By Steve Moran

I love giving positive feedback to my team, my friends, and even to strangers.


I am not sure there is a good leader out there that loves giving negative feedback to the people they lead. It is necessary but unpleasant to do. If you love giving negative feedback … well … we probably need to have a talk.

Part of the problem is that good leaders want to give feedback that helps people and the organization to get better. They are not giving negative feedback because they want to hurt people, to make them distrustful, to demotivate, though too often that is what ends up happening.

The Feedback Sandwich

The Feedback sandwich continues to be many leaders’ favorites. Something positive followed by the critical followed by more positive. The idea is that it cushions the blow; it affirms people. The problem is that it does not work well. All people hear are the negatives, and the positive feels manipulative. It is one of the worst leadership ideas of all time, and the research proves this.

19 Words …

It turns out that there is one technique that works better than all others. It is 40% more effective, yielding dramatically better results. It was first written about author Daniel Coyle. Here are the 19 words:

“I’m giving you this feedback because I have very high standards, and I know that you can reach them.”

It does not have to be those exact words. In fact, it is probably better and more effective if you say it the way it sounds like you, but the theme is the same.

  1. My standards are high.
  2. I believe in you.
  3. I believe your standards are as high as mine.

One more thing: Regardless of what you say, it all has to be true. You have to have high standards. You have to believe the person can reach those standards.

The Message

It sends some very specific messages to the person you are giving feedback to and ultimately to the whole organization.

  1. That you as a leader and your organization are special.
  2. That the person you hired is special and that their being a part of your organization makes the whole organization special.
  3. That you do believe in them — that they are capable of things they may not even see in themselves.

And honestly … if none of this is true about your organization you need to fix that. If this is not true about the individual, you need to turn them lose from your organization and find the person for whom this will be truth.