When you have multiple opportunities from the same event for feedback, what do you do?

Example: Direct is leading a meeting, you notice 4 good things and 2 bad things.

Do you give feedback on all 6 in succession? Break up the feedback deliveries (some immediate, some later)? Pick only some? Only the positive? Bring up the most impactful (good or bad)?

I understand the importance of feedback immediacy. At the same time, giving feedback on all 6 at one time seems like a bit much. Only giving feedback on some of the behaviors seems an injustice.


duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

 My suggestion would be to prioritise - pick the thing that is either the most important and/ or the thing that can be changed (or repeated) most easily and comment on that.   I think you are right that dumping multiple things on them at once will feel like overload.  Also remember that communication is what the listener does - if you do a brain dump on them, they are likely only going to remember or act on what is most important (to them) or can be changed easily.   They won't respond effectively to a mix of items.

The example you gave was leading a meeting.  I'm sure this will be a frequently repeated event that will give you ample opportunities for more feedback in future.  So just work on one thing at a time.

If you want to make a formal debrief as part of the assignment, then that may be a structured way to talk about everything that went on.   But I'd set aside a block of time to do that so you can be detailed, constructive, and offer suggestions.  Likewise make sure the direct has time to prepare something for the debrief.   But I wouldn't call something like that feedback - it's more of a coaching/business improvement type thing.

GlennR's picture

There are all kinds of evaluations and one of them is called the Sandwich evaluation. Of the six things you saw, pick the two most impactful positive ones and one of negatives. Sandwich the negative in between the positives.

I used to directly supervise entry level personnel who were charged with recruiting and training volunteers. I discovered very quickly that it was quite possible to ruin a new inexperienced person because, spending a day traveling with them, I could come up with a long list of things they needed to improve. Instead, I focused on using the sandwich technique. During the same time I had a peer who would point out all the shortcomings of her staff when she traveled with them. Not only were her staff less engaged, she later left the organization because she wasn't having a positive experience herself. Part of that was due to her ineffectiveness in managing and motivating her staff.

You're not trying to get someone from good to perfect in one session. As MarkMT says above, prioritize. Conventional wisdom says the human mind can only grasp three concepts at once, so there you go.


BJ_Marshall's picture
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Listen to the Event-Based Feedback Podcast for more guidance on this:

If you are new to the Feedback Model and have not been giving feedback for a long time, then only give feedback on the most important behavior. More specifically, if you've just rolled out the model with this direct in the past three months, keep the feedback to positive.

If you've been giving feedback for a long time with this person and have already progressed to giving both positive and negative feedback, and it's as easy to you as breathing, then you can give feedback on all six behaviors.


mattpalmer's picture

I have successfully delivered multiple pieces of feedback one after the other by just linking them with "can I give you some more feedback?"  (Well, actually, I use "can I make another observation?", but that's because I have some mental glitch about using the word "feedback").  Acknowledge that you're giving multiple pieces of feedback, make that explicit, and *own* it.  You're not fooling anyone.

There is a limit to how much you can put together, though.  I would shy away from six pieces of feedback, because I think that's more than anyone can successfully internalise.  I'd echo MarkMT's recommendation to prioritise, and make sure you give a few extra points to the positives, because positive feedback is more powerful than negative feedback.

One thing I can't recommend is the sandwich technique.  It has always come off to me as dishonest -- that you don't think your directs can take honest and sincere feedback.  I don't think that not using the sandwich technique is what made Glenn's colleague less effective.  I would consider it far more likely that insufficient positive feedback was given -- that there was too much focus on the negative.  Also, the manner in which negative feedback is delivered matters *so* much.  The MT guidance to give negative feedback in a light, unconcerned tone of voice is crucial.  Finally, feedback, both positive and negative, can only be effective when there is already a foundation of mutual understanding and respect, which is what regular one-on-ones help to build.

duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

 I agree with Matt's comments about the sandwich technique.  I think there was even a cast where MT advised against using it.   

My company recommends the sandwich as well, and most of us refer to it as "The S*** Sandwich".   I think the reason is that the first and last things you hear tend to be remembered by listeners, and the middle comments get diminished in importance (think of advertising or sales - the opener and close are the most important).   There's also no reason to soft sell the feedback - it should be direct, but fairly delivered.

GlennR's picture

The sandwich technique isn’t as easy to use as it appears to be. That’s why people don’t like it and when it’s ineffectively delivered then it can come across as MarkMT describes it. That is, very insincere to the point of making things worse than better.


But don’t rule it out just because you aren’t competent using it. It’s a tool. Know when it should be used and when another model works better. Every feedback model  has its strengths and weaknesses. Don’t use a hammer when you need a screwdriver.

It works best in situations where multiple pieces of feedback must be given AND where both parties know that the purpose of the conversation is to deliver feedback. Not where you walk up to someone and say, “May I give you some feedback?”

It also works where the positives outweigh the negatives. If the example had the ratio reversed, I wouldn’t recommend it.

 Each of the feedback examples must be relevant, important, AND communicated with the right words, tone, and body language (if you can see the other person).

This means that you must give specific examples (as we’ve learned from Mark). If the negatives were not serious mistakes, but rather suggestions, I wouldn’t say, “Here’s what you did wrong ,” I’d say, “Here’s what you might do differently next time.” I would also be looking directly at the person while he looked at me as opposed to walking side by side or sitting next to him in a car. Your tone should be sincere (in that you want to help) and conversational using humor if and when appropriate. Your outcome is that you want the other person leaving the meeting motivated to improve.

Again, note that I am not just walking up to someone and asking if I can give them feedback. Here all parties know that the purpose of the sit down is feedback before they sit down. 

Especially in cases where the presenter sought out my opinion for feedback rather than vice-versa, I would first ask him to tell me how he thought did. Then I would respond with my suggestions subtly using the sandwich technique instead of hitting him over the head with it. Done right, the other person will never realize you've used this technique, even in organizations where it is promoted.

Bottom line at the bottom, this technique is like any other tool. You need to know when and how to use it in order for it to be effective.




GlennR's picture

BLUF: Yesterday I was listening to the 'cast on "Meeting Interrupters--The Rambler" and Mark mentioned a Hot Wash several times. It occurred to me that, in thinking back to this thread, if I knew one of my directs was going to be leading a meeting for the first time, I'd set up something along the lines of a Hot Wash for as soon as possible after that meeting.

In evaluating my response to the above question, I realized that I zeroed in on responding exactly to the question and I gave a tactical response. Now, I believe I should have considered my response and looked at the bigger picture where I would have seen this meeting on the calendar, realized my direct was inexperienced, and then scheduled a follow up meeting to meet with him or her and do a more in-depth evaluation.