How to give a feedback sandwich with no bread…

How to give a feedback sandwich with no bread…

Over time I have often come across the method of giving feedback using the sandwich technique. I think you’ll recognise this: something positive, something negative and then something positive. Although I appreciate the need to leave people feeling on a high and feeling motivated, I do question whether the so called meat in the sandwich gets distorted or even lost.

So how do we make feedback messages effective?

The first point to consider is our own intention. What is our own motivation to deliver the message? Is it about enabling the other person to improve? Or is our intention about making ourselves feel better or even more important? Our attitude will influence our behaviour.

The second point is about timing. When is the best time for feedback? Ideally as soon as possible but distractions need to be managed. Also, is the person ready to receive the feedback? How prepared and ready are you to deliver the message?

The third point is the feedback message itself. Is this to be helpful information to improve or simply just criticism? Are you looking to build performance and confidence or destroy motivation? My research suggests that something like 60% of performance is down to confidence so we need to be very careful with how we frame our feedback message.

The fourth point is our content and method of delivery. Here is what we promote on our leadership and management training courses:

  • Describe specific observable behaviour (as this cannot be denied). This needs to focus on what actually happened. For example: ‘I noticed that you were quite short with that customer on the telephone just now’.
  • State the impact on you (as this cannot be denied either) and include feelings if you wish. ‘This is surprising because you’re normally very patient with people who call. I feel you rather let yourself down and we could be at risk of losing a valuable customer’.
  • Say what you’d like to happen in future (or maybe continue if you want to reinforce the behaviour). ‘If you feel that someone is causing you difficulties and you feel your patience is running low then ask to call the customer back so you can fully resolve the problem. Use this time to get all the facts, re-gather your thoughts and compose yourself. If you need help, just ask’.

So often delivering feedback, whether positive or negative, can become clumsy or even avoided altogether because managers don’t have the confidence themselves to deliver their messages clearly. Using the above will help, but you’ll need to practice and receive feedback on your own ways of giving feedback. And avoid the bread. Most people want their feedback straight and to the point.

Paul Beesley


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