TBM 29B/52: Asking for Feedback and Pushback
(Two posts this week…one on vanity metrics, and then this post on asking for feedback.)
You describes a plan with three priorities. You ask for feedback.
Challenge my thinking!
Let’s assume the priorities are NOT congruent with each other. Doing all three things will not work out. How does the team respond?
In ascending order of experience:
Person A barely listens. Day-to-day work is challenging enough (let alone processing a new strategy).
Person B listens, but anything sounds good to them.
Person C takes the competing priorities on face value, and relishes the juggling act. They have enough experience to see how it might be possible, but not enough experience to see how there might be a better way.
Person D realizes that it is impossible to do all three things well, but can’t verbalize why. This manifests as a low-level hum of discomfort and hesitancy.
Person E realizes that it is impossible to do all three things well AND can verbalize why. They are good at describing the puzzle, but are unable to describe an alternate strategy.
Person F realizes that it is impossible to do all three things well AND can strategize a path forward involving prioritization and focus. They can describe the problem, and they have a “solution”.
Person G can do all things Person E can do AND can do so under suboptimal conditions (e.g. doubtful team members, doubtful managers/leaders, lots of organizational debt, “politics”, etc.) Above a certain level of dysfunction, even they are ineffective.
One situation. Many potential responses.
The important point here is that as a product leader you can’t expect everyone to give you “actionable feedback”. And you can’t expect everyone to give you feedback in the same way. Person D’s hesitation is a signal (one often interpreted as a lack of commitment). Person C’s over-exuberance is a signal. Person E brings problems, not solutions. F has a plan. Can you workshop it together? Yes, in theory G can do it all…but it is highly contextual.
Experience matters, and that includes your ability to foster an environment friendly to everyone giving and receiving feedback within their comfort zone. As noted, even Gs can’t surmount a dysfunctional environment past a certain point. How you approach Ds and Es—open or defensive—can make or break the morale of the team. Imagine you have a relatively new team. They don’t have all the context you have. In this case everyone will be operating as a B-E.
And you have your own strengths and weaknesses.
So while we’d all love to be Fs and Gs in everything we do, we all know that’s not reasonable (especially when tackling complex, new problems).
In reality, we are all over the map.