Managers… STOP using the feedback sandwich! Do this instead…

Stop giving the feedback sandwich.

You know. If you have to address something negative, the feedback sandwich is…

Start with something Positive, then you set out the negative, and you close out with something positive again.

It’s a classic technique. But it just doesn’t work.

That’s what we’re going to talk about today here on the Leadership Jetway.

In theory the positive, negative, positive feedback sandwich is a good idea.

The point being… while you’re letting someone know there’s an issue, you also make sure they know that you value them and their input to the team.

But the trouble is…

It’s just a recipe for mixed messages.

I love the energy you bring to meetings. But you sometimes ride roughshod over other peoples ideas. I do know how much you care though.

You can almost see the person thinking… Do you like me? Or am I in trouble?

If the point of the conversation is to give constructive criticism, you have to focus on that.

Don’t be a jerk. Just make sure the message is heard and understood.

So… Instead of the feedback sandwich… Do this!

4 steps.

  1. Set the tone clearly from the start.
  2. Be specific and clear what the problem is and what the impact is on the team.
  3. Give them an opportunity to explain and do some listening…
  4. And then make your expectations clear, offering support if appropriate.

So for example.

Let’s say… Mike has been late a lot recently. How should the conversation go? Well for me it would go like this.

Mike. I need to talk with you about something.

You’ve been late four times in the last two weeks. This just isn’t on. Jess has to cover for you until you arrive, that means she’s late leaving and gets stuck in traffic to go to her second job. What’s going on?

There;s the first three steps. Set the tone. Be clear on the issue and the impact. Give Mike an opportunity to explain. And then listen.

And what you do in the fourth step depends on what Mike says!

Either… He’ll gives you a poor excuse.

Oh man. My alarm just isn’t waking me up and I’m struggling to get out of the door in the morning.

In this case, you clarify your expectations.

Well… I’m sorry, but I can’t just let this slide from now on. I need you here on time for your shift, or we’re going to get into formal warning territory.

Just be firm and clear on what you expect and what the consequences will be.

Or… Mike will give you a reason you can understand and you decide you want to help. Like..

Oh man. I’m sorry. But my wife really isn’t well at the moment and some days she just can’t get out of bed and so I have to get the kids to school.

In this case, you might say something like… “OK. If that happens, no problem. You call me at 8:15 and let me know. I’ll make sure Jess gets away and *I’ll* cover things until you arrive.”

And then you get into it that long term this isn’t going to work, you ask how long this might be going on for, you start thinking about maybe changing the rota to support Mike in his situation, and so on.

But you see… The classic feedback sandwich would have been useless here.

If all you’d done is go positive, negative, positive, you’d probably never have known if Mike was just a bit lazy and disorganised, or had a real complicated issue going on.

So if you have to address something, don’t use the sandwich. Instead, set the tone, be clear about the issue, listen, and then clarify what needs to happen next.

That’s how you do it.

And if you want to catch issues before they become issues… Every time you’re talking with one of your team, try using my 4-question framework for a perfect 121 conversation. You can grab it at – there’s a link in the description. It’s a one-page PDF and it’s really easy to use.

And it’s my gift to you, because I’m all about helping new managers make a flying start on their leadership journey.

Grab it by hitting the button below.


Published by bencosh

Helping new leaders make a flying start.

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