How to Provide Constructive Criticism to Your Team

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While starting a business or even while expanding your business, there will be challenges galore. And putting in place a successful team-management strategy is key. No team is perfect, but it’s the responsibility of the entrepreneur and leader to give your team timely feedback that they need to improve. However, that can be difficult!!

It’s indeed, a tough task to share criticism with your team; but very often it’s an essential component of running a business. Entrepreneurs and business owners must engage and perfect the art of ‘constructive’ criticism to manage successful teams. Of course, this implies that when offering guidance and feedback – never make it a matter of aggression or control!

How can you build a strategy that will help you deal with your team on a diplomatic note? How can you get the right points across clearly? Here are some points that can help in giving constructive criticism in an approachable way, that will not offend or embarrass the team members:

• Develop a strong bond with your team from the start: The bond or the relationship you have with your team has a direct impact on how willing they are to listen to your feedback – whether it is constructive criticism or otherwise. If your bonding is weak, you’ll find it much harder to give them realistic, good feedback. On the other hand, if the team trusts you, they will be receptive to what you have to say; and they will take criticism too, in a positive way.

• Be clear about the goals: This will ensure that there is a clear context set, so that when you call a team member into a meeting and tell them what they did wrong – it will not trigger any negative impact. Without context, this can set a poor tone for the conversation, and they can easily become defensive and resistant to your criticism! That’s why you need to explain and be clear about what has to be accomplished from the very start. It sets expectations and gives the team time to prepare for any kind of feedback.

• Be straightforward and conversational: Don’t beat around the bush but be upfront and straightforward. It’s much more effective when you can communicate constructive criticism in a detailed, straightforward fashion. This way, the team member will not be confused. It also means you should talk about the specific ways the behaviour can be corrected, making your expectations for the next steps clear. Being straightforward and honest doesn’t mean you have to be stern. Show the team that you’re going to hold them accountable while approaching the conversation with a positive attitude.

• Give feedback in private: Never embarrass team members when providing constructive criticism and, always be positive. Also, avoid giving any negative feedback in front of other team members, unless the comment is meant for the team as a whole. ‘Constructive’ criticism means you’re delivering your message in a ‘positive’ way. And, that will actually help the team member improve. Without making your constructive criticism look like it’s attacking the individual personally, do focus on the issue at hand, and put the focus on the business and the person’s professional performance, instead of calling out personal shortcomings!

Stress on some positive elements. Why is this task or behaviour important for this person’s specific job duties or even career goals? What role does this person play in the organization, that you can relate to the criticism? Stick to the facts about the problem.

• Always focus on improving team performance: Putting the focus on the team and how they can perform better can greatly improve how you deliver your constructive criticism, as a team leader. Point out how their failure affects the company very clearly. Devote time on talking about their performance and how both of you can try to make them better team members. Significantly, this approach makes them feel important (and minimizes the chances of a feeling of being put down)!

Giving constructive criticism isn’t easy, but it’s very necessary if you want to have the support needed to succeed as an entrepreneur. Quite likely, you may not get it right the first time, but it’s OK. You can’t win them all, all the time, but you should always try. For then, you can definitely step into a win-win situation!!

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