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Senior Correspondent

Stop talking if you’re a critical boss.


You may say, “I’m just being helpful.” Unrequested criticism is like a drive-by shooting – there’s no responsibility for positive outcomes. It’s sleazy and easy.

After writing, “Taking Criticism Like a Pro” a reader asks, “How about teaching bosses how to give criticism like a pro?”

10 Ways to give great criticism:

  1. Great criticism begins long before it’s given. Never criticize before you’ve instructed, explained, and illustrated values and desired behaviors. Values are most important; behaviors follow. Leaders first teach then criticize.
  2. Affirm more; criticize less. Great places to work are positive, affirming, and encouraging. You’re lazy, ignorant, or stupid if you think negative criticisms create positive work environments. Critical bosses create critical environments.
  3. The feedback sandwich creates indigestion if you aren’t already a positive leader. (Feedback sandwich = affirmation – criticism – affirmation)
  4. Use critical thoughts as triggers to give positive affirmations; speak otherwise. I’m always seeing needed improvements. Over-emphasize the positive or you’ll become negative.
  5. Make excellence a team sport. Have a “how can we improve our intake procedure” conversation with all participants, for example. Begin with values and work toward behaviors. Choose one or two new behaviors to implement. Don’t overwhelm.
  6. Don’t wait. If you’re sure they know better, criticize immediately; the worse the offense the stronger the criticism. Hold yourself and others to high standards, if you don’t mediocrity sets in. (Observe all human resource guidelines, where applicable)
  7. Clearly explain and illustrate offenses, corrections, and consequences. There should be no surprises.
  8. Be pleasant when giving unpleasant news.
  9. Set deadlines and follow-up quickly. Next week is better than next month.
  10. Compliment more; people over-focus on criticism. (Yes that’s like #2-4)

Bonus: Pointing out faults is 10 percent of the work. Great criticism is always constructive; done well it changes people. Criticism is essential but its power is overrated.

How can leaders become great at giving criticism?

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