Careers: Articles - Ten Tips for Delivering (Constructive)
First let me say that, with all the criticism I have received,
rarely has it ever been constructive. These days when someone comes
up to me after a presentation and says, "Would you like some
constructive criticism?" I always say, "No thank you."
The problem with most people who give criticism is that they almost
always feel they could do it better. This brings to mind the obvious
question, which is if they could do it better, then why aren't they
doing it? As leaders, we are always targets for criticism and so
be it, I think that's part of the deal. Where we fail is that we
don't help our team members by training them how to deliver criticism
or feedback in the best ways.
Ask most team members and they will tell you that they rarely get
enough feedback - positive or negative. That's because most managers
don't want to create conflict and they may not feel confident in
their ability to deliver appropriate suggestions. For most people
it's easy to see that someone isn't doing their job correctly, but
it's very difficult to tell them how to do it better.
Here are some tips to help you give team members the feedback they
need and want.
- Take an honest look at where you're coming from. If there's
some anger or resentment toward the team member then you're probably
not the best person to offer them advice.
- Make sure you have all the necessary information. The quickest
way to offend anyone is to criticize him or her for something
they didn't do. Getting all the necessary data may take a little
time so be a little patient with yourself and the team member.
- Stay focused. Don't get side tracked by the person you're talking
to or the action in the office. Be sure to look the person in
the eyes, it will help you stay on topic. If you're typing away
on your keyboard the team member won't take your requests or suggestions
- Choose the best time and place. Never give criticism in public,
in front of another person, or at the end of the day when you
or they may be too tired to deal with it appropriately. Also,
if you're physically uncomfortable you may not be in the best
frame of mind to talk about a difficult subject.
- Realize that the person you're giving feedback to may get defensive.
This is a natural response to criticism, especially if they've
gotten their feelings hurt by you (or another manager) in a previous
experience. Use a softened start-up. For example you could say,
"You've really done well this quarter, but there's one little
area that could use a bit of improvement."
- Talk about the performance not the person. Feedback is not about
telling someone they are bad at what they do, it's about telling
them how they could do it better. For example, you would never
say to a person, "You are a mistake." Instead you would
say, "You made a mistake."
- Use humor if possible. If you can deliver criticism in a light-hearted
manner it will be received in a much more positive way. Humor
doesn't diminish the seriousness of the feedback you are giving,
it actually helps the person receiving the direction to open up
and take it in.
- Get a commitment. Make sure that the team member who is receiving
the feedback makes a commitment as to how and when they will correct
- Start and end with a compliment. Find something good to say
about the person and their performance at the beginning, this
will help them take in your advice. At the end of the conversation
it will help them to feel that they aren't a failure or about
to be fired.
- Follow up. Have the team member report back to you within a
specific time period, but not more than a month.
These are the tools the best of the best use to make their teams
strong. Learning how to give feedback and criticism in a way that
the person you are talking to will take it in and learn from it
may be a leaders greatest tool for building an effective team.
So the next time you offer a team member constructive criticism
they won't go running for cover or say, "No thank you."
Instead they will see it as an opportunity to grow and your company
will grow along with them.
About the Author:
Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is a highly sought after speaker and business
consultant, and presents to numerous companies, associations and
leaders worldwide. His articles have run in more than 500 publications
and he has given over 2000 professional presentations. He can be
contacted through his web site at: www.BartonGoldsmith.com or at