Steps to Management Success – Step 58: Criticize Constructively

Written By Rick Frishman Published April 1st, 2010


Criticize Constructively

Is constructive criticism a contradiction in terms? Certainly not! It may, however, be one of the most difficult things you’ll have to do as a manager or business owner. Criticizing constructively can elevate, motivate, and help people’s performance be more aligned with your expectations. It’s an opportunity to reinforce relationships, not trash them—but you need to know how to do it right.

WHAT IT MEANS: Realize that whenever you need to criticize someone, you are treading on thin ice—people tend to be defensive when criticized and can create elaborate rationalizations that would surely strain almost anyone else’s belief. Never criticize anyone when you feel angry, insulted, or wronged. Never criticize in public. Never criticize in an emotional or accusatory way. Finally, focus on the deed, not the doer—on what happened rather than what the person did. If you can avoid the word you all together, you are probably on the right track.

ACTION PLAN: Be prepared before you call someone on the carpet. What exactly do you want to discuss? Paint a clear picture of what you expect in the future. Take the time to ask the person to explain his or her side of the story. There may be more to the picture than meets your eye. Also, insist that the person commit to doing what needs to be done to fix the mistake or prevent it from happening again. Understanding what to do and getting a commitment to do it should be your two goals.

EVEN BETTER: Let the other person suggest the remedy. Ask what it will take to keep this from happening again. Finally, end on an upbeat note. Thank the person for cooperating, express your optimism about the future, and let the employee know that his or her efforts are still very much appreciated.

(Excerpted from: 10 Clowns Don’t Make a Circus. . . and 249 Other Critical Management Success Strategies by Steven Schragis and Rick Frishman)

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