Mummy's Breakfast Coffee

There we were, in an Uber, riding to a good time.

The driver was a delight. An African lady, making some much appreciated extra cash, with a wonderful lilt, full of her smile.

Her tweenie youngsters were with her mother. Which we got to talking on due to her seemingly futile task to wean them off sugar laden fizzy pop.

The son had recently taken to pleasing mum by bringing her a Sunday morning coffee in bed.

Inevitably, his efforts didn't bring as potable as desired a drink.

Then she revealed fascinating insight.

"I've learned something. I don't want to douse his passion. So now I say, 'that's such a pleasure, ooh next time also try put a teaspoon less in, it's so nice of you thanks, baby'."

I realised she'd dropped the classic Praise Sandwich framework for feedback. She giggled when I mentioned that. Yet she'd come to it all by herself.

Having delivered various clinics lately on how to tackle the tricky topic of performance management over video, I have been quite taken aback at how this foundational little piece of the 'review' armoury is already known to less than a quarter of those I've helped in this regard.

This coffee example isn't an absolute fit. Yet does get across the positive-improvement-positive structure. The bread being the praise, the filling being what can be done next time to be even better.

Indeed, looking back I see I blogged on this very technique as long ago as 2011. (Twice, in fact.)

I've found an interesting product of these sessions I've ran. Which add to the options beyond this entry-level tactic.

First, when everyone involved is aware of the different templates you can deploy, the tendency to fall into the so-called "ego-involving" trap fades. That is, when you follow a formula, people invariably do not take the negative aspects personally.

Second, you must also mitigate for the fact that any positive elements of feedback can be ignored. Many will only home in on the 'improvement areas'. Maybe no bad thing, depending on situation, but certainly something to bear in mind.

In one case I introduced a team to a routine made notorious throughout the sector in the 90s by infamous enterprise software outfit, Computer Associates.

Whilst theirs was a culture not to be replicated, applying the Seneca advice to not discard an apple because of a bruise, you can perhaps take something for yourself from this.

They'd put a line down the middle of a whiteboard at their regular internal salesteam meetings. A plus-sign atop one column, minus-sign the other.

Then one by one each team member would be asked to contribute something that'd happened that previous week or month for each column.

There's a bit more to it than that, CA being the nest of vipers it was, but it is an angle with validity in the right setting.

Anyway, at least we've a reminder that even getting a cup of coffee to your taste is not as simple as you might think.

Likewise, don't douse anyone's passion in your team.

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