by Paul Seabridge, author of “Buy, Build, Sell“
I am a strong believer that, as a leader or manager, you should always strive to help your team members improve. A great way to do this is through feedback and coaching. I have a method for this, used and refined over twenty years, which I have found to be effective. I call it the praise sandwich. You have two pieces of bread with a filling in the middle. The two pieces of bread are the positive feedback you want to deliver; the filling is the not so good part that the employee needs to change.
The way you deliver that feedback is also important. If I said to you, ‘You are great at this, not very good at that, but really good at this’, I am simply telling you my feedback. This is not productive. Instead, you want to get the person receiving the feedback to do most of the talking; you want them to tell you what they’re doing well and not so well.
For instance, instead of saying, ‘That call wasn’t good’, I might ask, ‘How do you think that call went?’. Or ‘If you were to do things differently next time, what would you change?’ If they struggle to say what you need them to say, you can probe further. ‘When you said this to the customer, how did they respond? How do you think they perceived that? Would you word it differently next time? What would you say?’
I try to have 70% of the feedback focusing on three positive things that you appreciate and want them to keep doing, and 30% focused on development. Roughly speaking:
- The first piece of bread equates to 50% of the conversation, talking about the positives
- The filling is 30% of the conversation, speaking about the areas for improvement
- The second piece of bread is the final 20% of the conversation, recapping the positives
Make sure you signpost each section. For instance, ‘In summary, I need you to keep doing XYZ. Now let’s talk about the areas you think could be improved/ changed. So next time, you will do XYZ.’ Be sure to always circle back and finish on a positive.
You can use this type of feedback to improve processes/methods and behaviour. For example, if you had an employee turning up late for work you could have a conversation like this:
- ‘What time did you arrive to work this morning?’ (Late)
- ‘Why did you not arrive at the start time?’ (Overslept)
- ‘How can you ensure you arrive for work on time?’ (Set the alarm clock earlier)
With this way of delivering feedback, you get the team member to answer probing questions so that they identify the feedback themselves without you having to state it for them. The reason you want to get the person to tell you what they’re doing and what they need to change, is that no one likes being told off or told what to do. A level of emotional intelligence is required, to show empathy towards all members of your organisation and ensure they feel valued within the business. Using kind language and balancing out any criticism with positive comments is important to maintain a consistent level of positivity.
Coaching is leading from the front and showing an individual what to do. When coaching someone, I always focus the session on a particular topic. Back when I hired trainee recruiters, I would make sales calls with them and show them how I did it. Then I would ask them to make a call while I observed, giving feedback afterwards. Coaching also involves setting goals and taking actions. It is a great way to help people develop skill sets and grow their competence within a business, especially if the coach/ mentor has specific and relevant expertise in an area of knowledge. This is one of the more direct ways in which a leader in the business can help to develop the expertise and skill sets of the team.
*Extracted from Buy, Build, Sell by Paul Seabridge
Paul Seabridge is a global entrepreneur, published author, private investor and corporate advisor. He has been an active investor in SMEs for almost two decades and is CEO and Founder of Mergers, Acquisitions, Private Equity firm Opulentia Capital. He is author of “Buy, Build, Sell“, which covers topics such as recruitment, sales, business finance and accounting and then how to sell on a business through an IPO, merger, acquisition or similar.