Many of us are critical of others. Who among us can’t find something wrong at work? Even worse; some attack personalities rather than issues. Others focus on the negative without ever seeing or recognizing positive efforts around them.
Are people bound to be negative first and positive only begrudgingly? Not necessarily.
Surprisingly, much of how people see their organization is driven by the character and integrity displayed by leaders of the organization.
When it comes to criticism, how the message is communicated matters. You can’t just tell someone something and expect it to be readily accepted, especially if it is critical in nature.
Desired behavior should be modeled in order to encourage emulation, then backed up with verbal messaging. It’s okay to repeat yourself – few people get things the first time around.
Here are a few additional things you should consider when offering constructive criticism:
1. Base it on fact. Don’t speculate or allude to something of which you are unsure.
2. Identify the source. Avoid saying things like “People are saying…” What people? Who said what? When? Under what circumstances? Vague allusions to unknown others tends to undercut the trustworthiness of both the message and the messenger.
3. Don’t ambush others. This isn’t the Wild West, and you aren’t in a cowboy movie. You can be nice about saying a review of the project is in order. Don’t beat around (or hide behind) the bush. Come out in the open.
4. Offer an alternative. It can drive people crazy to be told nothing more than that they are wrong. Show them another way of doing it or how it might have been done. Look at what others have done in the past when confronted with such problems.
5. Remember to be positive. It is critical that those you want to improve see the benefit of improving. Recognize mistakes, but then move on to a brighter, more successful tomorrow.
One other thing: offer criticism, if possible, in person. Keep a record of what was said and who agreed to do what. Accountability is a cornerstone of improvement.
~ Darrell Browning