“How do you give feedback to a CEO who’s twice your age? I was 25, a new professor called in as a last-ditch, Hail Mary effort to save a dying company. They had already fired three consultants, so why not try me?
The CEO had been leading longer than I’d been alive. After several weeks of watching him in action, interviewing his senior team, and gathering data from his employees, it was time for me to bring down the hatchet. His company had merged with another firm and he was still trying to figure out where to go. His team desperately needed him to outline a vision.
When I went to colleagues for advice, they all told me the same thing. Put a slice of praise on the top and the bottom, and stick the meat of your criticism in between. It’s the compliment sandwich, as Stewie Griffin called it on Family Guy–a technique for giving feedback that’s popular among leaders and coaches, parents and teachers.