Leadership IQ's New White Paper Cautions: Stop the Compliment Sandwich

Tired management technique leads to confusion, inaction

Washington, D.C.—June 21, 2010— Leadership IQ, a leadership development and research company, explains why Compliment Sandwiches are ineffective and should be avoided at all costs.

The Compliment Sandwich consists of a critique filling “sandwiched” between two pieces of compliment bread. In an era when employee engagement and satisfaction are highly valued, this technique is intended to criticize someone without making them feel bad. The problem, says Leadership IQ, is that the critique gets lost between the compliments because people focus on the positive about themselves and tend to ignore the negative.

An example from the new white paper, “Stop the Compliment Sandwich,” illustrates the problem. Frank has just been called in to his boss’ office. “Frank, you’re a world-class programmer. However, you’ve been pretty nasty during our weekly meetings, and it’s causing some hurt feelings. I’m telling you this because you’re just so darn talented I want to see you really flourish.”

What did Frank just hear? “I’m great, I’m smart” waa waa waa waa “I’m great, I’m smart.” Frank heard a compliment, then Charlie Brown’s teacher, then another compliment. But he certainly didn’t hear that his job was in jeopardy.

As a contrast to this kind of unsatisfying interaction, some managers use blatant candor, but that tack can shut down any chance of conversation and halt employee performance. Leadership IQ’s CEO, Mark Murphy, recommends honest, adult conversation that delivers the necessary constructive feedback. “No fluffy subterfuge, and no emotional brutality—just the facts delivered in a way that keeps defenses down while making it clear that while you’re there to help, change needs to happen, right now.”

In Murphy’s 20 years of experience in the leadership field, he has found that effective leaders use a six-step process that keeps defense mechanisms at bay, lets employees know how to reach their full potential, and expresses an urgency for change.

This six-step IDEALS process is detailed in “Stop the Compliment Sandwich,” available for download at http://www.leadershipiq.com/compliment.html.

About Leadership IQ
Leadership IQ provides leadership training, best-practices research and employee surveys, primarily serving Fortune 500 companies. The organization focuses training and research on management and executive performance, workforce issues, negotiations, strategic planning and customer service. Leadership IQ is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in Atlanta, Ga., and Westport, Conn. For more information, visit www.leadershipiq.com.

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