A Young Leader Receives a Sh*t Sandwich

Incompetent leaders only have performance conversations when someone screws up.

Things get worse when inept leaders finally have performance conversations.

Michael Lapointe reminded me that incompetent leaders suck at performance conversations. (Michael left a comment on yesterday’s post.)

Michael wrote about a sh*t sandwich he was given when he was a young leader. ‘Sh*t sandwich’ is another expression for the ridiculous practice of sandwiching negative feedback between positive affirmations.

The ‘sh*t’ was that he was a lousy leader.

Heart break:

The part of Michael’s comment that jumped off the screen – apart from the colorful language – was, “At the time I was a young leader.”

If you care about success, affirm young leaders.

Who to affirm – Who to correct:


Support and encourage novices. Provide much more positive feedback than negative. Positive feedback elevates confidence and increases commitment.*

Tell tenderfoots what they’re doing right.

When someone tries something new, pat them on the back. Don’t kick them in the pants. Nit-picking feels like disapproval to the inexperienced.

Tip: Ask the inexperienced where they would like to improve before offering corrections or suggestions.


Show experts how they’re tripping over their own feet. Pop the bubble of perceived competence. Veterans have enough confidence to appreciate opportunities for improvement.  

Show experts how they could be even better.


Evaluate your leadership by asking yourself whose performance is improving because of your influence. You’re incompetent when those around you aren’t improving. I don’t care what results you’re achieving.

Whatever you do, learn how to elevate the performance of the people around you.

The science of leadership includes measuring results. The art and craft of leadership is about developing people.

The ultimate test of leadership is the trajectory of those you serve.

What do lousy performance conversations look like?

What factors make performance conversations effective?

* NY Times