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peter vajda

Speaking of feedback, I was chatting with a member of one of my men's groups a few months back, an individual who works for a major international consulting firm. I was curious about his up-front assessment process(es) when he initially enters a company to begin his due diligence and information gathering efforts about working relationships. He spoke of forms, assessments, exercises and the like.

I wondered aloud what he thought about tossing the paper and forms and having every manager ask each direct report one question, namely, "What's it like to work for me?" Or, a variation, "What was it like working for me today/this week/this month?"

I'm always curious about what gets in the way of such open and honest communication? And, as you suggest Steve, trust is at the "heart" of the resistance...resistance that is fear-based and leads to the flight, fight or freeze response.

What would it take to ask such a question? Or, for the direct report, "What was it like having me work for you today/this week...?"

Incidentally, in the couples coaching I do, partners, or spouses have a weekly sharing session which begins with a flavor of this question, e.g., "What was it like to be in relationship with (married to...) me this week?"

The $10 question is: What's right about "not having" this type of dialogue?" Hmmm.

David Zinger


I like your points and how you structured feedback into conversations.

I teach a course called Crucial Conversations and your points are right in line with the basic ideas of that book/course.

I think your post should be required reading for anyone leading people who thinks the work is all in the metrics, strategic planning, and systems. The work is in the organization brought out by a leader's strong connections and coversation with the people.

Take care and keep feeding us with your ideas and perspectives,


Steve Roesler


I sure like the $10 question.

Could you ask your consultant group member what he thinks is better (more effective) about the paper and forms vs. the verbal question? I'm genuinely curious about that. Experience would say that if a consultant actually started the conversation, (s)he wouldn't have a load of data to show the client. In which case the hoped-for scope of work could diminish. (That's not accusatory, it's simply the model that most firms follow--and there are sound reasons for data gathering).

However, what would stop us (consultants) from developing a new entry point which actually modelled the conversation, got it going, and then used a more facilitative/coaching approach to build confidence in making it a part of organizational life?

A thought...

peter vajda

Sure, I will, Steve; it may be a few days, but will come back with his perspective on your question.

Michael Wagner

Steve, thanks for taking my question and releasing some healthy wisdom into the blogosphere.

You insight into how the term "feedback" has come to be only a negative was new to me. That is a very timely insight for me.

Also, the piece about how trust is built proves out in my experience as well.

Thanks for making my mind race.

Keep creating,

Steve Roesler

Hi, Mike,

Well, the "feedback" term is probably not totally negative. That would be an overstatement on my part. But it has become institutionalized and, as a result, has lost its punch. Maybe its neutral at best.

Wally Bock

I've come to believe that if there's a "secret sauce" to success it involves getting and using feedback. But,if you've grown up or come up in a "gotcha" culture, it's very hard to learn to take feedback as something you can use for improvement.

Jim Stroup

Hello Steve,

As usual, you have demonstrate yet again a knack for identifying a vital topic and presenting an insigtful take on it. I have followed the past two posts and the comments with interest. I agree that positive, ongoing communication built on mutual trust as well as joint focus on mutual goals is important. After all, as you mention, if the feedback process degenerates into a mechanical periodic - every 6 mos, a year - routine, perceptions of goals and the nature of progress being made toward them can begin to diverge so much that the fractured conversation, when taken up again, can reveal some real surprises. Had it been ongoing, that would likely not be the case.

But another aspect of this issue comes to mind: sometimes, managers simply are not up to the job of engaging in potentially controversial conversations about almost anything - in particular, what they may have a really visceral dread of what they interpret as, or assume will be, confrontations with juniors over job performance. Many managers who are unable to work through this difficulty are willfully turning a blind eye to a central aspect of their duties.

They wish to see their role as a decision-maker and allocator of assets in an antiseptic environment of material resources and time, and tend to avoid the less manageable, if you'll forgive the pun, world of human abilities, emotions, ambitions, energies - and fragilities. Hence, they take recourse in the minimum requirements of a structured, periodic review process (if one exists in their firm), and even then make it go away as quickly as possible with anodyne and meaningless feedback.

Sometimes, managers who cannot confront the need to engage in ongoing, constructive dialogue with their "most important asset" simply are not cut out for the work, and cannot be made to be so. Acknowledging and confronting this may indeed provide welcome relief not only for the individual, but for the organization as a whole.

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