been presented? Who discusses their career development with them? Do your directs still go to your boss on issues that should be managed by you? What is your boss doing that might have led them to wonder who their boss is?
[/quote]
I have been directing their work; though I set goals and objectives, and the Chief Architect typically doles out assignments based on the technical tasks. The Chief Architect is the one who asked this person to do something besides what I had asked him to do.

I would have been OK with this; I also would have expected them to discuss this with me in light of the fact that I had made the original assignment. This lack of communication was "issue" behind my feedback.

The Chief Architect is also the one who approached my boss and asked who is "in charge".

My boss has supported me. I do feel he soft-pedals a little. I also think that I have been trying hard to fit in, and avoid conflicts this first few weeks.

One "odd" thing is that I'm a contract employee. My boss had to hire me this way because of "organizational issues".. As a result, I think there is a feeling that I'm not really the boss until I'm fulltime.

Finally, this team didn't have a manager before. The Chief Architect was one of three people. Now we're a six person team.
[quote="jhack"]
Your boss needs to back you up on this, and if he's part of the problem...well, that's yet a different subject.

This isn't really a feedback issue.

John[/quote]

He has supported me. And things will improve. Just making sure I don't screw up too much in the progress, and I do everything I can to improve the situation.

WillDuke's picture

So back to the original feedback:[quote]The exact words I used: "When I ask you to work on a specific task, and then discover that you're working on something else, here is what happens: I feel that you don't respect me as a manager". [/quote]
Is that really what your problem is? Because it sounds to me like the Chief Architect is really the problem.

Accordingly, should the feedback be delivered to the Chief architect instead? Maybe the direct feels caught up in a power struggle that shouldn't be their problem.

It's tough to have 2 bosses. And 2 people giving you tasks is having 2 bosses. I think you need to work this out with the CA.

tomw's picture

I probably would have been less proper. Something along the lines of:
"When you take your peer's direction instead of mine, here's what happens: I wonder why I'm still paying you"

Yes, your feedback should have been tailored for that person's DISC profile. It also could have focused more on the task's specific ramifications of not being done, not its effect on you:
"... here's what happens: the project misses its deadline."

You could treat it the same as any other time a task misses its deadline... assuming that this task was time sensitive. If it wasn't, then there's really not as much of a problem. Did you tell the person you needed it done by a specific time or that it was all you expected them to be working on?

US41's picture

I disagree with most of these responses.

First of all, tailoring the feedback to the person's DiSC profile... that's really _advanced_ feedback, and I don't think it is appropriate for you to take responsibility for a direct of yours erupting. If they erupt (become emotional or start becoming insubordinate), that is their decision, and not something you should hold yourself accountable for.

Just because it's cool to tailor feedback to the DiSC profile doesn't mean that is a reasonable expectation that every manager can be called on. 99% of managers don't give ANY sort of feedback - they just criticize or ambush their directs with bad news. Of the ones who do practice feedback, 99% don't do it using any sort of model approaching the MT method. And those who do manage to tailor it to DiSC profiles tend to hit a little too hard or get a little too heavy-handed with the attempts to hit the person below the belt in their DiSC vulnerable point.

Yeah, it would be a wonderful world if all feedback was tailored to the direct, but I believe a good manager does what he can, tries, sets expectations high, but FORGIVES HIMSELF, and never holds himself accountable for the poor judgment of others.

So, I'd say maybe your org chart is screwed up and you need to propose a new one to management.

I'd also suggest that you not give someone feedback until some result is not met. Set a date you want some milestone reached, and a time if it is urgent, and then when they miss the milestone, then give feedback.

Don't give feedback about what they are doing every minute of the day. You might come by my desk at 10:16am at the moment I am on the phone with my spouse. We usually speak for about 5 minutes in the morning. If you give me feedback about how I am not working on what I am supposed to be during that time, my concern for my career is going to plummet as I start imagining myself finding a new job.

If the guy with two bosses posted here, I'd probably advise him to leave. Two bosses who don't get along and take it out on me? Forget that.

If my boss gave me a report I shared with someone else, I'd probably draw up a business plan and justification for why I should be able to hire a replacement and just give that person to the other manager. Sharing reports seems like fouled up organization to me... just as much as two managers sharing a desk as we discussed in that other thread about the poor guy who was offered a job, but then the old manager came back, and they wanted them both to job share. Blech.

Sort out your org chart, and focus more on milestone results and less on all-day behaviors.

A short story...

Once there was a guy sitting at his desk reading the newspaper. He had his feet kicked up on a second chair in his cube. His boss walked by him that morning carrying his laptop bag and shook his head in disgust.

"What are you doing sitting there with your feet up reading the paper? Get back to work!"

The guy put down his paper, put his feet on the floor, stood up, grabbed a box, and started to put his belongings into it. He said, "Sayonara, sucker." and walked out the door.

The manager was bewildered but who needs someone like that anyway?

The next day, at the staff meeting, the manager was about to announce that the guy had quit ten seconds before he was fired because he was goofing off at the office and was called on it. Before he could speak, one of his directs said, "Hey boss, did [the guy that was fired] get that issue resolved last night? When I came in, he was still wearing his clothes from yesterday and sitting on a conference call while whipping up this beautiful report for the execs with all the details, charts, path forward and everything! That guy is a machine!!! He said he was waiting for you to get in so he could show it all to you."

The manager just stared back.

Be careful interpreting micro-behaviors out of context. Unless you have a repeating pattern of behavior, remember that other people have lives and emotions, and your goal is encouraging effective behavior, not stomping out bad behavior which you might be jumping to conclusions about. If we make our people miserable with our heavy-handed style, rule enforcement, and perfectionism, they just quit and we lose all we invested in them. Or worse, they do as Drucker writes, "die on the vine", and then they NEVER LEAVE and never do anything which is worth firing them for.

