A better alternative to Sandwich Feedback

In December 2018, I had the opportunity to attend The Lead Dev conference in Austin, Texas. I was extremely lucky that my then employer also paid for a whole day workshop on becoming a manager through Demystifying Management by Lara Hogan (@lara_hogan ). It was a wonderful full day workshop, chock-full of lots of useful advice for the aspiring manager. One particular management technique she taught has stuck with me.

Instead of “Sandwich feedback”, where the giver gives feedback in the following pattern:

  1. Good Thing you do.
  2. Bad thing you did that needs correcting.
  3. Good Thing about you.

Lara suggests the following format:

  1. Observation: A by-the-numbers recounting of the behavior you witnessed that you want to give feedback on. It’s important that this observation be devoid of emotion or parsing. It should be the same observation that a camera would pick up if it were recording the behavior you’re speaking towards.
  2. Impact: How did that behavior affect you? What did you feel as a result of it? How did it affect others?
  3. Open-Ended Question: At this point, ask an open-ended question (a question that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no”, and it should be a non-hostile question). Lara suggests one of her favorite, “What are you optimizing for?” The Open ended question allows for a non-amygdala-hijacking response. One other piece of advice she gives is to make it a genuinely curious question. Use this moment to understand what drives the other person, and what caused them to take the action they did.

If you get the opportunity to attend one of Lara’s workshops, I highly recommend it. For my part, I strive to use this feedback format in all my interactions.

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