How to give feedback and get results

Is someone getting on your goat at work and you don’t know how to tell them? Or, you’ve shared feedback, and it went unbelievably badly?

There will be a time when you give feedback, if you haven’t already, and then wish it had gone differently.  Here are two methods commonly used – I recommend the later:

The mustard sandwich

Also referred to as the ‘shit sandwich’, the mustard sandwich is where positive behaviour (the bread in our metaphorical sandwich) is stated on either side of the negative behaviour (the mustard).  For example, Carl says to Max:

“Hey Max. I really liked the way you introduced everyone in the meeting just now (bread).  Although, you did speak over the client on two occasions (mustard).  Overall your presentation was bang on and I think we’ll be hearing from them again (bread).”

The problem with this technique is:

  1. The positive feedback may have overshadowed the negative (or vice-versa)
  2. It doesn’t explore the impact of Max’s negative behaviour
  3. No suggestions were shared regarding alternative behaviour Max should have exhibited.

SBI-BI Model = Situation, Behaviour, Impact – alternative Behaviour, alternative Impact

You guessed it – the answer to our feedback problems.  You can use it to give negative and positive feedback.  In short it goes like this: “when you do X, here’s what it looks like: impact 1, 2, 3. How can we make sure it doesn’t happen again?”

And, here it is in action.

Negative feedback

Carl: “I need to talk to you regarding the meeting just now (situation). It was impolite when you talked over the client (behaviour).  The team felt awkward and the client won’t have felt heard.  It took longer than necessary for us to get a comprehensive brief which we both need to win this business (Impact).

Max: “Gosh, I’m very sorry.  I didn’t realise I did that – I feel terrible.  I was so excited about finally winning a chance to meet with them.  I will call them to apologise”

Carl:  “Well ok – I think they could see we all felt enthusiastic.  You just need to make sure it doesn’t happen again so we can move things forward and keep the relationship.  Will you do that?” (Alternative behaviour and impact).

Ok so pretty basic, but effective.  Here is it when providing positive feedback.

Positive feedback

“Carl, thanks so much for helping me see a different perspective when I was complaining to you about Max speaking over the client (situation). I’d assumed that Max was just being rude.  The fact you knew that he was incredibly nervous, and that this is the first pitch he’s been on, made me realise I need to be less judgemental – I remember what I was like at my first pitch (behaviour).  Thankfully you caught me before I had a word with him – I understand that he was really apologetic.  You helped me stop and think before I jumped in with both feet and had a go at him!  Thanks again.” (Alternative behaviour and impact).

You can also use the SBI-BI model to clarify feedback you’ve received – I did when I got pants feedback from a colleague.  I was wounded and would have preferred to hide under a rock but didn’t want a repeat of it.  In a one-to-one meeting I was able to understand exactly how she thought I had stuffed up by asking; “What was the result of my actions?”, “What do you think I should have done differently?”, “How would that impact the project differently?”  It was hard to not interrupt and defend my actions, but the end result was worth it.  It turned out that I had under communicated on a stage of the project I was managing however, she had perceived she was being cut out.

What I learnt is that feedback is vital information and, if it’s true, can be put to good use.

Surprisingly I was thanked for being “brave” for asking for it.  We both felt heard and developed empathy for each other’s situation.  As if like magic we were now friends.

You should try it. What are your thoughts?