Focus on results.

akinsgre's picture

Thanks US41, I really appreciate the "directness" of your responses.

There has been a pattern, observed by me and commented on by others in the organization.

That said, I appreciate that during the day, people "multi-task". I've also continuously said that I don't feel my role is to assign tasks on a daily basis.

However, in this instance, I had asked the direct to do something specifically because he had been asked to work on this task before and needed to do this himself.

When I walked around in the morning to see how everything was going, I asked how it was coming, and he said he wasn't working on it.

I gave both he and the CA feedback. He happened to get his feedback first, and this is how he reacted.

There is not "supposed" to be two managers.

On the other hand, there are many things about my job and the organization which makes me appear more like a peer than other people who have "Manager" in their title.

This seems to make it more difficult to deliver feedback; though no one else has had this reaction to feedback and other directs have received feedback very well and showed immediate improvement after receiving adjusting feedback.

US41's picture

[quote="akinsgre"]On the other hand, there are many things about my job and the organization which makes me appear more like a peer than other people who have "Manager" in their title.

This seems to make it more difficult to deliver feedback; though no one else has had this reaction to feedback and other directs have received feedback very well and showed immediate improvement after receiving adjusting feedback.[/quote]

I have been a peer manager before - a "team lead" who had "reports" who technically reported to my boss. Giving them feedback was very uncomfortable. Unless the person thinks you can fire them, they tend to realize you are not the boss, and their reaction to boss-like behavior can be resistant.

The advice I received from Horstman and Auzenne when I was in that situation was not to use the feedback model, but instead use the peer feedback method. I didn't ask if it was OK, and I didn't ask them what they were going to do different. I just tended to speak in "When you, then blah blah blah happens"... cause and effect sort of behavioral observation.

If you hire the people, and you can fire the people, you are the boss. If they do not recognize you as such, I would suggest that you might be too easy on them and might need to drop the hammer a little more. Set some difficult objectives, or perhaps react with a little more affirmative style when challenged when giving feedback.

Some techniques I use when my feedback is challenged.

* Sit there and listen while they make excuses, then give a feedback summary and ask again for what they will change. Example, "That's nice, but doing ____ is not working. What can you do differently?"

* Hold up your hand to stop them, and then do the same.

* Try giving feedback about receiving feedback. "Can I share something else with you? When I observe you engaging in ineffective behavior, and I call you on it, and I ask you to change that behavior, and you start arguing with me instead of telling me what you are going to do differently, then I start thinking 'This guy doesn't want to change. This guy thinks he's doing OK, but I just told him he isn't. Do you think you could change something there for me? (this technique is called systematic feedback by our hosts... usually you give it when multiple feedbacks fail to produce results, but it works here too)

* Simply repeat "What can you do differently?"

PierG's picture

Greg,
I'm sure she got the message.
Just go away.
PierG

akinsgre's picture

[quote="PierG"]Greg,
I'm sure she got the message.
Just go away.
PierG[/quote]

Yes Pier, I believe you're right.

This wasn't my shining moment as a manager. But I'll move on and try to do things better in the future (hopefully!).

davidleeheyman's picture

It sounds like a situation that I've seen before. There is a Chief Architect who is brilliant. His technical vision is amazing, his skills are such that he can accomplish in a day what takes others weeks to complete. The challenge is that they are such perfectionists that they don't have the patience and ability to direct the work of others. So management brings in a Development Manager or VP R&D to make sure that the product development continues smoothly and within the timelines that are required to execute on the overall business plan. The challenge comes when they fail to make clear to the Chief Architect that the developers now report to the Development Manager. I've seen this resolved and might suggest some of the following options (from best to worst IMO):

[list=1]
[*]The Chief Architect is told by your joint boss that the developers now report to you. The Chief Architect is involved in design reviews and roadmap vision discussions but once a spec is decided upon they are only involved when the developers are asking for their assistance and opinions on approaches. The timelines and actually division of labour are in the hands of the Development Manager.
[*]The Chief Architect can report to the Development Manager. The Development Manager then tells the Chief Architect what needs to be done within the timeline and the Chief Architect is responsible for making sure this is done. This approach may be a challenge if the problem was that the Chief Architect wasn't doing a good job of meeting the timelines.
[*]Sideline the Chief Architect by giving them a developer or two to use to continue to work on the visionary stuff while the Development Manager keeps the ship sailing in the right direction.
[*]Do you really need both a Chief Architect and a Development Manager? One of them may be superfluous. Is the Chief Architect really an architect or just the most experienced of the developers? Was the title of Chief Architect given for more than pride? Perhaps one of them should brush up the resume.[/list:o]

madamos's picture

After reading your post, my first thought was to wonder what caused your direct to "erupt"? You stated that you have been giving regular feedback (both affirming and adjusting) and this is the first time you have seen this reaction. It makes me wonder what is going on with the direct. Is there something else bothering him? I would be looking to follow this up during the next O3.

MadAmos

akinsgre's picture

Mostly affirming feedback. In fact, I think this was the first "adjusting" feedback this person received.

He is "very" sensitive and insecure. He had periods of unemployment in the past (we talked about this all in subsequent O3s.

I've actually stopped giving "immediate" feedback so I can take time to think about what I'm delivering (for both adjusting and affirming) Before I do so.

It's a step backward for now; but I felt like the bad feedback I was delivering was not helping. So I need to figure out how to do a better job with that.