Praise & Criticism
My major in college was secondary math education. Yes, I’m aware of how exciting that sounds - especially the math part. I knew I wanted to teach and coach, and liked math … enough. To be honest, I chose math primarily because I knew I could find a teaching job since math has long been an area of need in our school systems.
The education classes I took as part of my undergrad studies were fairly useless, as I suspect most are. Taking a class on how to manage thirty teenagers is absolutely nothing like standing in front of them attempting to teach them about something they have no desire to learn.
However, I do recall a few things. One being the approach to delivering feedback to students: The Sandwich Method. It works like this: provide the student with a compliment to get their attention, then the critical feedback, followed by another praise - positive, negative, positive.
It sounds great in theory, as most undergrad instruction does, but falls ridiculously short in practice.
Why Should We Care?
The underlying purpose of the sandwich method is to protect us from critical feedback. By doubling up on the praise, we hope to soften the blow of the criticism. Protecting, rather than growing, becomes the priority.
While the sandwich method fails to create change for many reasons, it is better than what most leaders choose to do: provide no critical feedback. We get too caught up in the perceived positives and negatives of the process, as if it were a math equation.
The truth is it’s our relationships, not our delivery of feedback that provide the power behind our praise or criticism. The relationships we value the most have the greatest capacity to move us. We need to spend less time concerning ourselves with how praise and criticism is delivered and more time on growing our relationships.
When relationships become the focus we stop concerning ourselves with the balance of the praise and criticism teeter-totter. We tell those we love what they need to hear. Sometimes that’s what they want to hear and sometimes it’s not. But either way, it doesn’t stop us from telling them.
Criticism is the cost of praise.
To attempt to lead with one, and not the other, bounds our impact.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
The draw to help others feel good about themselves and their place on the team isn’t a bad thing. The challenge is in remembering that it’s not the praise that makes our team members feel good about themselves. It’s the relationships and contribution to something bigger than themselves. Here’s a few ideas on how to keep that in the forefront:
Praise and criticism are married. Avoid trying to separate them. Both are needed, but not necessarily in equal allotments. Focus on relationships and both will be viewed as the love they are intended.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.