I have never been fond of annual reviews -- giving or receiving them. Trying to boil down one's performance in a one-page template, with check marks and arbitrary rating systems, can do more harm than good. requires a holistic approach.
In one particular management position I held early in my career, I was tasked with delivering annual reviews to a team of consultants, many of whom were older and more experienced than me. I was young and had never delivered a performance review, much less to an someone senior to me.
Because of my inexperience, I did what I thought managers were supposed to do: find all of the areas of improvement needed, and tell them about it.
To say that the meetings did not go well is an understatement. It was downright embarrassing, and at one point, senior management had to intervene to talk down my "subordinate."
Luckily, I had a good friend and more experienced mentor who helped me understand where I went wrong. For starters, he told me that I should have asked my mentor for help before even starting -- useful advice delivered a few days too late.
He then went on to tell me that the best way to deliver constructive criticism like a human resource ninja -- without the recipient knowing they are actually getting it -- was to use a time-proven method he called the "You Suck Sandwich."
It sounded odd, and for the most part, my mentor was using the phrase in jest, but the idea was simple and, as I quickly found, extremely effective.
The Bottom Slice of Bread -- Praise
Start with the first part of the sandwich, the bottom piece of bread. In this case, the bread is praise. Start your conversation telling your colleague about something they are doing well and why you appreciate him or her.
You should be sincere in your praise, without overdoing it with enthusiasm -- surely you can find one thing that he or she does well. By establishing a baseline that you are not attacking, he or she will be more receptive to the constructive feedback.
The Meat -- Constructive Feedback
The next part of your meeting -- the meat of the conversation, if you will -- is the feedback you are providing to help steer your colleague in a new or different direction. This is where you have to provide the feedback in a manner that encourages change and not resentment.
Do not use this time to just critique. Be sure that if you are bringing up areas for change or improvement that you also provide a roadmap for success.
Also, it is important that your colleague understand and has buy-in to the conversation. Considering asking him or her, "What areas do you feel need improvement?" Let them know you are on their side when it comes to implementing any change by saying, "How do you believe we can work together and move forward?"
By engaging and empowering your colleague to take an active role in the conversation and developing the roadmap to success, you drastically increase your chances of getting action and results.
The Top Slice of Bread -- Praise
If your feedback discussion went well -- you delivered it like a ninja -- he or she will hardly even notice that you were delivering news about a need for change. With that said, your colleague more than likely is thinking that he or she is not meeting expectations. Use the conclusion of your meeting to again emphasize the positive impacts he or she has made to the organization and encourage them to keep up the good work.
Of course, this method does not work for everyone or in every occasion. Different personalities and cultures receive and expect feedback differently and in different forms.
Moreover, feedback should not be reserved to a once-a-year, uncomfortable meeting that takes place over a fresh, clean sheet of paper. Instead, it should be a holistic and year round practice incorporated into every manager's portfolio of skills.
Over the years, however, I have found the You Suck Sandwich a very effective method of delivering feedback on a regular basis.
What did you think of this article? Delivery your "you suck sandwich" in the comments below.