4 min read/Published On: July 23, 2020/791 words/

Medals and Missions

Thanks again for the feedback on last week’s post about Certificates.  This week I want to visit something I have been meaning to blog about for a long time and that is Medals and Missions.

The Rat Sandwich (or sh*t sandwich as you may have heard it called)

The tried and tested method for sharing negative feedback with a member of staff, by sandwiching the negative bit in between two positive bits.  Unfortunately according to research what happens is people tend to focus on either the two positive bits (the bread) and don’t hear the negative bit, ie the stuff that actually needs work.  The flipside is that some staff will only hear the negative bit in the middle and focus on that, or worse…

In fact, research carried out by Harvard University found that employees would start to disconnect from the person providing the negative feedback, they would communicate less and even distance themselves from that person.  Now clearly we need staff to feel comfortable asking questions and discussing performance, without distancing themselves from us.

Ditch the Rat Sandwich

What I am about to share I can take no credit for, a manager in a Lead to Succeed session in Stockport shared it about a year ago.  Essentially replace the Rat Sandwich with Medals and Missions!


Simply, medals are the things that are working well and the research shows that the way humans process positive feedback has a huge impact on the way they carry out their role, learn and develop.  Medals or what is also known as “positive reinforcement” enables staff to develop in a way that negative feedback does not (more of that later).

Whilst we all learn in different ways, what makes us human is that we respond much more positively when we know we are on the right track, even if we do need a bit of pointing in the right direction every so often.


We learn something every day, as the expression goes (at least we do if we are open to the learning). So can we set things up in such a way that it is easier for us as human beings to be open to the learning?  

Missions are one way to do that, you could think of missions as goals, but sometimes goals can be seen as contrived.  Your mission should you choose to accept it… is to learn!

A mission is guidance, coaching, or support for a member of staff on what it is they need to improve or work on, which is not dissimilar to the “rat” section of the sandwich described earlier, just delivered in a slightly different manner.

Another way of looking at this is what someone else shared in a Lead to Succeed session (this time module 3 – supervision) and that is WWW, not world wide web, but what worked well. 

A manager shared that they use in supervision something called www, or what worked well, it is a simple addition to a supervision agenda and is straightforward to implement.  Just ask the member of staff, what worked well since last supervision?  You can add your examples to it as well.

To finish off, the research shows that positive feedback (medals and www) has a far greater impact on staff performance than negative feedback.  Rather than pointing out the weaknesses, focus on their strengths, highlight the good stuff, praise them in a team meeting and they will feel valued.  (Those of you who have completed module 3 will know that almost twice the number of people leave their jobs because of feeling undervalued than because of low pay).

Valuing staff is probably the most powerful way to retain staff and all it takes is a bit of creativity and thinking.  Staff who feel valued will go the extra mile and come to you with suggestions rather than distance themselves from you in the way I described earlier.

Medals – this is what you are doing well, well done, keep doing that…

Mission – this is your mission for next supervision, can you… 

Lastly, if you have not seen one of our newest courses, Coaching, Mentoring and Challenging Conversations check out the research around 7 pieces of positive feedback to each negative piece.  Also check out our free supervision course here.

Why not take the first step and share your personal medals and missions in the comments below?  In Social Care we don’t often do a great job of blowing our own trumpet, celebrating our successes and achievements.  So why not let everyone know what an amazing job you do? 

Lastly I have included a couple of bits of research that you might find useful:



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