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Originally published on September 1st, 2010.
I was a cheerleader during my teens. Just before going to college, I became a coach. There I learned what I would now consider as my best managing advice, in life and in business. Maybe you know it: it’s the Sandwich method.
You can use this technique when managing a team or event with your friends and family. The sandwich method is one that can be used in your everyday life, as well as your professional life. And as a manager, you can get a lot out of this technique.
To make a sandwich, you need two slices of bread, and the filling (meat, cheese, vegetables, mustard, etc.).
Here’s the parallel. The two slices of bread contained in a sandwich stand for a good compliment. This means that when you need to approach someone to discuss about a negative concern, NEVER start with it. Engage the conversation by saying something positive about the person (a part of the job he/she’s doing well if it regards work, a compliment if in your personal life). You can always find something positive about someone.
Let’s say you need to talk to one of your employee because he is failing to do its job. He may be kind or has a beautiful personality. Maybe he’s always on time or is a hard worker. Even if you need to fire him, you still can find something positive about him.
So it’s with this positive argument that the conversation should be opened. This argument puts the employee (or the friend/family) in a comfortable position. It will help you make him understand your negative point without him being defensive. By doing this, you keep him open to his good attributes as well as its not so good attributes.
The second point is the negative one. It’s the meat of your conversation. It’s the reason why you asked for that discussion. Now’s the time to say what you think. But not too much. If your employee doesn’t do it’s job properly, don’t just say: “you’re not doing your job properly”. Now you can forget about the bread aspect of the sandwich, you’ve screwed up!
Be clear about what he’s not doing. If he fails to deliver reports on time, that’s what you’ve got to tell him. If he’s always late, talk about this. Don’t just tell about him not doing his job. For some people this is like a slap in the face; then you can just forget about the discussion, the hope for a change and the positive attitude.
Like a sandwich, you should also close the interview with another nice point. It is better to find another positive aspect of the other, so your employee leaves on good terms. He might get so opened by this methods that he’ll be willing to change that negative point. Should you not find a second positive quality about this person, then reemphasize on the first quality.
You can also add some mustard at the end by keeping your mind opened to the changes in your employee’s behaviour. Give him another try for a first offense and you might be surprised. As far as I’m concerned, I play baseball in my life. I grant 3 attempts before the other person gets “out”.
Take me out to the ball game…