Have you ever had someone give you a “feedback sandwich”? In other words, you present negative feedback by "sandwiching" it between two compliments. Giving praise and then criticism undermines the positive impact of the praise and weakens the corrective feedback. In this week's episode, Jeff talks about how to give feedback in a way that is timely, relevant, and direct.
The three steps of providing negative feedback:
Part 1: Share the Negative Feedback
Do not be tempted to sugarcoat what happened. Get to the point immediately, remembering that you want to describe what happened without becoming emotional or placing blame. Then, give the employee time to process the information. Doing this will help them think more clearly about what went wrong and allow them to come up with a solution. Set up a time to talk later in the day, and explain that you want to help them come up with a solution.
Q: Has anyone ever given you a “feedback sandwich”? How did you receive it? How can you tell if someone is genuine with both their criticisms and compliments?
Part 2: Come Up With a Solution
Don’t waste time getting into the details of this discussion. Immediately move into asking what your team member felt went wrong without allowing them to place blame on another person. Remember, your goal is to correct the situation. Once you have identified what went wrong, ask them for their insight on what they can do differently. Work together to come up with a solution and agree on a plan to correct the issue. Decide on detailed action steps and set a time to follow up.
At this time, you can start to encourage your employee. If they are a good worker, let them know! Explain that you think that the plan you made should resolve the issue. Let them know that things go wrong sometimes, and the only uncorrectable error is not fixing something when it does go wrong.
Q: Why do you think it is important to work together on a solution and not just tell your employee what to do? How can you encourage without downplaying the seriousness of the issue?
Part 3: Follow Up
Meet with the person to discuss what they learned from the situation. You should have this conversation after giving them time to implement the plan you came up with together. Then you can both objectively evaluate what could have been done differently and talk about what they learned. Make sure that you use this time to encourage them and reiterate how the experience will make them better.
Q: Why do you think you need to follow up? What do you think could happen if you didn’t follow up? What would you do if they were taking the feedback very personally and it was continuing to affect their attitude and performance?
Workshop this technique with a problem you are currently observing. Which step in this feedback process do think will be the most challenging for you? If you are tempted to sugarcoat the situation, write down exactly how you want to start and how you want to end. Even if you do not use that exact statement, planning ahead is a way to help you frame what you do say so that you do
Revisit the episode Navigating Tough Conversations. Understanding how to approach tough conversations will help you stay focused and clear and avoid using the feedback sandwich.
Sometimes, leaders struggle to give clear and direct feedback because they don’t like to receive negative feedback. As a leader, you need to overcome your insecurities so that you don’t subconsciously project them onto other people. If you think you may struggle with receiving feedback, try walking through these exercises:
Identify situations where criticism caused you to feel bad about yourself or your ability to succeed. Who was there? What was the negative feedback about? What were the consequences?
Go back through each situation you identified and reframe how the criticism was an opportunity for growth. What did you learn? How did it help you?
Develop a mantra like, “This feedback is not a personal attack. Without feedback, I would not grow and improve.” Being able to reframe your mindset will help you take some of the emotion out of the experience.