German Feedback Logic
Martin had focused almost exclusively on Aaron’s weaknesses. There weren’t many, but Martin managed to find some. There was so little talk about the positives, about the progress made.
Information was flowing between Germany and the U.S. Two of the three key engineering processes had been just about fully integrated. It had been decided to leave the third process separate on each side of the Atlantic.
Clearly there was a new Teamgeist, team spirit. Aaron was respected and accepted by his German peers and team-members. He had even found time to study German and could hold basic, non-technical, conversations in a language he had taken only for a few years in high school and college.
Martin left the meeting a bit surprised, also. Aaron seemed distracted, not fully engaged. When it came to formulating the coming year’s goals, Aaron had little to contribute. Martin sensed that something was wrong and decided to schedule another meeting in a week to discuss the goals.
“Strange. That’s not the Aaron I know and respect”, thought Martin. Personal problems? Family? Homesick? Lousy winter weather in Germany getting to him? Martin just couldn’t figure it out. “Such an excellent engineer and manager of people!”
So little talk about the positives. True. But why waste time on what works, on what has worked very well? Martin had voiced his satisfaction very early on in the conversation. Aaron had not picked up on it. “You’ve done very good work, Aaron. No goal has gone unmet. You’re a strong member of my team.”
Any German in the room, especially those who know Martin, would have been in agreement. Aaron got a “B+” for the year, a high grade in Germany, where “nobody can be considered perfect”, where “there is always room for improvement”, where an A is truly seldom, especially from Martin.
Martin then proceeded to focus on how Aaron can go from B+ to A-, how he can steadily, incrementally, systematically address and improve on those areas, not many, where he can stretch even further. Aaron felt that he was nitpicking, being small-minded. Untypical for Martin.
Two different feedback logics. Aaron didn’t pick up on the signals. And Martin did not realize that Aaron had not picked up on the signals. Was there any way the one or the other, or both, could have done something?