The managers in our entire "company" (several dozen) all just received a directive from HR on giving feedback. While the vast majority of it was good and in harmony with MT principles on giving feedback (I think, as best I understand them, anyway), there was this statement that gave me pause:

"Use feedback as an opportunity for dialogue, not a lecture. Ask for the employee’s thoughts and feelings. Solicit ideas. Make improvement a collaborative effort, counsel together."

Hmmm...  Does this potentially violate the "keep it brief, to the point, focus on the behavior, and not create an opportunity for debate about the manager's feelings or opinion" principle?

GlennR's picture

The two statements are not mutually exclusive. My experience is that most cases of feedback would well served by following MT recommendations. However, there will be times that additional dialogue will be needed to resolve the situation.

Some years ago my boss called an employee into her office with the intent to fire him for poor performance. I had a dotted line relationship with him and knew he was going to be terminated. So, imagine my surprise as I drove to his office to secure it, when I receive a phone call from him telling me she had listened to him and changed his mind. He told her he had gone through a rough patch in him marriage, that he had recovered, and he asked for a second chance which our boss granted. He later went on to be promoted and eventually left our organization after discovering he wanted to become a minister. He now heads his own church.

Granted, this was not a case of giving feedback. However, the lesson I learned is that you should always listen to the other side of the story.

I don't  think MT means for feedback to be a one-way monologue if there are extenuating circumstances. It's the debate you want to avoid, not necessarily a dialogue. (A brief dialogue, hopefully.)


stevesim's picture

 I'm a long time listener so its been a while since I listened to the original feedback casts but I seem to recall Mark & Mike did speak to the idea of collaboration (maybe this has changed as MT refined the feedback model).  The final step in negative (adjusting) feedback is to ask for a different behavior and there was guidance on how to solicit specific behavior.  It was along the lines of "How could you do that differently?".  That sounds to me very much like a collaborative approach by soliciting ideas from the employee.  And there is always room in their answer for their thoughts and feelings.     

The first few times I give adjusting feedback I generally get a long explanation as to why they did what they did as they try to defend their behavior.  I always end the discussion with "Please remember that the purpose of adjusting feedback is not to punish previous behavior, it is to modify future behavior.  I can't change the past, I can only hope to change future behavior.  When feedback is given with that intent you don't need to justify past behavior, you only need to agree to work to change future behavior.  I will always assume you did what you did with good intent."  As long as I am able to smile while giving adjusting feedback I seldom have to say that more than a couple of times before they get the message that they don't need to spend time and effort trying to justify the bad behavior. 

Steve Simmons

shellens's picture

There's two ways of communication in the company: Vertical and Horizontal. Vertical type of communication is pretty much formal, since it is between workers and his boss, where generally prevails a certain set of instructions that employees should follow..

On other hand, horizontal type of communication is usually between employees who are on the same level of job position, working together in the same office and spending common time on breaks. This type of communication is informal, where workers can have relaxed, casual exchange of views and words.

An interesting observation comes with both types of communication! These types depend on the feedback, and this is the only thing that is common for Vertical and Horizontal type of communication. If feedback is good, satisfies the needs of the other side in communication and makes it to proceed further, communication stays "alive". This rule applies as long as feedback is complete and forthright, and all sides in communication are satisfied..

To do that, it must be considered the following:

  1. Focus on a particular behaviour - It should be specific rather than being general.
  2. Impersonal - Feedback should be job related, the manager should not criticize anyone personally.
  3. Goal oriented - If we have something negative to say about the person, we should always direct it to the recipients goal.
  4. Well timed - Feedback is most effective when there is a short gap between the recipients behaviour and the receipt of that feedback.
  5. Use “I” statements - Manager should make use of statements with the words like “I”, “However” etc. For example instead of saying”You were absent from work yesterday”, manager should say”I was annoyes when you missed your work yesterday”.
  6. Ensure understanding - For feedback to be effective, the manager should make sure that the recipients understands the feedback properly.
  7. While giving negative feedback to the recipient, the manager should not mention the factors which are not in control of the recipient.

Management Games - Time Management Games

BrianFreese's picture
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Hi All -

Good discussion here and it hits on some recent challenges I am having with rolling out the feedback model within the larger org. There is concern that not ending the feedback with an opportunity for the recipient to weigh-in creates the perception of a draconian management style and not the "open door / collaborative" perception desired. Further, I am concerned about engaging in longer discussions around how someone could do something differently moving forward, as it starts to sound like coaching to me versus feedback.

