Give a Compliment Sandwich by Laura Bartolomei-Hill

By at June 27, 2012 | 3:16 pm | Print

Give a Compliment Sandwich by Laura Bartolomei-Hill

Constant feedback and improvement are crucial on successful campaigns. But providing critical feedback for volunteers can be tricky – you want the best work product without driving anyone away. Volunteers most likely have other jobs, families, and friends, and are donating their time and energy to the campaign. This tactic can be used to provide feedback without alienating your volunteer staff.

Do you love getting critical feedback? Yeah, me neither. I tend to take it personally, especially when I’m taking a risk or trying something new. But making mistakes and being coached through them is fundamental to improving your skills.

One way that I prefer to give (and receive!) feedback is with a “compliment sandwich.” Here’s how it works:

  • Start positive. Identify 1-2 positive aspects related to the work, which could include outcomes (“This piece seems to be working well”) or effort (“I’ve been really impressed by how you’re approaching this”). Starting with positive feedback serves to reinforce aspects of the work that are effective and well done. It also creates a space where people feel more open to listen to critical feedback.
  • Identify problem spots. Once you’ve shown it’s not all bad, deliver your critical feedback. Be specific with examples of what’s not working (specifics are very important!).
  • End positive. End with another positive statement that re-iterates what’s going well. This doesn’t just end the meeting on a feel good note–reinforcing the positive feedback also gives the person direction. When we understand what parts of our work are meeting expectations, we’re better able to see how we can make other aspects improve, too.

The result will be a stronger work product without diminishing their self-confidence. Have a good way to offer constructive criticism? Share you comments.

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Laura Bartolomei-Hill, Training Manager  New Organizing Institute (NOI).   NOI trains organizers to build and manage effective movements by integrating tried-and-true community organizing, cutting-edge digital strategy, and data-driven decision making. NOI provide free access to revolutionary tools, technologies, and research to help campaigns reach the next level.

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Management & Strategy

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