A New Feedback Formula

A replacement for the sandwich…

Tami Reiss is the founder of The Product Leader Coach where she works with product leaders and teams to realize their potential by focusing on their strengths.

A while back someone thought it was a great idea to sandwich criticism between praise. But it has been established that this technique is ineffective time and time again. It turns out that people start anticipating the criticism when you provide them with praise, and stop hearing the praise all together.

An Alternative Feedback Formula

When you’re providing feedback that the goal is to change someone’s behavior, there’s a formula I use which I find much more successful than the sandwich. It starts by being in a humble mindset that though you think someone has done something wrong, that they may have had some information that you didn’t and thus their actions were appropriate.

Step 1: Tell the story of what you observed. Only the facts!

Step 2: Mention the explicit part of the behavior which you think could have been done differently.

Step 3: ASK the person WHY they took that action / said what they did… and LISTEN to the response. Try your best to understand if the issue is a skills gap or the will / desire to do it correctly.

Step 4: Explain why the chosen action is problematic and where the thought process that led to it is missing critical information which will help the person evaluate future situations with a new lens.

Step 5: Provide some alternatives for what the person could have done or said which would have better accomplished their goals.

Step 6: ASK the individual what they think about the alternative perspective and options.

Step 7: ASK them how you can support them in changing their behavior. When should you check in again? How can you best provide additional feedback if you witness or hear about similar mishaps?

You may notice that a lot of this feedback formula involves ASKING the person about their thoughts. It is a much more conversational approach and less of a lecture which is reminiscent of being sent to the principal’s office in high school. This is intentional because it positions you as someone who assumes that they had no bad intentions when they did the action you are correcting.

In the end they will see you as a partner in their success.

Hi! I’m Tami, the founder of The Product Leader Coach where I work with product leaders and teams to realize their potential by focusing on their strengths.

If you enjoyed this post, I am available for product leadership coaching or team training. Learn more about my services and upcoming children’s book.

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Tami Reiss

Product Leader Coach @tamireiss guides you to focus on your strengths to achieve your goals. Instructor @ Product Institute, Kellogg, Wharton, and more.