On Providing Feedback: Pointing Out What’s Working First

Feedback is a vital aspect of personal and professional growth. Whether you’re a manager providing feedback to your team, a colleague offering input on a project, or a hiring manager helping candidates improve their interview skills, the way you deliver feedback can make a significant difference in how it’s received and acted upon.

One approach that has gained traction in recent years is the practice of pointing out what’s working first, before addressing areas for improvement. This method, often referred to as the “positive feedback sandwich” or “compliment sandwich,” is an effective way to provide constructive criticism without demoralizing or discouraging the recipient. Here are some of the benefits of this approach and why it’s an invaluable tool for executives, team leaders, and hiring managers alike.

The Power of Positive Feedback

Positive feedback, as the name suggests, focuses on highlighting the strengths and successes of an individual or a team before delving into areas that need improvement. This approach has several key advantages:

1. Builds Confidence

When you start with positive feedback, you boost the recipient’s confidence and self-esteem. Recognizing their accomplishments and strengths demonstrates that you value their contributions and efforts, creating a more receptive atmosphere for constructive criticism.

2. Enhances Motivation

Positive feedback can be motivating. By acknowledging what’s going well, you inspire the recipient to continue their good work and strive for excellence. People are more likely to embrace change and put in the effort to improve when they feel appreciated.

3. Fosters Trust and Rapport

Beginning with positive feedback helps build trust and rapport between the giver and receiver. It shows that you genuinely care about their growth and development, rather than just pointing out flaws. This can lead to a more open and productive dialogue.

4. Encourages Openness to Critique

When people receive positive feedback first, they are often more receptive to hearing about areas where they can improve. They are less likely to become defensive or resistant, as they already feel supported and valued.

Applying the Positive Feedback Sandwich

Whether you’re an executive or a hiring manager,, the positive feedback sandwich approach can be particularly beneficial when working with existing employees or potential job candidates. Here’s how you can incorporate this method into your leadership or recruitment process:

1. Start with Strengths

When providing feedback to candidates after interviews or assessments, or employees in quarterly reviews, begin by highlighting their strengths. Mention what they did well, such as their communication skills, problem-solving abilities, or relevant experience. Be specific and provide examples.

2. Address Areas for Improvement

After acknowledging the candidate’s strengths, move on to areas where they can enhance their performance. Be constructive and offer actionable suggestions for improvement. Focus on specific behaviors or skills that can be developed rather than making general critiques.

3. End with Encouragement

Conclude the feedback session by offering encouragement and support. Let the candidate or employee know that you believe in their potential and that you’re here to help them succeed. Provide resources or guidance on how they can work on their development areas.

The positive feedback sandwich approach is a valuable tool for anyone in a leadership position. It not only facilitates more effective feedback sessions but also contributes to a positive employee or interview experience. By starting with strengths, addressing areas for improvement, and ending with encouragement, you can foster a growth-oriented mindset in your employees and help them reach their full potential.

Remember that feedback should be a continuous process, and it’s essential to create a culture of feedback within your organization. When employees feel supported and empowered, they are more likely to excel in their careers, benefiting them and your company. So, the next time you’re providing feedback, try pointing out what’s working first and watch the positive impact it has on those you’re helping to develop and grow.