BUT Sandwich – Keep It!

What is the BUT sandwich? I bet you have heard it before. Maybe you have used it, either knowingly or not. The BUT sandwich usually is a simple way to ease into providing feedback. Lay on some praise before delivering any criticism or feedback and then completely the process with a little more praise. Here is a very simple example, “You did a really good job on delivering you project on-time, BUT you should have paid more attention to cost. By the way, thanks for covering for me on vacation. See you get a sandwich – Praise, criticism and praise. For those of us that have heard it – Does it work? Are you confused by the conversation? What was going through your mind, when you were being delivered that BUT sandwich.

How do not do this? Here are a few tips to remember.

  • Focus the conversation on the Future rather than the past. Speed up to the part that helps get to the desired outcome in the future. Dwelling on the past, keeps everyone in the past.
  • Have a dialog. No one likes to sit through a lecture on what they are doing wrong. Brevity in this area is a virtue that your person will really appreicate. Don’t think that you can go into the feedback session that you can fix the person. Rather, think of it like a doctor – he usually asks questions first, diagnose the problem, before prescribing the solution. You have to search to understand. Maybe it is the decision is not any different than you assumed, but at least you showed good leadership in dealing with your employee. It could also help the employee to talk through it to understand better. Try it!
  • Silence is golden at times. The silence that is the space between the thoughts… It allows the employee to reflect and gather deeper insights. Same for you! At the very least it makes the feedback session feel like there is an air of calm. Should help for making the decision a more productive one.
  • This is your chance to grow the relationship. Requires some prep work on your part. Before meeting – think about how you will conduct the session to strengthen rather than fracture the relationship. Think about how you are going to discuss and act in the session – setting the tune. During the meeting – you have to listen and pay close attention to your actions (non-verbal communications). You have to make sure that you are working together on a win/win. You have to do your part, you are the leader.
  • Once a plan is worked – make sure that you have it broken into stages. Much like a project plan, there are some critical milestones. Know when they are coming and be ready to provide feedback on how everything is going. Coaching is a wonderful thing – this is your opportunity to shine.
  • Give praise along the way! The employee knows you are noticing and appreciate their efforts. Goes a long way to building the relationship.

All to often, I think that when the BUT sandwich is being used it is a way for us to helpful make sure that our folks like us. That causes us to keep some of the real criticism or feedback bottled up. Managers and leaders are here to get work done through people. The better the results – the better the team, the employees and the manager. If you have to have those difficult or tough discussion, then do it. Just remember to use the above (or develop a few more for yourself) and focus on the results…