Has anyone ever said to you, “I need to give you some constructive criticism”?
Did you feel yourself putting up your guard, even just a little bit?
All but the most confident people will put their guard up when they hear that and when they do, they will not be receptive to your feedback.
No one likes to hear that they did something wrong but if you don’t talk about it, the issue will fester.
Here is my 10 step process for feedback that leads to lasting improvement.
1. Erase the term “Constructive Criticism” from your vocabulary and replace it with the term “Constructive Feedback”. Coaching is about building people up, hence the word “constructive”.
2. Never take a person off guard. When you give feedback you must ensure that the other person in a good state, mentally and physically if you want him or her to hear you.
Ask for an appointment. When the person agrees to meet with you, it is giving him a piece of the control of the situation which is empowering and honours his dignity.
3. Focus on what you want instead of the problem.
For example, don’t say, “Jack, you are rude in meetings”.
Instead say something like “I know you have a lot of responsibility around here but when you walk in and out of the meeting several times, it is very distracting for everyone and makes them feel like their presentations are not worth your attention.”
4. Focus on the positive in two ways. First appreciate what went well, highlight positive results and the good qualities you observed in the person. Note a few specific examples to illustrate exactly what you like. Secondly, express what you want, what it looks like and what will be better because of it.
5. Discuss the performance gap, not the person. Review the actual results and real outcomes of the situation and where those landed in comparison to your expectations.
6.Have you ever heard that a leader must practice emotional intelligence? Now is the time to tap into your ability to empathize. This is when your employee will start beating himself up for not meeting expectations. Don’t let him go there!
Remind the person of the strengths and qualities. This will replenish his self esteem which he will need as he musters the energy and motivation to go back and try again.
7. Be clear. If the person’s result was a 6 on 10 explain what made it a 6 and describe what a 10 looks like. Then ask him to give you his plan for how is going to close the gap.
8. Continue to give him control. Do this by asking him to give you a plan for how he is going to close those gaps. This approach will give you great insight on where he lands on motivation and competency levels. With that insight you will know how much energy you will have to invest in motivating him and how much you will have to invest in training and supervision.
9. Don’t dump and don’t micromanage. Agree to a timeline including how often you will meet to review progress. Course correct accordingly.
10. Make sure you have your emotions under control. Emotional intelligence includes knowing how to regulate your emotions. It is fair to tell your employee how his performance is affecting overall results for the team and how that is making you feel. HOWEVER, If you are angry, frustrated, tearful, stressed out or impatient, you must reign that in. If you don’t, you run the risk of insulting your employee’s dignity and putting your own dignity in question. When you need to vent, call your coach.
This article is derived from the module entitled Perception and Feedback where I teach the difference between constructive criticism and constructive feedback. It is subtle but powerful as one builds people up and the other breaks people down. The word ‘constructive’ is used intentionally as coaching is about building people up.