The criticism that builds winning teams


In a heated argument over uncompleted tasks and missed deadlines, Sarah angrily said to her supervisor, “If you keep treating me like your five-year-old toddler, I may miss more deadlines.”

How criticisms are given or received goes a long way in determining how satisfied people are with their work, those they work with or those to whom they are accountable. Criticism is one of the most important tasks a manager has, yet it is also one of the most dreaded and a put-off. And today, too many managers and leaders have poorly mastered the crucial art of feedback.

This deficiency has a great cost. Just as the emotional health of a couple depends on how well they air out their grievances, so does the effectiveness, satisfaction and productivity of people at the workplace depend on how they are told about nagging problems.

Many managers are very willing to criticise but very economical with praise, leaving their employees feeling that they only hear about how they are doing when they make a mistake.

This propensity to criticism is compounded by managers who delay giving feedback at all for long periods. Effective handling of mistakes and nagging problems in a way that consistently retains valuable people and keeps the team motivated is a key skill that every leader and manager needs. To give feedback in such a manner leaders and managers need to:

Be specific
Pick a significant incident or an event that illustrates a key problem that needs changing or a pattern of defi ciency such as the inability to do certain parts of a job well. It demoralises people to hear that they are doing something wrong without knowing what the specifics are, so they can change.

Offer a solution
The critique, like all useful feedback should point to a way to fi x the problem. Otherwise, it leaves the recipient frustrated, demoralised or demotivated.

Be present and seek to understand
Private face to face critiques are most effective. People who are uncomfortable giving criticism are likely to ease the burden on themselves by doing it at a distance such as in an email but this makes the communication too impersonal and robs the person receiving it of an opportunity for a response or clarification.

Be sensitive
This is a call for empathy, managers who have little empathy are most prone to giving feedback in a hurtful manner. The net effect of such criticism is destructive, instead of opening the way for correction, it creates an emotional backlash of resentment, bitterness, defensiveness and distance.

The writer is the leadership
consultant and team leader of
Winning Choices



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