Throw out the Praise Sandwich and other ways to improve your feedback

May 28, 2013 · by Allison Porter · Filed Under Blogposts on Leading Staff, Choices, Featured · 1 Comment

I was having coffee with Laura, a middle school teacher, when she told me she couldn’t remember a time when her administrator had pointed out something she had done well.  She only ever heard from him when she made a mistake.  “I don’t think I can stay much longer,” she said.

I was reminded of all the talented staff that we lose every year in social justice organizations.  Feeling connected to and appreciated by your supervisor is one of the top rated indicators of retention, according to Gallup.  If you don’t make make positive feedback a regular thing, consider upping your game. Here are some ideas how:

When you think it, say it.

The easiest first step is to start saying the positive things you are already thinking about your staff. Use specific examples, make eye contact, wait a beat after you say it and let him or her know the positive impact they are having.

Throw out the ‘praise sandwich’

The ubiquitous positive-negative-positive feedback model has had such a powerful impact on the culture that now most people cringe when they are complimented in anticipation of the blow they are about to receive. People need constructive feedback to improve.  Go ahead and give authentic feedback that is intended to be useful and supportive, and it won’t need cushioning.

Listen for potential

If you are looking for people to be less than perfect, they usually won’t disappoint you. We can choose to judge people or focus instead on listening for potential.  Challenge a complainer to take leadership on the solution, for example.  Notice the passion for learning underneath the insecurity, or ask what is possible in the future that isn’t happening now? What we focus on becomes our reality.  The more we see and hear the potential in others, the more we will evoke in them.

A note to the negative nellies:

I say all this as someone who is a work in progress herself.  I am a yum yucker and a negative nelly by training.  And I have seen that it doesn’t get me the results I’m looking for.  I have learned that if I can lean toward the positive – just stretch myself within what feels authentic and true – I can be more effective and have more joy in the work.  The more I express what I already notice about what is possible and positive, and see the effect it has on others, the more I notice.  That is the beauty of how the brain works.  If you are like me and this does not come naturally, I invite you to try it.


One Response to “Throw out the Praise Sandwich and other ways to improve your feedback”

  1. Dave Snapp on May 29th, 2013 9:05 am

    Nice piece Allison. Simple–not easy–and true.

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