Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

The XYZ Sandwich

Welcome to guest speaker Chip Neidigh!

What’s more important when delivering performance feedback—intent or technique?

I’ll come back to that question in a moment.  But first, lets look at a useful technique for providing performance feedback called an XYZ Sandwich:

A quick example (a hospital manager named Bob providing feedback to a nurse named Mary):

“Mary, here’s how I see things:  I overheard you talking to a patient about your frustration with the hospital’s new nurse scheduling system.  When you complain to patients about things over which you (and they) have no control, patients tend to lose confidence in the care we provide.  Patient outcomes and satisfaction may suffer as a result.  I’d prefer you bring your concerns to me, work with me to find solutions, and not let your frustration and anxiety spill onto patients.  What do you think?”

Can you see the X, the Y, and Z?

  • When you Xcomplain to patients about things outside our control
  • Y happens:  patients lose confidence; outcomes and satisfaction suffer
  • I propose Ztalk to me instead

And did you notice the slices of bread at the beginning and end?

  • top slice: here’s how I see things…
  • bottom slice: what do you think?

Here are some of the advantages of this technique:

  • It focuses on behaviors and impact, not intent. In the example above, Bob is not suggesting that Mary is intentionally trying to harm patients.  Bob assumes Mary cares about such things and would like to know the impact of her actions.  Since the technique doesn’t question intent, it is less likely to trigger defensiveness.
  • It is useful in 360 degrees. The technique works with bosses, peers, and subordinates (and spouses and kids, for that matter).
  • It opens up options. The Z element of the feedback (“I propose…”) gives the other individual another choice about how to behave.
  • It is conversational. The XYZ Sandwich is designed to initiate a 2-way dialogue.  The bottom slice of bread (“What do you think?”) opens up the conversation about the behavior (X), impact (Y), and options moving forward (Z).

For particularly challenging performance feedback conversations, I recommend 3 preparatory action steps:

  1. Get your mind/heart right. Do you feel condescension or criticality towards the other person?  If so, start working through your own issues before you try to help the other person.  Good intent can overcome sloppy technique, but perfect technique can’t overcome bad intentions.
  2. Script it out. Write out the top slice, X, Y, Z, and bottom slice.
  3. Practice with a trusted advisor. Read your script and role-play the subsequent conversation.  It is amazing how often what we write looks good but sounds judgmental and offensive.

Can you think of someone in your life who would benefit from some performance feedback?  Why not commit to having that conversation within the next week, using the XYZ Sandwich?



3 Responses

  1. I appreciate you wanting to give systems feedback and customer feedback to employees. That is a challenge. I am not sure you can speak as a judge and declare what a customer experience is. Instead, you can declare what your experience is. This is why I make a distinction between values issues and system issues.
    Thank you for your blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Evergreen Leadership