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The "Giving Feedback Scenario" Lesson is part of the full, Enterprise Engineering Management 102 course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Ryan sets up a scenario where Jem, playing the role of a direct report, gives feedback to Ryan playing the role of a manager. Jem expresses frustration with a decision made by the Ryan and provides him constructive feedback. Ryan responds by seeking to understand the issue, asking clarifying questions, and offering potential solutions. The lesson emphasizes the importance of effective communication and empathy when giving and receiving feedback.

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Transcript from the "Giving Feedback Scenario" Lesson

[00:00:00]
>> Now, just as much as anything in management, it's hard to know what it looks like. So we're gonna do a little bit of a scenario. All right, Jim, thank you for joining me and yeah, you're my direct report today, you're gonna be giving me feedback. The scenario is, well, you're the engineer on my team.

[00:00:20] You're frustrated with a decision that I've made as a manager to leverage a new technology. You have constructive feedback for me. Let's dive in.
>> Think of this one.
>> Maybe it's short sighted. I'm just saying that we should use, let's talk front end. We should go use jquery, this react isn't working.

[00:00:46]
>> I've got a real one. Ryan, we spent all this time talking about KPIs and how to measure team performance for the betterment of the team. And we all agreed, we started doing that for a quarter. And all of a sudden, we're using OKRs and we're using this brand new tool.

[00:01:04] It just feels like it came out of nowhere, what are we doing as a team? I don't feel like you're paying attention to how much churn this causes us. Also, I don't like your black shirt.
>> All right, well, thank you for choice on colors. I am a fan of black, but I understand that you might not like that color.

[00:01:23] All right, but to the OKR piece, what are you finding that's causing the turn
>> I don't know how to use it, and it's slowing me down and I've heard similar from other people in the team.
>> You know what, that's something I've been thinking about too is that I've noticed in some of our team meetings that even as we're writing OKRs, that it feels like there's a lack of clarity on how to write OKRs.

[00:01:49] And I've been wondering if I've sprung this on the team too early and without actually educating on how do we write OKRs? Do you think that would have been more helpful in this point if we spent a little bit more time as a team working through that? If I was to say, let's maybe bring someone on who knows how to write OKRs well and give us a presentation on that or help us get better at that, would that be something that would make it less feel less churn?

[00:02:14]
>> That'd be helpful, but I think overall, there's just been a lot of changes going on. And this just piles on on top of, we're just trying to find direction for the team. So I think having some training would help, but overall, I think there's a theme going on of just, we can't find any stability.

[00:02:29]
>> What kind of changes do are you kind of speaking to that maybe not making you feel stable? What's something I could do to make it feel a little more stable?
>> I had a parking space in front of the building, and now they've done construction, it's in the back of the building.

[00:02:44] So it's not really helping me, and the lunch menu just didn't relate where I wanna be. But in seriousness, yeah, just in general, the market's really uncertain. I have friends looking for jobs, it's a tricky time to navigate. And what I'm looking for is just stability and inside our team.

[00:03:03] Yeah, what are ways we can you can provide that for us?
>> Yeah, I mean stability is good, right? And so I think anything that we can do to feel better as a team, absolutely. How are OKRs? That was kind of the problem that you're really seen surface, how do you feel like that's not stability?

[00:03:21] Is it because it's yet another change that we're doing as a team and it might not feel like the right time?
>> Yeah, I feel like we're very reactive to decisions made above us. And I know you feel that way too, you mentioned in some of the team meetings.

[00:03:35] So it's just another change in how we do things and yet another tool we have to learn. I just wanna get back to coding.
>> Yeah, and this seems to be eating a lot of your time up is going through OKRs, is that correct?
>> Yeah.
>> Okay, I definitely hear it.

[00:03:52] Do you think it was clear on why we were trying to achieve, why we've started using OKRs? Was it clear to you on why the goal was to leverage OKRs?
>> Not really, I could use a bit more context around how we arrived here.
>> Yeah, I think that was something that I didn't do a good job of, is really making it clear that I felt like our team wasn't really clear on the type of work that we were doing.

[00:04:15] We weren't really prioritizing effectively, and it wasn't clear, what the impact was. And so me introducing OKRs was a way to try and address that. But reflecting on it is, it could have been better for me to one state that goal, and maybe not even state a solution, maybe asking you all of like, how do you think we could do better?

[00:04:37] Maybe it was we swung too far into process where it was, yeah, we don't need to go all the way to OKRs. Maybe there's something that I was missing and probably could have gathered more input and feedback from you all.
>> Thanks for listening, Ryan, I do feel better.

[00:04:51] I know not everything's your fault, but I appreciate you listening to my concerns.
>> Well, thank you for the feedback, Jim. This is super helpful, I do want to try and address some of these things to make it easier for you and the rest of the team. First off, I think just even educating you all better on what's the approach for writing better OKRs but even what's the point of us doing it.

[00:05:14] I don't think that's been clear what you're telling me. And I think that's a huge miss on my part, so I need to circle back with a team and make sure that that's clear. And also ask for input and feedback on how we can improve the process. We do need to improve our planning, I do think that's important, but maybe there's something else that I'm missing that could help us.