I counter the assertion with my own - that feedback is the manager's job - to consistently provide affirming and corrective quick feedback that fuels the subordinates ability to be effective throughout the day; Coaching, O3s, and open-door policy are the additional pillars that are in place to enable opportunities for the subordinate to communicate perspectives and insights on driving a more effective relationship and org.

If you see anything that I am missing here or additional thoughts that you may have on landing the feedback model wherein it isn't perceived as shutting down the subordinate would be most welcome.

Kind Regards,

pucciot's picture
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Make sure that you have your definitions in the right place.

There is the general idea of feedback and then there is the very specific _Manager Tools Trinity Technique Tool of Feedback_.

For MT Feedback there is no why. 

Listen the Podcast "There is No Why in Feedback"


Discussions for improvement is for One-On-Ones and Coaching.

If the Direct wants a conversation - make an appointment - the door is always open ...

There are a couple of good reasons for this - I think.

* If there is any emotion - there is time to get out of it.

* It gives the Direct the chance to think about it and self-correct. - It treats them like a grown-up.

-- When you do this -- this is what happens - do better in the future


BTW - there is a PodCast about open door policy, too.

It doesn't mean that you can be interrupted at any time for anything.



About the draconian outlook - Yes, I too, think it is a little draconian. 

It seems to me that MT Feedback part of - Here is what happens - may, at times, be debatable and subject to the manager's perceptions.

I have a tough time with this idea.  However, that kind of goes with the role power.


Example :

Can I give you some feedback ?

When you stand-up from the table and talk really loud at meetings, it intimidates some of our other staff members and they stop contributing to the discussion.

Can you do that better next time ?


And here is the rub - What if the direct says --- "No it doesn't, intimidate anybody, that's just what you think."

Mike and Mark would probably say it is time for Shot across the Bow and reply - "Oh, you don't think so, OK - please excuse me I have to go somewhere.

If that behavior continues then it becomes time for Systemic Feedback :  "Can I give you some feedback ?  -- When you respond to my Feedback by contradicting my conclusions -  here is what happens, it weakens the point of giving you Feedback and shows a lack of respect for my perspective. - Can you change that for me ?

--- Which, in the end, sounds like you are saying "I am the boss and my perceptions are what is important" ---

And there is truth to that ...

The point is that there is time between all of this - time for the Direct to stop being defensive and consider the matter.  And self-correct.

Does it really matter if the direct disagrees ? 

Not really. 

What matters is that the direct will eventually get the idea and start behaving differently

- even if it is only to keep the manager from giving him Feedback.

It is behavior modification - not personality modification.

--- he thinks --- Every time I stand up and shout at a meeting the Boss gives me MT FeedBack about it.  I guess I should stop - just to keep him off my back.

-- and that works just as well

What do you think ?



BrianFreese's picture
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Hi TJ -

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. It affirmed my understanding of the model and was very helpful. I don't find the FB model to be draconian. Some of my contemporaries are struggling as they are viewing it in isolation versus the complete trinity.

Sincere regards,

BrianFreese's picture
Licensee Badge

Hi TJ -

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. It affirmed my understanding of the model and was very helpful. I don't find the FB model to be draconian. Some of my contemporaries are struggling as they are viewing it in isolation versus the complete trinity.

Sincere regards,

lar12's picture
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It's behavior modification - not personality modification

Nailed it




Every definition of a successful life includes service to others - President George H.W. Bush



mfculbert's picture

Keep in mind that your HR is not used to Manager Tools managers. They are trying to prevent the stereotypical and bad practice that sounds more like scolding employees than improving behaviors. 

I would give feedback in the M-T system. When/if challenged, show your documents in which each of your directs has 30 minutes every week in which they get 10+ minutes to dialogue about anything they want. In addition, I would show that close to 90% of my feedback is positive. Most HR departments would faint with glee to have that data.

naraa's picture
Training Badge

 The only thing the HR advice from your company agrees with the feedback MT model is Do not give a lecture.  But in my opinion they are calling feedback, coaching and one-on-one all into one package called feedback.  I agree with Brian, it sounds more like coaching than feedback.  

When I first started as a manager I would engage in a collaborative effort and try to understand my directs feelings and emotions.  It wore me out and it probably wore my direct out even more.  When you give feedback is not a time to engage in an emotional discussion because the person is being corrected so it is like you are either correcting or not validating their emotional state of mind (which makes you very intrusive and acting with superiority) or you are validating an ineffective behavior because of a bad emotional state.  Both are bad and detrimental to the relationship.

The one on ones fill in for connecting and engaging with the direct and it happens under a condition of trust, when the persons opinion and life outside work are indeed valued apart from the criticism contained in the feedback or the demand for performance.