Is it ever appropriate to bypass the inital affirming-feedback-only phase when starting to implement the feedback model?

I'm new to MT and just beginning to use the feedback model (2-3 days, affirming feedback only so far, and I haven't hit everyone yet).

I was invited to a meeting to clarify the strategy my team is pursuing to my peer organizations. To keep the meeting at a strategic level, I specifically wanted my technical lead to attend (as he's the one that will translate the strategy into tactics). I specifically did NOT invite one of my lead's high-C DRs, who would have dragged the meeting down into the tactical weeds and diverted the focus away from the strategic discussions.

Due to either failure on my part to explain that I was intentionally excluding the DR and why, or my lead's failure to catch the statement that this was a management-only meeting (most likely the former), my lead told his DR about the existance of the meeting.

I then received a phone call from the DR, who was hurt that he was not invited. When I explained that only the lead was invited due to the strategic nature of the agenda, the DR responded with a blast at his lead, stating that the lead is essentially disconnected from his team, and that "I do all of the team's real work anyway, so I should represent the team." This guy really wants a promotion and is very aggressive about getting there.

I found this EXTREMELY unprofessional, and could barely get off the phone without making unwise remarks in return. After the emotional component wore off, I'm left with a conviction that this behavior is ineffective and must be dealt with immediately.

Now the question: I've not fully rolled out the model to my team, and I've not given this individual [u]any[/u] feedback yet. Would it be more effective to skip the affirming-only phase and give him the adjusting feedback now while the behavior is still fresh in his mind, or should I wait until the team is comfortable with receiving feedback and then go back and address this behavior?

[SIDE NOTE: I've noticed an unanticipated benefit of the model already: I feel better about myself now that I'm verbalizing the good job my team is doing as feedback and know that they are explicitly receiving the recognition they deserve. It's motivating me to continue using the model. Thanks, guys!]

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

Roger, I don't think you can NOT give feedback on this behavior. Generally speaking, I don't like to bypass the affirmative feedback first as it sets the example that not everything is bad. In this particular case, it may necessary unless you can find a way to word affirmative feedback of his drive/dedication/ambition without encouraging similar behavior in the future. I'm not coming up with a good way to do that this early in my morning.

bflynn's picture

But, you did get off the phone without making an unwise remark. Nicely done. Double check that High-C part. The DR's behavior is sounding a lot more D-ish to me. Clarify - this is your tech lead's DR, so he is a second level DR to you?

I believe the reason for affirming feedback first is to make people are comfortable with feedback, so they don't see it as a club. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

I'd ask for Mark's guidance here, but my instinct is that you shouldn't use the feedback model for this unless this person has already had a taste of the positive feedback. Don't go out of the way to give positive feedback, just so you can turn around and give negative feedback, just talk in a different way. Of if you do use feedback, be a little gentler in the piling on phase.

Yes, obviously you need to provide negative reinforcement back to him. What little I hear, it sounds like he is vocal and wouldn't hesitate to make his feelings known to his peers and subordinates.

roger_reiss's picture

Thanks for the advice. I was all set to exercise my new-found skills at giving feedback, but when I checked my voicemail this morning, the guy had already called and apologized (positive points for that!). Now, where was that podcast on "Accepting An Apology"? :lol:

Peter.westley's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge


Well hey! Problem solved. You can start by giving the affirming feedback about him apologising. Let the outburst slide this time, but be in a position to give adjusting feedback if he does it again.

Sometimes things just work out....

roger_reiss's picture

Peter, that's exactly what happened. I gave the feedback on the spot. I even got to practice the famous "Horstman Handshake" when giving it.

As I stated before, I'm just rolling out the feedback model. Boy, does it feel awkward! I've drunk the KoolAid though, and am committed to making it work. I figured it wouldn't be natural at first, so I asked the team to cut me some slack while I learn it. I've already gotten positive input from the team on the process. Of course, they're only getting the affirming feedback so far; I'll wait until the correcting stuff starts and see if they still feel the same way.

In a strange way, the fact that I'm not yet good at delivering feedback but am still willing to give it my best effort ties back into the concept of the feedback model itself. If I'm not willing to stretch myself and improve MY behavior, any attempt at getting my team to change THEIR behavior loses credibility.

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

[quote="roger_reiss"]If I'm not willing to stretch myself and improve MY behavior, any attempt at getting my team to change THEIR behavior loses credibility.[/quote]

How true that is!

And good for you at jumping on the opportunity presented to you. Good luck (it gets easier!)

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

I'm sorry this has taken me so long. I regret my absence.

You don't "HAVE" to give positive feedback first, but you'll really stink at negative if you jump to it too soon without mastering the model (which [i]seems[/i] easier if you learn with positives).

On the other hand, one more mistake by anyone is not the end of the world. I would've let it go...because 90% of the time, that behavior will repeat itself.

Also, with folks like that, it's best to deliver the negative casually. And THAT is hard when you're learning.

And one instance, right or wrong, is NO BIG DEAL. Let it go.