Effective Leader, medium sized businesses, growth of revenue, of market share, attract, acquire and retain, new customers, strong team

Effective Feedback Is Like An Open-Faced Sandwich

When it comes to eating, for me there’s nothing like an open-faced sandwich. Forget having bread act as filler. Instead, by eliminating the sandwich lid, you can get right to the good stuff, be it meat, cheese, or otherwise. Sure, open-faced sandwiches are messy, and they no doubt offer new challenges for eating the sandwich when compared to the historically popular sandwich.

Why am I so intent on convincing you of the value of using what I call the “open-faced sandwich” approach to effective feedback?

It’s simply a more engaging approach to providing feedback to your employees.

First of all, if you believe you’ve landed on a page about food, you’re wrong. You see, for years I’ve heard many of the so-called experts discuss the importance of “sandwiching” any constructive feedback for employees. You know the approach. Start out by saying something positive, bring up the constructive feedback, and then end on a positive note or compliment.

As it’s been described to me by these experts, the sandwich is meant to ensure an employee remains open-minded and upbeat when receiving the constructive criticism by first warming them up, so to speak.

  • The positive opening is meant to gain and keep their attention.
  • The positive ending is meant to leave the discussion on a high note, reassuring the employee.

But there’s a problem. Employees are all too familiar with this approach. In fact, many recognize that when their supervisor or manager starts complimenting them (particularly if it’s not a regular occurrence), there is a “but” that is about to happen.

“We love how you’ve helped us improve our website, Stan, but…”

“You’ve been very helpful in getting that project out the door, Sara, but…”

You’ve likely experienced this yourself. Someone starts to compliment something you did or are doing, and your immediate thought is, “Here comes the but.”

The “Open-Faced Sandwich” approach, as I like to call it, simply eliminates the positive feedback at the start of the discussion. It requires, of course, that as a leader you are both genuine and direct in the feedback you provide, but it is far more effective, and most importantly, employees tend to be more receptive. Simply start with describing the concern, but end on a complimentary note and (now here’s the crucial piece) a question.

Open-Faced Sandwich Approach to Feedback:

  • Identify the concern.
  • Suggest some alternate solutions.
  • Provide a relevant compliment to the issue being discussed.
  • Ask the employee for their ideas.

Here is an example: “Stan, I don’t think your training on the new website today went well. Employees didn’t seem to be following along. I’m wondering if we should try this again but in a one-on-one session to allow you to gauge receptivity. Don’t get me wrong, the content was great, but I think we need to really ensure everyone gets it. What do you think?”

Think about this approach like peeling a band-aid off of your child. Ripping off the band-aid quickly, and then focusing on applying pressure and reassuring the child that everything is going to be okay, is a much more effective approach than spending too much time first discussing what’s about to happen—which often simply causes them to worry and dread what’s about to happen.

When it comes to providing effective feedback and constructive criticism, there is nothing more effective than the open-faced sandwich approach. Just get to the point, remain genuine, and be consistent in your application. Make the open-faced sandwich your go-to approach, and watch the trust and confidence of your team grow.

© Shawn Casemore 2019. All rights reserved.
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