[00:05:32] Thank you for the feedback Jim. I'm gonna open up to the audiences. This was on the fly, so I don't even know how I did on it, but I'm curious to know what do you think worked in that scenario. What could have been better? Yeah, you heard Gemini run through that scenario that was really on the fly.

[00:05:51] And so, I would love to hear you all witnessing that, what were some of the takeaways, things that you felt worked, things that you were maybe unsure of questions. Feedback on how I could have received that better, how Jim could have delivered the feedback better. Love to hear some thoughts.

[00:06:06]
>> So I think you did a good job Ryan of receiving that feedback. But I was wondering for Jim was your wording of not everything is your fault intentional, or was that more just how it came out?
>> There's intentional. Especially in the environment we're in right now where there's a lot of changes happening and a lot of technology companies.

[00:06:29] I know myself I've been through a lot of re-orgs, so a lot of things that I have to represent as the face of the business. I have no control over I just represent them. And that's that kind of scenario is based on like scenarios I've actually experienced where the team understands.

[00:06:44] We're shifting directions we have to change our how we report things. And they know it's not on me, but being the face of the business, you deal with a lot of frustrations that aren't necessarily your fault. So, the team does acknowledge that, they're like, hey, I know it's on you and I'm venting, but what can you do to try to make this a little bit easier for us.

[00:07:09]
>> Couple comments. Firstly, Twitch chat likes your black shirt. So-
>> [LAUGH]
>> Good,
>> [CROSSTALK]
>> One plus there. So, [LAUGH] someone commented, just general comment, the way you controlled the talk by navigating away from the other personal themes that were bothering the engineer and kept focus on the initial issue was great.

[00:07:30] And then kinda more generally, just when it comes to personal connections that you might have with an engineer or team member, how do you manage the boundaries in a relationship while giving or handling feedback.
>> Yeah, that's a good question. Honestly, I could see some people maybe struggling if you have personal connections or quote unquote friends.

[00:07:54] I think it's good to kind of separate those things a little bit. But in some ways, having strong relationships with your team, you bond together as a team. I think there's a lot of benefits that come with that. You trust your friends, right, or you should, hopefully. So I think you can build those friendships, but you also have to recognize that you still might have to have those tough conversations.

[00:08:20] I think that's okay, but it's harder to navigate. I still think that it's possible, some people will be like, don't hire friends and all that. Yeah, that can absolutely happen where it doesn't work out, but maybe you can also talk about those things upfront if you are to hire, truly hire a friend.

[00:08:39] I think oftentimes too, you become friends with people you work with too. So it's not an easy thing to navigate, but I think there's also benefits, there's trade-offs that come along with it.
>> Yeah.
>> I think Jim started kind of broad, which I think is fine when you're trying to give feedback.

[00:08:56] Maybe you don't really know what you're getting at, but I thought you did a really good job of asking follow up questions and trying to nail down of what the actual issue is to then go ahead and solve that. And you also spoke aloud and verbalize like ways you could do better.

[00:09:11] So it's more than like, I think you're verbalizing that yes, we can help you fix this issue, but I'll also put in work to then make sure it's not an issue going forward for other scenarios.
>> Right, it was definitely a lot of seeking to understand like, t what is it about it but then also, yeah, trying to state back to here are some things I think I could do to help.

[00:09:31] And then also looking for maybe gems like nah, that's not gonna help her. Yeah, maybe that would help, let's try that. So yeah, good call out. Yeah.
>> I found that in asking those clarifying follow up questions, I oftentimes am jumping ahead a little bit. And perhaps being more direct or jumping to conclusions the other person isn't, and sometimes that comes off as arguing or defensive without intending to be.

[00:10:06] I've noticed one thing a leader in my org does really well is prompting by asking, I wanna ask some clarifying questions could you help me better understand and kind of setting the table there to? It's subtle and it's short,
>> Yeah.
>> But as I've read things I've understand stood that's really important stuff that she does to make sure that, we're clear that when I'm asking you questions here my goal is not to justify my behavior, but to understand better what specifically is the issue and how we might address it.

[00:10:42]
>> I love that you called that out cuz actually even in the moment there, I was a little worried that my follow-up questions might have come across a little bit defensive or maybe like trying to skate around it, or not take blame. But some of it was, and I love that kind of stadium.

[00:10:59] Like here, I wanna better understand, I thank you for the feedback. Even that I could have probably started thanks for the feedback, I wanna better understand that and so I do have some follow-up questions, so it's not like I'm attacking with questions. I was trying to seek to understand, but I think that would have even better delivery in that sense too.

[00:11:16]
>> One other thing I liked that you did was, you stood firm and clear on what the goal was, even if the execution isn't always good. We had a conversation about this we recently changed our stand up format to be less like calling individuals and more oriented towards sprinkles.

[00:11:35] And, [COUGH] certainly our execution on that has not been great. Our stand ups have actually gotten longer. And we've had a lot of conversation back and forth and retrospectives about that. But I found that reiterating what the goal is, is to keep everyone bought in on shipping and on clarifying what our priorities are as a team to help orient folks towards, I know this person is working on that thing, how can I help them?

