Still too direct

“Germans, in general, can often be more direct and straightforward than Americans, and to be honest even after living here for eight years, that directness is still sometimes a little shocking for me, a little bit too much, or even sometimes has made me cry!”

A comment: “Just your example about some shop assistent telling you that the piece of clothing does not fit you at all: I’m always more suspicious about a shop assistent telling me how good it fits keeping in mind he or she just wants their merchandise sold. So I tend more to appreciate an honest, though maybe direct answer.”

Another comment: “I’m always irritated how well the Americans can hide the truth of what they are thinking behind compliments and smiles. In Germany If you are getting an honest critique, then the person likes you, thinks said critique can improve you and is interested that you do better. So its a good thing 😉 “

Oh, here’s a good one: “As a German, i feel like lying when i am asked about my opinion and i would try to let it sound “nicer”. Everyone is honest and tells what they think about everything. I tried for a while the way that is used in the staates and i gat really that awfull feeling of lying and i konstantly had to think about how i say things and not what i like to say.

In my opinion germans are just used to that honesty and fee unconfortable to alter the opinion just to sound nicer. The other way around, when i meet people from the staates, i have allways that feeling they are sneaky and false, they try to hide their thoughts behind words. I was never sure how they really are and think.”

An American in Berlin

German Feedback

“I started working for a German company a few years ago and was immediately excited to find that they had a culture of frequent feedback.

As the weeks went on, the feedback kept on coming. Very quickly, I began to see a pattern; it was almost entirely negative. All delivered amazingly well, with examples of how I’d fucked up alongside helpful guidance on how I might want to improve.

The onslaught continued; it was relentless. It became apparent to me that there was very little chance of me passing my probation period if this continued. So I buckled down, pushed myself to breaking point and put in those extra hours to save my job. But still, it kept continuing critical feedback, after critical feedback.

For the first time in my career, I was going to fail my probation period. There was no point in getting feedback on how I improve the situation. I was getting it daily. I was just shit.

So finally, my final probation review came around. Everything was excellent; the company was super happy with my progress and delivery. I passed my probation period with flying colours. But it had broken me. I was fried and burnt out.”

Feedback: Be a little German, Be a little American.

American Feedback

“I have recently started working in an entirely new industry, leading a small team. Shortly after joining, my team’s scope changed to a new problem space.

Again, this company had an active feedback culture and processes. Constant feedback was given to the team every two weeks from leadership. As we built the team and worked out how we were going to achieve our new goals, we got feedback all the time. And it was always positive.

This didn’t play well for me. I knew that there was no way that we could be that good, we were a team with little experience in what we were doing, how could we be doing that well? There must be areas for improvement.

As this continued, positive feedback began to feel more and more empty. I went hunting for critical feedback. Unfortunately, this manifested in me trying to find critical input for the team bellow me. I became overly focused on trying to find areas for improvement in the team.

The problem came to a head when one of my team said ‘I only get negative feedback from you, and I don’t know what to do about it.’ I was so focused on finding the negative areas that we could improve on, and I had not given any support for improvement. I had also failed to celebrate the positive.”

Mr. German Man is direct

An American woman. Married to a German man. How her husband is very direct. And about how Americans learn to be indirect, especially when giving negative feedback.

Warning ! This woman is a youtuber. And an American on top. So, she is more than a bit animated. And frankly, she could have made her points in about two minutes instead of seven and a half.

Watch the first three minutes.

Bernard Schriever – Black Saturday

In his book A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon (2010) author Neil Sheehan describes the life and work of Bernard Schriever, who is considered to be the father of the American nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Schriever and his military and civilian colleagues believed firmly that if both the United States and the Soviet Union possessed these weapons of mass destruction the probability of them being used actually would be decreased.

Schriever had to overcome strong institutional resistance within the U.S. Air Force whose leadership was convinced that manned aircraft﹣strategic long-range bombers﹣was the only way to maintain a credible deterrent against the Soviet Union.

Through telling the story of Bernard Schriever and the development of the American ballistic missile program from the end of Second World War up to the mid-1960s Sheehan tells the history of the Cold War, which would last up until the 1990s with the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the unification of West and East Germany, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, and the freedom of Eastern Europe from Russian domination.

In a 2010 television interview (Booknotes on C-SPAN) Sheehan contrasted Schriever with his American-born military colleagues, Generals Paul Harkins and William Westmoreland, both who had overall command of U.S. forces in the Vietnam War.

Sheehan had been a young war correspondent in Vietnam for United Press International (UPI), later with the New York Times. As told in his book A Bright Shining Lie (1989), which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, the American generalship during the Vietnam War was unwilling to accept that America was losing that war.

General Schriever, according to Sheehan‘s research, made clear time and again to the members of this organization, whether military or civilian, that he wanted timely and accurate reports on the problems the program was experiencing, and was far less interested in the progress made.

So-called progress reports had become common within the U.S. military after the Second World War, and according to Sheehan, symptomatic for an institution unwilling to face what was not working.

Schriever would tell his subordinates that he would never fire anyone for failing, but instead for failing to inform him immediately of problems. For Schriever, as stated by Sheehan, success would take care of itself if one focused on solving the problems at hand. Go to minutes 24:10 to 26:50.

Bernard Adolph Schriever was born in 1910 in the German port city of Bremen. His father was an engineer. They immigrated to the U.S. only months before the U.S. entered the First World War in 1917.

