Ever heard about “the sandwich technique”? No, it has nothing to do with food, but rather it’s about providing feedback to employees. Managers are often uncomfortable giving straight forward constructive feedback and use the “Sandwich” technique to “soften the blow”.

The ‘sandwich technique’ is simply giving Positive Feedback -> Negative Feedback -> Positive Feedback. What are we left with? Feedback that is not corrective, developmental or constructive and it does not benefit the employee.

In this article, I would like to suggest alternative methods and ideas of providing feedback to employees that targets around being constructive and developmental in nature without the employee feeling demotivated after the discussion occurs. Prior to leading a coaching discussion, it is important to prepare and plan for the discussion. This includes ensuring that the discussion location and room set-up respects the employee’s privacy while allowing for a witness to be present to verify the nature of the discussion.

*REMEMBER: It’s important to gather as many details as possible about the reason for the coaching discussion’s necessity, prior to the discussion occurring.

During the Discussion:

Ask Open-Ended Questions: To encourage discussion and to achieve ‘buy-in’ and accountability for the required behaviour changes.

  1. Explain to the employee what had occurred or is occurring and then explain why you, as the Manager deemed these actions less than ideal. Then ask the employee for his/her thoughts about the concern and include them in developing alternative responses for similar situations. Should you have additional suggestions, ask the employee if he/she would be open to other suggestions…if so, provide your suggestions in a frank and candid manner. Finally, come to an agreement with the employee as to “next steps”, action plans and a follow-up meeting(s).
  2. As they say…”different strokes for different folks”. When leading a feedback session, it’s important to recognize individual differences in: personality styles, drives/motivations and communication preferences. Providing feedback coaching to employees should not be a cookie cut process. Individuals receive and process information in many different ways and will either be receptive or not receptive depending on their unique style and preferences.For example, if someone is more direct in their communication style, taking a less direct approach for communicating a performance management concern will be less effective. The individual will most likely appreciate the honest feedback and ability to get guidance on how to handle a situation better for the future. Other considerations may include generational and demographic differences. For example, as Baby Boomers extend their work lives, the more common it becomes where they report to younger generations which may create tensed and misunderstood relationships. It is important to remember that our current work force is the most diverse it has ever been! Equally important is the fact that although many difference exists within various groups, great similarities also exists.
  3. THE “SMART” Goal – In providing feedback, it is important to ensure that the concern is clearly communicated, there is very little room for error or unclear communication of expectations. To remedy this, I strongly suggest the usage of widely used “SMART” goal method as identified by George Doran in 1981.’SMART’ goals are set-out as follows:

Specific – The clearer you can specify a goal the better.

Measurable – Identify the criteria for your goal so it can be measured.

Attainable – Ensuring that performance standards/goals are attainable.

Realistic – Ensuring goals are achievable.

Timely –Ensuring that a timeline is set in place for the goal to be achieved.

  1. Finally, performance feedback and coaching it’s a two-way collaborative street. Ensure that employee is part of the solution, in providing suggestions to how they can modify their behaviour. This creates a sense of ownership and accountability for Improvement to become a reality.

In conclusion, coaching discussions can be challenging. However, when handled with preparation and respectfully they can result in positive outcomes that result in professional and personal growth for both employee’s and their Manager’s. Some indirect benefits may also include: employee’s displaying greater accountability for their actions, increased mutual respect, and improved communication.Wishing you success in your coaching conversations!

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