Background first. I have a direct report that is highly technical, and had been asked by my peer (a program manager (non-people manager)) to step into a project manager role in their program. My direct was willing to help, but made it clear to both of us that project management is not their strength. On top of that, my direct lives several timezones away (8-hour time difference, a challenge in its own right). Other useful information, both my direct and peer are high "D's" in the DISC model, while I am a "C".

This week my peer (the program manager), offered some "coaching" advice for me to give my direct about some areas they should work on. The items were around 3 areas: communication, discipline, and disagree-and-commit. My peer offered examples to support the advice. So, in my next 1x1 with the direct, I asked how things were going for them in this particular program and shared the feedback. The direct agreed and accepted that they could do better in the communication department, but balked at the discipline and disagree-and-commit area. The direct provided their perspective indicating my peer had room for improvement themselves.

I wanted to close the loop with my peer (let them know I had the 1x1 with the direct, and to provide some feedback to them). I should have picked up the phone (we're a state away from each other), but used Instant Messenger, big mistake. It started out ok, but took a bad turn when I started to coach my peer to state that I thought the two of them (my peer and my direct) were probably more alike than either wanted would care to admit, specifically around disagree-and-commit. My coaching was that both needed to ensure they were clear about expectations, that their opinions were clearly understood by the other (rather than "do it because I said so"). The Instant Message session ended shortly after my peer complained that I was trying to be supportive/protective of my direct, and that I wasn't doing them any favors.

So, I saved the IM thread and fwd'd it back to my peer and tried to be diplomatic, stating that if our boss were asked to "coach" either of us, wouldn't we both expect him to hear both sides? Further, I reiterated that I only wanted to make things better. My peer invited me to a 2x1 (me, my peer, and my direct), where my peer provided the same feedback. My peer wanted to make sure there was no he-said/she-said going on. My peer approached it professionally, my direct accepted the communication work-area, but tried to discuss the other items further only to get the "disagree-and-commit" card thrown back at them from my peer. Looking back on this, maybe I failed here to keep the conversation constructive. Being high D's, it seems neither likes to hear feedback, and relationships are only good if you agree with them. :?

Mark's picture
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Thanks for your post. These are the kinds of situations that don't get taught, yet always get faced.

1. Is there a question here?

2. It's better for me - maybe not for others, I don't know - if rather than starting with background, posts start with the question. It's sort of BLUF. It makes it easier for me to look for relevant clues rather than spending time guessing at what might be important when I get to the end and realize I misunderstood everything...only to have to re-read.

Soooooo... how can I help?


mwbirren's picture

yeah, I should have known better after listening to the podcast about active/passive writing styles.

My question is, was my approach wrong? what could I have done better?

RichRuh's picture
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[quote]My question is, was my approach wrong? what could I have done better?[/quote]

I'm a former computer programmer, and it's been a hard lesson, learned many times over- never manage by e-mail (or IM).

The good news is, you already know this :wink: :

[quote]I should have picked up the phone (we're a state away from each other), but used Instant Messenger, big mistake[/quote]

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Rich is right (but then Rich is very good).

And there's more. Why is your peer asking you to do this? Does he not make his own bed, drive his own car, fill his own tank?

The mistake is getting between two people who may not have an official reporting relationship as evaluations go, but who rely on each other for work. Your peer must have this conversation.


If they won't, they're saying (a) they can't, which isn't inspiring ME to do it, or (b) they won't, which isn't inspiring me to believe it's worth doing.