Schriever grew up in New Braunfels, Texas, an area mostly populated by German immigrants. Read about his fascinating life in Wikipedia

Diane Krueger

mobil. Magazine of the German Rail. December 2017. An interview with the actor Diane Krüger. Question: “Colleagues for your earlier years claim that you were extremely ambitious. Is it true?”

Krüger: “When I was a little girl my mother never said to me: ‘You’re the best, the greatest, the most beautiful’. Instead all she ever said was: ‘Work harder. You can do better.'”

Mr. Buffett drinks Cherry Coke

Every year, tens of thousands of investors trek to Omaha in Nebraska. The Berkshire annual shareholder meeting is known as the “Woodstock of Capitalism” for the fervor of the investors — some owning only a single share — who travel to Omaha just for the chance to listen to Mr. Buffett and his longtime business partner, Charles Munger.

Several questions zeroed in on politics. Mr. Buffett, a Democrat with a close relationship to former President Barack Obama, gave careful criticism of President Trump’s policies. He made the argument that the American Health Care Act, which passed the House this past week (May 2017), was no more than “a huge tax cut for guys like me.”

When a protester from Germany delivered a long speech criticizing Coke, sugar and capitalism itself, Mr. Buffett said he would continue to drink his favorite beverage, Cherry Coke.

Woodstock of Capitalism. Sports arena. Ca. 20,000 shareholders in the audience. Long Speech. Critical. Not just of Coke and sugar. But of capitalism, also. German.

Source: “Warren Buffett, at Berkshire Meeting, Condemns Republican Health Care Bill.” Michael J. de la Merced. New York Times. May 6, 2017.

“Whattya want from me?”

The 2014 Soccer World Championship. Prelims. Germany vs. Algeria. It’s a nerve wracking game, but in the end Germany wins 2:1. It was a tough game for the German team, but in the end they prevailed. Grounds to celebrate, one would think.

Boris Büchler, however, the ZDF television reporter who interviewed center back Per Mertesacker directly after the game, saw things differently. After a short “congratulations” he went straight to his criticisms: “What made the German players so sluggish and vulnerable?”

Mertesacker, already slightly annoyed, emphatically stated that the victory is all that matters: “I don’t give a ****. We’re in the final eight and that’s what counts.”

But Büchler won’t back down: “But this cannot possibly be the level of playing at which you expected to enter the quarter-final? I think the need for improvement must be clear to you as well.”

Mertesacker can no longer keep his cool: “What do you want from me? What do you want, right now, immediately after the game? I don’t understand.” But Büchler stays firm, and repeats his criticism: “Firstly, I congratulate you, and then I wanted to ask why the defensive plays and turnovers did not go as well as one would have liked. That’s all.”

Mertesacker: “Do you think think there is a carnival-troupe (meaning a bunch of clowns) amongst the final 16 teams or something? They made it really hard for us for 120 minutes, and we fought until the very end to prove ourselves. It was a real back-and forth Of course we allowed a lot from them. But in the end our victory was well deserved…”

Mertesacker once again emphasizes how the German team won, in spite of his concession that not everything went as one might have hoped.

But not even this was enough for Büchler: “An absolute show of strength. A high-power performance. Do you think that we will see the same sort of wow-effects again that we saw in the 2010 World Championship, so that the team’s game will improve?”

Mertesacker: “What do you want? Do you want a successful World Championship, or should we just step down and call it a game already? I just don’t understand all of these questions.”

Germany won 2:1. But there will always be something left to criticize. In this case: Just because you won does not mean that you played the game well.


No Political Correctness

The Germans communicate directly, transparently, honestly. They speak their mind freely. Especially when it concerns critical feedback the Germans try to be clear and straightforward. They avoid the use of euphemisms. Germans reject any kind of smooth-talking. Aalglatte, literally eel-smooth or eel-slippery people are viewed as having questionable character. They are not honest enough to state their opinion openly.

Das Kind beim Namen nennen. To call the child by its name. To describe a situation as it is, directly, in no uncertain terms; without flowery, positive language; to avoid describing a situation indirectly; to communicate clearly; to get to the point.

Kein Blatt vor den Mund nehmen. Literally to not put a handheld fan in front of one‘s mouth. To address a subject directly, to state one‘s opinion; from the early days of theater when members of the audience held a type of fan in front of the lower half of their face in order to shout out comments of the play without others attributing the statements to them.

Continuing Education

The Germans consider education, and continuing education, to be the foundation of their economy. Their companies, large and small, set aside generous budgets to continuously broaden and deepen the skill sets of their employees.

Training organizations, management consultants, subject area experts all market their expertise in helping companies to reduce errors and to optimize work processes. The key from the German perspective is anticipating and preventing problems.

Roughly 45% of all German employees participate in continuing education sponsored by their employer. 25% of those programs run for several months. 60% of all continuing education in Germany takes place within companies. The Germans are keenly aware of the important role knowledge and skills play in their economic future.

Focus on Weaknesses

In feedback discussions the Germans focus on what isn‘t working. This is a shared logic. Both team lead and team members address primarily weaknesses. The Germans waste little time discussing what is working, instead taking direct aim at deficits.

This problem-orientation is considered positive, constructive and future-oriented. It is a proven approach to assessing suboptimal work results and laying the foundation for improvement. Germans are very pragmatic about reducing mistakes. They often say: „That was good work, but ….“

Every German hears at a young age the statement: Selbsterkenntnis ist der erste Schritt zur Besserung, self-critique is the first step towards improvement. Critique of others and of oneself is legitimate and necessary in order to improve. Germans believe that the individual needs first to admit their own weaknesses before being able to eliminate them.