I have spent a lot of time, money, and effort to learn how to give feedback and evaluations. It is a skill that I still need to work on. However, I recently discovered a new approach that I think is KILLER. It’s a kinder way to give feedback at work to coworkers. I have tried it at home with family. I’ve tested it at multiple Toastmasters clubs. The reaction has been immediate, dramatic, and positive. I’m convinced this is a far superior method of providing feedback for anybody that asks for it (or needs it).
Watch and Learn: Speech at Las Juntas Toastmasters
To learn what I have, watch the video just below.
On August 31, 2018, I gave this speech at my club, Las Juntas Toastmasters, titled “Mentoring with Effective Evaluations.”
The easiest way to engage with and learn from the content of this video is to, well, WATCH the video. The speech is only seven minutes long. If you have trouble seeing the two graphic “slides” I used in the talk, I’ve included close-up pictures below. If you’re in a place where you can’t tune in, I’ve also described the presentation below.
Some background on Toastmasters…
Anyone who has attended a Toastmasters meeting will know that feedback is an important part of the experience. If the meeting features a speaker giving a prepared speech, a fellow Toastmaster in the audience will come to the podium to give an evaluation speech. This is a short, impromptu speech and it is something I struggled with—until now.
On Saturday, July 7, I attended the Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI). This is an educational event organized by District 57 of Toastmasters International. Any member of Toastmasters can attend, but as a club officer, I was strongly encouraged to go. Boy, am I happy I did!
After the general meeting, we had breakout sessions to attend workshops. I attended a workshop dedicated titled “Effective evaluations both in — and out of Toastmasters.” Inspired by what I heard, I took copious notes of what workshop facilitators Mike Daley and Dennis Dawson shared.
Immediately, I put it to practice, volunteering to be a speech evaluator at a meeting two weeks later. I also attended another club as a guest, and they needed someone to fill in as evaluator, which I did. I even gave a loved one feedback using this technique on the back of an envelope.
The Speech: A Play by Play
A Menu of Evaluation Methods
The first figure contains four images. Half of them characterize what I learned, the other half I made up. 75% of it represents what I now believe you should NOT do when giving an evaluation.
The first time I had to give an evaluation speech at my club, I chose to use the “Sandwich Method.” The name refers to wrapping two positive comments around a meaty piece of criticism. One reason for this order is to “cushion the blow.” I learned that this is the approach Toastmasters prefers.
Unfortunately, my evaluation speech using the sandwich method was mediocre at best. I wanted to do better, so I started searching the internet for more about Toastmaster evaluations.
I came across a suggestion that the “Open-faced Sandwich Method” may be better. It wasn’t.
In professional settings under time pressures, I tend to go Paleo. All meat, no carbs. Perhaps a better name for this is the “Turkey” method of evaluations. It goes like this:
Colleague asks me for advice on presentation/website/proposal/feature
- I machine-gun fire a barrage of negative feedback and comments
- I then run off to whatever meeting I have to get to, leaving colleague to clean up after the carnage
My intention with this was to give the colleague as much useful information as possible and hoped the person would cherry pick which of the thousand bits of opinions were useful or not to apply to improve the project. Then they would come back and show an even better version. The result was usually the opposite of my intention:
- My colleague gets depressed and overwhelmed by the negative feedback
- Colleague throws away the entire thing (good and bad) and starts over
- Colleague gets the impression that I would be better suited to do this since I seem to have so much to say on the topic and abdicates responsibility to complete the project to me
Daley and Dawson advised using “Le Hamburger” or “The Hamburger Method” to give evaluations. It seems like this is not really different than the Sandwich Method, and yet… it is.
The 3-part Hamburger in Two Parts
In a nutshell here is how I now give feedback, whether it is for a colleague, a family member, or a fellow Toastmaster.
The moment I realize I may be expected to give someone feedback, I immediately grab something to write on, and something to write with. If this is a speech evaluation in Toastmasters, I make sure to have a clipboard, a pen I can write quickly with, and a sheet of paper completely blank on both sides. These are the tools Mike Daley and Dennis Dawson assert are integral to winning evaluation speech contests, so I want to practice with them.
Outside of Toastmasters, I will use ANYTHING. A family member once asked me for feedback on a presentation and I grabbed a pencil and a piece of junk mail. The medium doesn’t matter. I’ll refer to the clipboard approach, but keep in mind you don’t need to do it this way every time.
Preparation for a successful evaluation
Before the presentation begins, I mark out both sides of the sheet of paper. On one side I draw a line down the middle, put a plus and minus sign at the top, then four horizontal lines to segment the piece of paper into seven boxes that I plan to write in. I write along the left side the letters S, H, F, and the word “theme.” The letters note where I’ll write what I See, Hear, and Feel during the presentation.
On the opposite side I write roman numerals I through V:
- 2nd and 3rd best commendations (+)
- Best recommendation (-)
- Best commendation (+)
Once that is done, I’m ready to actively listen to the speaker.
As the person presents, I quickly fill in what I see, hear, and feel putting positives under the plus side, and negatives under the minus side. Once the person has finished talking, I take at least 15 seconds to circle the top three positive notes, and one—and ONLY ONE—negative item.
If this is for Toastmasters, I also choose a theme for my evaluation speech.
Then I flip the page over, and I fill in the sections in reverse order. I start with the conclusion, then transfer the circled items into sections two through four, then finally I write out the intro. The introduction and the summation are the only parts I write out. That’s it. I have my speech. If there’s extra time I will practice my speech.
Giving the Feedback
When you give the evaluation, keep the following in mind:
- Take extra precautions to reinforce that this is your personal opinion. Use “I” language when giving feedback, like “I saw,” “I heard,” “I felt.” Avoid using general absolutes when giving your feedback.
- Do not go all fan boy or fan girl over the speaker and leave out anything constructive.
- The evaluation speech is intended for the person receiving the feedback. Feel free to ignore other people in the room; they are just along for the ride and will happily pretend to be a fly on the wall of your one-on-one speech.
- While looking — and struggling — to find info to link for these two instructors, I found this old and out-of-focus 2011 video of an Evaluation workshop Dawson, Daley and others did for District 57. If anyone has better links I should include here let me know!
- Ideally, I would have liked to include a transcript of the video of my speech. I noticed YouTube has this option available, and I’ve enabled the option to allow others to upload text. If anyone would like to upload captions—in English or any language—please go for it, and let me know if you have any questions.
- The purpose of this post is to relay what I had learned in a workshop at the Toastmasters Institute meeting months earlier. I wanted to make sure that the rest of my club had the benefit of that knowledge from the workshop.
- “White-washed evaluations make boring, confident speakers”
- We have to give feedback all the time at Toastmasters. Outside of Toastmasters, the moments in our lives when we give and receive feedback are some of the most crucial, impactful interactions we have in our lives. I have observed that giving feedback can have long-lasting repercussions, whether they are done well or poorly. If we want to make the world a better place, shouldn’t we learn to give feedback well?
- As I mentioned in the speech, I owe a big thank you to Mike Daley and Dennis Dawson who presented the original material.