Germans focus on reducing errors. When providing feedback they concentrate on weaknesses, on what is not working. Germans address weaknesses directly, openly and in a neutral, matter-of-fact way.
Americans focus less on reducing errors, and more on reinforcing what leads to good results. When giving feedback Americans concentrate on strengths. Critique is communicated in a carefully worded, diplomatic way.
The American style of wrapping criticism in euphemisms and politically correct language is often difficult for Germans to decipher. The more critical the message, the more likely an American will formulate it in positive terms. Unfortunately, they come can across to Germans as either incapable or unwilling to address problems for what they are: problems and not issues or challenges.
The German focus on the reduction of unforced errors is seen by Americans as short-sighted and defensive in character. All too often critique is voiced without suggestions of how one can improve on individual weaknesses. Germans can come across as overly, at times unfairly, critical.
Advice to Germans
Americans are neither naive nor ignorant about their weaknesses. When addressing those weaknesses be less direct and literal. Choose positive, supportive language. Note the things which are going well. Never criticize without suggesting a way to improve.
If you are led by an American be prepared for more praise than you expect. Accept it. Be sure, however, to ask for more input on your weaknesses. You’ll get it, eventually.
Advice to Americans
Germans see the road to success largely via a minimization of errors. When receiving feedback be prepared for a strong focus on what you are not doing well, and far less on what is working. This could come across as direct, harsh, imbalanced. It is meant to be helpful. For why focus on what works?
If you lead German team members acknowledge the need to improve on weaknesses. Focus more attention on what is not working. But, continue to combine critique with improvement suggestions.