In today’s workplace, you have probably found yourself giving or receiving positive feedback and constructive guidance.
Whether you are a supervisor that must give your employees their annual reviews; team lead that must provide a project report at weekly staff meetings; customer relations representative receiving feedback from an irate customer; or even a CEO that must inform your staff of specific areas within the company that must be improved, you have probably found that giving, and at times, receiving positive feedback and constructive guidance is critical to professional performance and success.
It is understandable, and also human nature, to only want to hear the good things regarding your actions. However, when something must be changed, corrected, improved, strengthened, or updated, words of correction, advice, and guidance must be provided in order to improve and produce better results.
The key thing to remember about giving effective feedback is that it must be provided in such a way as to promote respect, understanding, and action.
Therefore, when you find yourself in the position of using your words to influence a change in others, rely upon “the sandwich technique” to help you provide positive feedback and constructive guidance.
The sandwich technique is a simple method for helping you to construct your words in the format of positive compliment, constructive correction, and positive compliment. In essence, the format for the sandwich technique allows you to share your corrections amongst your compliments.
Using the format above, imagine your positive feedback and constructive guidance being verbally delivered in the same way in which you make a sandwich. First, you will pull out two slices of bread. These two slices represent the positive compliments you will share with your staff, team, or employees – twice.
Next, you will fill your two slices of bread (or two compliments) with the constructive correction. Peanut butter and jelly or smoked turkey, lettuce, mayo, and tomatoes are options for filling your literal sandwich; however, when it comes to filling the verbal sandwich, the corrections that will promote improvement is what goes on the inside.
When using the sandwich technique to verbally give effective feedback, this is how the format will flow:
Slice of Bread #1: Positive Compliment
Start your conversation with a fact, observation, or action that the person has done that has produced a good and positive result. Use a welcoming tone of voice (polite and non-judgmental). Use open body language (arms at side along with gestures with an open hand; avoid folding arms across chest, standing with hands behind your back, or pointing your fingers).
EXAMPLE: “Cassandra, I have observed during your time working with our customers that you have been able to demonstrate a heightened level of professionalism and respect that represents you and our company well. Even when the customers are irate and extremely rude to you, you manage to keep your cool, tact, and professionalism – which have been extremely impressive to me.”
Filling in the Middle: Constructive Correction
Provide specific instances, examples, situations, or actions that must be changed, improved, strengthened, corrected, or updated. Be mindful to only provide a few. Listing no more than 3 constructive corrections will provide enough “filling” for the sandwich without overwhelming and disrespecting your staff, team, or employees. Watch the tone of voice and body language you use. Make sure your tone remains welcoming, yet constructive and your body language open, not closed off.
EXAMPLE: “However, a few moments ago, I observed a situation that was out of character for you that could lead to you being written up and potentially fired if it occurs again in the future. I noticed the tone of voice you used with the customer was condescending and the occasional rolling of your eyes was rude. Although I could tell that the customer was more over the top than any customer you’ve dealt with thus far, and that your patience appeared to be at its limit, I want you to know that our goal is never to be condescending and rude to any customer – no matter what. I recommend that if you find yourself facing another situation similar to this in the future that you try one of two things: either excuse yourself so that you can go into a private space in order to calm down and re-focus or excuse yourself to get a supervisor on duty that can handle the intricacies of such an irate customer.”
Slice of Bread #2: Positive Compliment
Conclude your conversation with a reiteration of the fact, observation, or action that the person has done that has produced good and positive results. Continue your welcoming tone and open body language.
EXAMPLE: “As I said earlier, I know this was a different type of situation than you’ve ever dealt with before so I sincerely understand why your behavior was different this time. Since there is the risk of you being written up and potentially fired should it happen again, I wanted to make sure you had two tools to use that can work to your advantage. Excusing yourself away from the customer will give you a chance to calm down and re-focus or even to get a supervisor to take over instead. Most importantly, removing yourself from the situation can help you to continue your great qualities of professionalism and respect – qualities that represent you well.”
The next time you find yourself in the position of giving positive feedback and constructive guidance, try the sandwich technique. It is a simple, yet powerful method for giving effective feedback. It will allow you to share details with your staff, team, or employees that promote understanding, appreciation, and improvement while producing better and more positive results. Most importantly, it will help your staff, team, and employees better digest what they do well, what must be improved, and how to be better for next time.
By Cassandra R. Lee
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