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Criticize with Care – How to get action instead of acrimony

Criticize with Care

Ever notice that criticism gets a bad rap, generally speaking?  

Not the "you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny" kind, but the constructive kind that portends to improve performance.

The problem is that when the criticism isn't received as constructive, there's no incentive for the desired improvement to occur. And the whole concept is dismissed.

As leaders, we must have a diverse 'leader's toolbox' to access ... and carefully delivered criticism is one of them.

Ponder this ...

Melvin seems to always find something better to do when it's time to move stuff into and out of the conference room for a meeting. When the work commences, Melvin disappears until after the work is done. When Melvin arrives afterward, he touts about his (fictional) contributions because he desires the team's respect.

As the team leader, you have a couple of options:

Option #1: "Melvin, we need everyone to help out in the conference room"

  • Result: Vague, easy to ignore or claim ambiguity.

Option #2: "Melvin, you're a lazy, lying fool. Help out or ship out!"

  • Result: While true perhaps, being too snappy will produce less trust or results!

Option #3: "Melvin, would your colleagues respect you more if you're contributions were more visible to other members of the team?"

Option #4: "Melvin, what can you do to be more reliable and present with helping your team when it's time to set up the conference room?"

  • Result: Melvin is more likely to cooperate because the criticism is connected to something he cares about: being respected by his peers. Also, when he helps craft a solution to the highlighted problem, he's also more likely to follow through.

Clearly, you'll enjoy greater results with Option 3 and 4. Much easier to say than to do though!

Remember, successfully leading teams isn't always friction-free.

When a team member needs some critique to help improve their performance, critique them constructively and carefully with a bias towards action.

Speaking of team performance, be sure to check out the article "When to Reward People and Teams … and When NOT to".

Lead on!

Mike McKenna

About the author

Mike McKenna is the founder and president of TEAM Solutions. He helps public and private sector leaders improve their outcomes before, during and after a planned event or unplanned crisis.

Please contact Mike via the Contact page.

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