Q- “How did you tell them that you wanted this done”

A- “Well they know”

Q- “Were you explicit when you told them?”

A- “Well no, but they know that’s what’s expected”


Does this sound familiar?

I’ve worked with leaders in this scenario many, many times. Does it resonate for you, or someone in your team? There’s a number of reasons that it might happen for you. Pick the one that makes you squirm most:

  • It’s their basic job, They should be doing this.
  • I’m uncomfortable delivering tough messages.
  • I don’t like performance management.
  • I don’t want to be rude.
  • We work autonomously, I’m not a hand-holder.
  • I’m too frustrated to articulate it.
  • We have a great relationship and I don’t want to damage that.


If you don’t deal with issues in a timely and clear manner, the impacts are broad reaching. Customers, suppliers and peers are impacted. Your personal and team reputation will also take a hit. That impacts your productivity, Your ability to do your job effectively. Goodbye future opportunities.

So this is an important one to get right, right?

I would like you to say goodbye to the ‘love sandwich’ and hello to the ‘explicit sandwich’


Script for delivering a tough message


The love sandwich is delivered by leaders wanting to be kind. Not only can the message get lost, but it can come across as patronising.

In the Explicit Sandwich, you’re being clear upfront about the problem and asking how they’ll deal with it. Reassure them that you have confidence that they can do this, providing some evidence of why you’re confident (see Impactful Presentations). The conversation may then go on to other topics, but be sure that the very last message they hear is a reiteration of the serious problem and how they’re going to rectify the issue.

Ongoing issues?

Where there are ongoing issues, consider taking a coaching approach in your leadership. Also if the team morale has taken a dip, reflect on celebration: are you seeking ways to celebrate the successes or simply striving for the next goal? This blog on Celebrating the Wins can help you boost team engagement.

Our Impactful Communication workshop provides structure for conversations that should be in every leader’s toolkit. You can google the GROW model and put it to use, or join us for the training to get the background and implementation strategies.


Cath Nolan is a Corporate Coach and serial business founder. With over 15 years, several thousand participants, hundreds of global brands and a long list of professional speaking gigs in her experience list, Cath’s focus is helping individuals to become the best of themselves, to achieve what’s most important to them. To see more, including free resources, visit cathnolan.com


Competence + Confidence + Great Communication = Powerful Impact