I learned something a few years ago that forever changed how I give feedback.

For years I’ve been teaching and practicing giving feedback using the “sandwich” method. You may know it as the “success sandwich”, while others have a less tactful name for it (you likely know that one too). Perhaps you’ve even served a few of these to people in your life or workplace.

This sandwich method suggests it’s best to serve feedback prefaced with a positive, give the suggestion for change, then end with another positive. Maybe you’ve even used it yourself or had this sandwich dished up to you.

Here’s why that system doesn’t work … You’re waiting for the shoe to drop.

That traditional approach might work once, maybe twice. After that, you begin to notice a pattern. You tell yourself, “Hey, when Joe gives me a compliment, it’s followed by the old one-two knock-down punch”. You begin to associate an atta-girl or atta-boy with a negative. You’re waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop and feel like you’re being buttered up, only to be knocked down.

A colleague of mine, Shelle Rose Charvet, introduced me to a new way of looking at and giving feedback. She told me about a certification course that she was overseeing. Through many years of giving this week-long course, there were always two or three people who didn’t quite make the cut and therefore, did not gain certification.

Then, she changed how she gave feedback, and guess what? She got different results. You can too.

Shelle began to offer only positive feedback and you know what happened? For the first time in years of her giving this certification course, every single person passed. Now, that doesn’t mean that she and her team of coaches didn’t offer suggestions for change — they just changed the way they did so.

I’ve gleaned from Shelle’s system and added my own touch to come up with a formula for giving feedback that will work. You have the exact wording you can use below Here it is:


  1. “When you …” (describe his/her behaviour)
  2. “Consider doing XYZ”(describe your suggested behaviour)
  3. “This will help you to GET …” (describe the benefit, the gain, what they will MOVE TOWARD)
  4. “And, it will help you to AVOID …” (describe the pain, what they will MOVE AWAY FROM)
  5. End with an authentic compliment and encouraging praise.
In action, it sounds something like this: 

“Tom, when you hand in a report, consider the idea of including some charts in it. This will get the point across to senior management in a snapshot and you’ll avoid the frustration of leadership not responding quickly and asking for clarification. You’ve produced a polished and useful document that will impact the direction management takes. I look forward to seeing the updates.”

No one likes to feels they’re being chastised.

Instead of sounding like chastising — “Tom, your report is good BUT it didn’t have charts in it. That’s an oversight” — this alternative approach is simply an observation without a tone of reprimand. It communicates the same information with a different and more positive tone.

Some people believe that the best way to give feedback is to break someone down so you can build them back up the way want them. I disagree. There’s no need to “break” anyone, especially if you hope to keep them engaged and motivated.

And there you have it — a different slant on how to serve up feedback. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. In fact, if you have comments about this article, or my website, or one of my sessions you may have attended or any aspect of my biz, offer your feedback using this new model. This is a safe and confidential place for you to practice your new skills.

I look forward to hearing from you and how this technique works for you. Now that’s feedback I value. PLEASE POST YOUR FEEDBACK BELOW 🙂

© 2012-2021 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

©2021 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Until next time, here’s to …
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Sign up for  “Marion’s Communication Tips” at www.MarionSpeaks.com

Post your comments and reactions below. There are no right or wrong responses, just honest, respectful ones. I’d love to hear your opinion. What about this article resonated with YOU?

Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.


  • Hallam Carter says:

    Well, you really got my attention with this article! I have also been a part of organizations that teach the sandwich approach to providing feedback.
    Admittedly, I also found the pattern of that approach… predictable.

    That said, I find this approach much more helpful and adaptive. I will integrate this into my everyday dealings with people.
    Thanks for sharing this Marion!

  • Thank you, Marion, for a providing such a simple and clear way to improve how feedback is heard, how both you and the the other person feel after the conversation, and how likely it is that the hoped-for change will happen.

    I really enjoyed seeing how explicitly you used the suggested words in the example.

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