Posted in Communication Skills

How to Build a Correction Sandwich

Servant leaders care about the growth and development of the people they lead. Few sectors are as relationship oriented as ministry. The Church is all about reaching people with the Good News and discipling them to become more like Jesus. This requires on-going intensive relationships. Nevertheless, within this relationship-rich setting I have noticed the reluctance of leaders to address areas needing correction.

It’s interesting that 2 Timothy 4:2 states that we are to “correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”  Many of us focus on encouraging; we shy away from correction and rebuke. We hope that by ignoring problems or praying hard they will eventually disappear. Speaking for myself, I dislike conflict and I do not want to hurt people’s feelings. However, over the years I have learned that failing to correct poor performance or address negative attitudes is dangerous, infecting both follower and others around them.

When problematic issues arise, I have found the Correction Sandwich to be an effective tool. As its name suggests, the Correction Sandwich has two “slices” of positive comments with the “filling” of correction. I like this tool for three reasons. First, it addresses a specific behavior rather than personality. Second, it builds relationships in positive ways. Third, it provides opportunity for instruction and learning.

Suppose Sam is on the team you lead. He is a dedicated and hard worker but is habitually late for meetings. Here’s how to build a Correction Sandwich for this situation.

Start with a positive comment. Sam, I would like to talk with you about something. I appreciate your dedication to the team. You are dependable, always attending meetings and contributing positively.

Follow with the behavior needing to be addressed. However, you are consistently late for important meetings. This is a real problem, because we often have to wait for you to arrive before we can start, or we have to fill you in on what you missed when you arrive. It inconveniences the others on the team and is a poor way to manage time.

Dialogue about how to change the behavior.  Ask coaching questions to discover why Sam is consistently late. For example: Think of a recent meeting. What happened that caused you to arrive late? Is there a pattern? What can you do to address this pattern? What support do you need to be successful? If Sam cannot think of options, offer suggestions and then have him identify steps that will work for him.

End with another positive comment. Thanks for discussing this with me. I really value your contributions to the team. You have great ideas and work hard to perform with excellence. Please let me know if I can help you in any way.

I have used the Correction Sandwich with good results at home, with members of my congregation, and with my direct reports. I encourage you to add the Correction Sandwich to your leadership tool box. It works well in any setting where strong relationships are important to success.

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