Feedback & Rapport


The problem with ideas that have been around for a while is they become lazy thought habits. The idea gets a few years behind it and then people think “oh yeah, I know that. Next!”. It’s just part of the wallpaper of daily life.  

Giving people feedback is one of those areas where people think it’s as simple as the tried and true “Hamburger Method”. It’s been around for decades and it’s done every time.   

In case by chance you missed it, that’s the feedback model where its soft -hard-soft “like a hamburger”.  

You give a soft compliment, then the hard feedback, then another soft compliment. That’s easy to remember, right? 

The problem is, if you don’t have strong rapport (connection) with the person you are giving feedback to then the soft compliments sound insincere, maybe even downright manipulative.  

If this method is common knowledge do you think the person getting the feedback might know what you are doing from the first sentence? Highly likely.  

Put yourself in the hot seat and think about it.  

If someone you don’t really feel any connection to pays you a compliment and then takes it away 10 seconds later with a criticism of your performance it is manipulative! And it feels manipulative.  

Even worse, you just gave the person you’re giving feedback to a really good reason not to trust you and not trust where this conversation is leading.  


So, what to do?  

Let’s take the following scenario with a sales professional called “John” (if you are reading this and your name is actually John I am talking about someone else named John– don’t be nervous!).  

Firstly, when you call the meeting, preferably one day in advance, be upfront about what the meeting is about but also set up the tone of the meeting.   

“John, your sales figures are lower than they need to be for this quarter, so tomorrow let’s have a chat about how we can work together to turn that around, ok?”.  

How about that being the first “soft” in the hamburger? Naming the problem as “ours” not theirs. A little less weight on John’s shoulders already. And we have started to build rapport already.  

You let the person know from the first communication that you’re working together to solve this issue.  If you send a calendar invitation, call it something more friendly than a “Performance Review”.  Call it something solution oriented like “Sales Turnaround Meeting”. Much less threatening.  

When the meeting begins, take time to ask a lot of questions and build rapport as much as possible before confronting the issue at hand. After a few minutes ask them how they feel about their current performance.  

“John, how do you feel about your performance so far in this quarter?” 

“Well, my sales are a lot lower than I expected but I have really been hitting the phones hard and my call rates are as high as ever”  

In the first half of the sentence John gave himself the hard feedback so you don’t have to. That’s the key benefit of setting up the meeting properly. The problem has already been named. No surprises.  

As John defended himself in the second half of the sentence, he just gave you a “first compliment” you can give back to him.  

“I was going to say the same thing” you say, “your call rates are really impressive John so we know you’re working hard, really hard actually! Which is why I was keen to talk to you today because I wanted you to know that we see that effort too”.  

Say it from the heart because whatever the person told you is what they really want you to know. Perhaps desperately if they are struggling. It’s their truth.  

You now both agree on the compliment and have a nice deep rapport. All the tension of the conversation has been released. Now move on to the next question:  

“So John, what support do you feel you need to turn this hard work in sales results over the coming weeks? How can we support you to do that?”  

Now John may or may not have a suggestion for this, but if you have one prepared you can quickly move onto a plan of action together – that can be the other soft part of the hamburger.  

Create an action plan together and agree and sign off on it, and continue giving John that support until the performance reaches his target, which must be also acknowledged when achieved.  


So, let’s be clear about what just happened to build rapport:  

  • Use a longer time frame - setting up the meeting in advance as an opportunity to let the person know you will be working with them on the solution – first step of rapport. (soft)  

  • You start the discussion with any general work questions to build connection and then give them the directed question that lets them name the problem – second step of rapport (hard)  

  • Acknowledge the aspects of their performance they think is good – Third step of rapport (soft)  

  • Ask / offer support to create a solution – fourth step of rapport 


"Rapport isn’t everything, but you won’t get anything without it"– John Grinder

The next blog will be about how Metaphors can be a powerful feedback tool. 

Malcolm LarriComment