Six Ways to Provide Constructive CriticismNothing makes people bristle more quickly than unfair or unsolicited criticism. In a perfect world, leaders would not have a need to criticize employees. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has room to improve.

When constructive criticism is required, there are a number of techniques that inspire employees to improve their work, rather than making them feel inadequate.

Geoffrey James, contributor to Inc., offers six tips to effectively criticize employees.

Criticism is a Form of Feedback

The word criticism carries a negative connotation while feedback implies participation of two parties. “A two-way give and take where both people learn and grow,” says James. You learn when you give and receive feedback. When you provide feedback instead of criticism, you and your employee will feel relaxed and receptive.

Don’t Delay Criticism

Criticism needs to be delivered in a way that is clear, direct, and timely. Don’t delay until an employee’s annual performance review.

“Reviews are about salaries; criticism is about developing the employee,” says James. When you pay attention to an employee’s behavior and appreciate their experience, it will help them get into a learning mode.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

If you wait for the right moment to bring up problems to an employee, they most likely will be overwhelmed. Don’t delay criticism; it is best given in real time or immediately after a problem occurs.

Ask Questions

Don’t try to persuade employees to do things the way you do them. Everyone works in different ways, and your way may not work for them. Instead, ask questions to uncover any potential misunderstandings or miscommunication.

James suggests you ask questions such as:

If you ask these questions, they will help your employees discover their own solutions.

Listen and Acknowledge

James says, “When you listen to an employee and acknowledge what he or she has to say, you learn about the world from that employee’s point of view.”

Often when you listen to someone’s responses to questions, you have at least one “Aha!” moment which improves your own understanding. This allows you to provide much more constructive feedback.

Focus On the Issue, Not the Person

When you provide feedback or criticize employees, remember you are addressing a certain behavior that needs improvement, not the employee. If an employee is late, identify that as a behavior they must work to change.

James says to never say “You’re unreliable! You’ve been late three times this week!” Instead address the behavior like so: “You’re usually punctual, but this week you have been late three times. What’s up?” You will never be able to change a personality, but you can affect the outside behaviors that result from it.

It’s never comfortable when you have to communicate to an employee on how to improve their performance, but it is important. Even as an experienced leader, you might find it difficult to let employees know where they need improvement. However, there are times when constructive feedback is essential to maintain excellence and strong relationships. When criticism is handled with finesse, it can promote growth and improvement.

What other tips would you add?

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Do You Listen to Your Employees?Leaders can create loyalty if they simply listen to their employees. When employees are loyal and engaged in your company, profits are higher and productivity increases. When people feel unmotivated or undervalued, business suffers.

As leaders, we’re often busy with running and growing our organizations, we forget about employee engagement.

“In many organizations today, employees have come to expect that their perspectives are powerless, their input ineffectual and their thoughts thankless,” says Julie Winkle Giulioni, contributor to SmartBrief on Leadership.

The secret to making sure your employees feel valued is to be the best listener ever. Listening is the foundation for the best relationships. It makes the other person feel valued and opens you up to new ideas.

“For the most part, employees trust that their leaders are hearing the information they share,” says Giulioni. However, what’s missing is a commitment to do something with that information.  She says leaders today need to practice ‘listening 2.0’. This involves focusing on using the data they collect. Don’t just solicit and gather more input.

Giulioni Shares Three Critical Steps to Listening 2.0

Apply a strategic lens to what you ask. Really be intentional, and make sure there’s a good likelihood you’ll be able to act on what you hear.

Do something with what you hear. Take appropriate action. Make the employees’ investment in sharing information with you pay off in some way.

Let others know how you use their input. Communicate the value of what’s been shared. This reinforces employee commitment and it also trains employees about the kind of information you find most valuable so they can bring you more. Also, let employees know why you don’t act on certain information.  This communicates your bias, makes productive use of what others offer up, and encourages  better input in the future.

If you want to become a great leader, stop talking and start listening. Listening to your employees and using their feedback, goes a long way towards making  your company a better business.

Do you listen to and use your employees feedback?

Leaders - Five Things Your Team Hates about Your Leadership StyleNo matter how much you try to create an open workplace culture, encourage debate, those lower down the office hierarchy have a natural tendency to cover up reality for those towards the top.

Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies Ltd. and contributor to HBR Blog Network, conducted a flash survey of his social media universe and asked, “What’s the one thing you’d like your boss to stop doing?”

He asked on Facebook, Twitter, and the internal social media platform at HCL.

He shares the top pieces of advice.

Tell it Like it is

Don’t worry if you’ll hurt people’s feelings and let them know where they stand.

Some of the responses Nayar received from his community were:

Nayar says, “No rose-tinted spectacles for today's employee; they have the pluck to look at their failures and successes and have little patience for circuitous comments.”

It’s hard to give constructive criticism, but it’s important to let your team know exactly where they stand. If you don’t, it will just annoy them and they’ll undermine your trust and leadership.

Coach, Enable, and Support

Don’t tell your team what you know. A young lady on Facebook said, “Give us freedom, exposure, and guidance.”

Nayar suggests leaders move from being knowledge-providers to enablers. “Create the platform for your team to perform and back them by providing guidance and support,” he says.

Leaders also need to not only provide feedback to their team, but also solicit it from them.

Practice What You Preach

In comments such as “Do away with the lack of congruence between your actions and your words because I need to trust you.,” it’s evident they are looking for role models, Nayar says.

Leaders must inspire and teach through their own actions. As a leader, you need to be a role model for your team.

Don’t Play Favorites

We have measurable goals so it’s no longer okay for an employee with weak performance to rise up the ladder.

Nayar says, the need to measure and be objective cannot be stressed enough. This is evident in one comment, “Reward performance, not sycophancy.”

Encourage your team more and take an interest in their development.

Be a Leader

Lead by example, not by rules,” wrote someone on Facebook.

Another respondent quoted Gordon Selfridge: “A boss inspires fear, a leader inspires enthusiasm.”

Employees want respect-worthy leaders.

If you see a decline in your employee’s enthusiasm you may want to see if there is disconnect between your leadership style and your team’s expectations, suggests Nayar. Simply ask them, “What’s the one thing you want me to stop doing as your boss?”

You might be surprised at what you find out.

Do you have the courage to ask your team this question?

Three Tips to Use Feedback to Your AdvantagePeople typically equate feedback to criticism, and as hard as it may be to hear, it’s important to know how others perceive you.

“It can be painful to receive criticism, and most people avoid it like the plague,” says Cy Wakeman, contributor to Forbes.

Feedback implies the participation of two parties. It’s a give and take where both people learn to grow. As the leader, you give feedback to your employees and work with them to help turn their weaknesses into strengths. But if you don’t think you need feedback, you are misguided.

Wakeman offers some tips on how to use feedback to your advantage.

You’re Not Always Right

Everyone has room for improvement, and leaders are no different. View feedback as data to understand, analyze, and allow you to make better decisions.

“Every bit of criticism is a gift, helping you see past your ego and make the changes you need to become more competent, more effective and more valuable,” says Wakeman.

It’s Not Personal

It shouldn’t be viewed as emotional, it’s just information. Wakeman says when you maintain your emotional distance, you’re able to extract the valuable information that helps you develop and grow. Once you find value in it, you’ll be on the lookout for useful nuggets of information. If you do take offense to it, simply say, “thank you” and walk away to give yourself a chance to analyze the feedback. Facts are often overshadowed by emotion, so pay attention to them.

Use Feedback to Change

Wakeman suggests leaders be proactive and ask their team for constructive criticism. A simple, “What is one thing I could do differently to improve my results?”

Take the feedback and make it happen. Set specific, measurable, and actionable goals to help you through the process. What really helps you change is when you involve other people. You have someone to answer to when you don’t achieve the goals you’ve set.

Effective leaders should be open to both positive and negative feedback. They can use it not only to improve their performance, but that of their companies as well.

Feedback is a part of life. It can be painful to receive it, but remember you can use it to your advantage.

What other tips would you add? Have you used feedback to your advantage?

Three Useful Ways to Get Moving When You Feel StuckWe all have difficult challenges to solve. Each of us occasionally experiences energy slumps, roadblocks, and setbacks. Times when you feel stuck.

You may normally be productive, but feeling stuck is simply part of a growth process. While it’s frustrating, you can get beyond it. You simply need to be resourceful when you feel stuck, and you can get unstuck.


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