As a leader, one of your most important roles within an organization is providing guidance to other members of the company. It is common for leaders to encounter situations in which they have to provide an employee with constructive criticism. One study even found that employees appreciate constructive criticism because it can help them improve their job performance. Providing this type of guidance can be a challenge, however, as it is important to find a way to communicate your intentions without causing people to feel defensive or sparking resentment. Fortunately, there are a few ideas that leaders can keep in mind to provide their group with better guidance, helping everyone to function well as a team.
Demonstrate the qualities you want to see in others
It is important, before approaching any employees about possible areas for behavioral improvement, that you are not making the same mistakes. Employees are more likely to listen and respect a leader who offers critical feedback when that leader provides a living example of how to improve. For example, if a particular employee has demonstrated difficulty controlling their temper or managing tasks within a group, and their leader makes the same mistakes, the advice about how to improve will not likely be nearly as well received or respected.
Use real, specific examples
When you have the conversation and offer your feedback, make sure you use actual, observed examples to demonstrate the behaviors that you would like to see amended. Speaking about particular instances will give your critique far more credibility. It will also focus the conversation on particular events and ways to resolve them, rather than delving into personality differences or hearsay, which is not very productive.
Be aware not use the words, ‘always’ or ‘never’. These words can inspire defensive reactions in people because they over-generalize. For example, speaking to an employee about their tardiness by saying, “You are always late” will make them feel the need to defend themselves against the accusation and find times when they were not late. Saying instead, “I’ve noticed that you have been late for the past three days, this can be disruptive for the team,” will produce a far more productive discussion.
Describe your reaction
As you progress through the conversation and explain to the person the behavior you observed, you also want to make sure they understand the impact of that behavior on you, others in their group and the organization as a whole. For example, a person who struggles to effectively work in a group should be shown how their behaviors are leading to poor performance for everyone on the team.
As you progress through these steps, it is important to let the person know that they have your support and that you are not trying to cut them down, but rather help them grow as a better employee and stronger member of the organization. Keep this objective in mind as you discuss the situation and resulting solutions.
Give the other person a chance to respond
After you finish explaining your point of view and the changes you would like to see from your employee, give them a chance to respond. It is important to remember that sometimes perceptions are not reality, or that there may have been external circumstances of which you were not aware.
Also allow the employee to have the opportunity to brainstorm ways that they might be able to improve the situation moving forward. Make them a participant in the conversation instead of just a listener and inspire them to follow through on the discussion.
Providing people with constructive criticism can help members of your team overcome problems that may hinder performance and cooperation. An important part of being a leader in learning how to guide your organization forward, and that includes reducing negative behaviors or transforming them into positive ones. Should situations arise within your group that demand attention, keep these ideas in mind to improve communication and have a productive conversation.
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