[00:12:04] How can I identify when they need a review or they need QA prioritize that.? Helps everyone understand that like, okay, that gives good context for what we're trying to do, we're not just arbitrarily changing process for the sake of it. And how we might be able to orient things better towards that.

[00:12:22] Where maybe it just needs to be two minutes at the beginning of standup to align on like, here's the top priority, and here's the three tickets for that we don't need to go through every ticket for every goal. And one other thing we eliminated was just there were too many goals.

[00:12:37]
>> Right, and that obviously can be a painful thing too. And actually, even in that scenario, I was taking ownership of maybe I didn't state the goal, I just enforce some process. And it wasn't clear to the team on what that goal was, but yeah, aligning on a goal that's huge.

[00:12:55] I think in terms of real feedback on that feedback.
>> [LAUGH]
>> So we don't rehearse this, so it's totally, he's just reacting to what I'm saying. I think there was an opportunity to dive deeper there, where I was like, I'm generally frustrated with the company and you represent the company rather than going to like, hey, I'll fix the problem with like OKRs and tooling.

[00:13:16] It's like, tell me more about that.
>> Yes.
>> What else? What can I do to provide more stability? And that's, sometimes people are upset with you and something you did, or should I say me? But sometimes it actually is something else and because you are the business, and there's no one else to yell at sometimes.

[00:13:33] That's their frustration, it's coming through on other parts. And I'm not saying it's always not your fault, but that's something it's tricky to navigate, to try to dive deep and see what's really the problem. And if it is like something minor or not minor, but something you did, then that's something you can address.

[00:13:49] Sometimes it's not, actually, a lot of times it's not, it's something else.
>> Yeah, and I think in those months I've completely agree with what you had said there. And that's actually a good feedback. And I was actually purposeful of like, that's gonna go really deep. And so I avoided that, but it's also helpful too is oftentimes as leaders, sometimes this isn't our decision.

[00:14:11] You don't want to say, I don't like the decision either, that's not a good reaction. But we can empathize too, right? It's like trying to state the goal or understand the goal of why we're trying to achieve it is, yeah, I'm a little worried that it might not work, but how do we kind of get you on board a little bit to try it?

[00:14:30] And we've kinda got to disagree and commit, but also it's okay to empathize with people in that moment. Especially if it is above you and you can't do something, ultimately you don't want a frustrated person on your team. So you don't wanna empathize so much so you're like, yeah, I'm frustrated too this is awful.

[00:14:48] This is gonna bomb, and it's gonna be terrible, that's not great. But if you can try and orient around like, yeah, I'm a little concerned too, but here's how I'm thinking about it or I see where they're headed. It does help show empathy as a leader without also just kind of piling on.

[00:15:07]
>> Yeah, but nothing more frustrating than when you're complaining to your manager, and just the company line 100%, just like disregard everything you're saying. It's like well, yeah, we got to do this and here's why. And you're like, I thought we had a relationship. And that like I found that erodes stress really quickly if you're not like, yeah, I hear you.

[00:15:25] I hear you and it's been bumpy for me, too but here's here's why I'm positive. I'd like to you said, you spin it at the end of like, yeah, I hear you but here's what I think we can do.
>> Yeah., versus Jim, just get on board, you got to do it.

[00:15:41] That's not that helpful.
>> You did well there, Ryan. I threw you a lot of hard curveballs.
>> Thank you, I appreciate it.
>> [LAUGH]
>> I actually appreciate the hard curveballs, it gets more realistic here. Emily.
>> Can I ask a general giving feedback question?
>> Yes.

[00:15:54]
>> You're giving feedback to someone. And maybe they have low confidence. They take things personally. It's not that ideal scenario how they're doing that. So they start crying in that scenario. What do you do in that scenario to kind of address that and give them that space but also kind of handle it?

[00:16:11]
>> Yeah, that's a really good question. Cuz yeah, we're people, there's emotions right? Some of it, it's hard. I think if in the moment, I mean, if someone joins, say we're on a remote call and they join and they're upset for you, you've even said feedback, don't give them feedback, right, especially that critical feedback.

[00:16:33] But if you're giving feedback and they're a bit upset, recognize that, you don't wanna be harsh, you wanna be empathetic. But you don't wanna stop to necessarily say, well, I just won't give them the feedback because that's not right either. You still have to give that timely feedback, it is very, very hard to navigate.

[00:16:52] I have been in that situation, and it's tough. But I think it's still important for you to talk through it. It might take more conversations to is like, hey, it's gonna be too hard to talk through this right now, I want you to have some time cuz you're a human.

[00:17:10] Empathize with them, what would you like in that scenario and try and do that. Or even ask, should we try and meet another time? I wanna give you space for that, but you're still gonna meet, right? You're still gonna have to give that feedback and you don't wanna avoid it.

[00:17:23] That's easy, right? All right, cool, they're crying, I'm out. So I think that's how I would approach it, it's really situational, but being prepared that, yeah, people might get upset. It's tough to hear that critical feedback. And when your job might be on the line, that's tough. So, yeah, you might run into that and so I think it's just how would you like to handle or be dealt with in that situation?