By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

The importance of giving criticism correctly as a leader.

If you want your team to succeed, you need to give them feedback and guidance. This helps them know where the issues and weak points are to focus their efforts on improvement. 

However, the way you deliver this criticism can make or break your team. Great leaders know how and when to deliver constructive feedback for it to be the most effective. It’s important to develop this skill just as you would other leadership qualities. 

Do you do these four things as a part of your constructive leadership?

1. Get the Timing Right 

There’s a time and place for delivering effective feedback. The best time to provide feedback is when the event or issue is fresh in the employee’s mind. This means not waiting for yearly reviews to deliver guidance and feedback. 

However, do not give feedback while you’re emotional. This turns into a venting of sadness or anger, which isn’t effective. Allow yourself and the employee to cool down before having a calm and rational conversation. 

2.  Prepare the Feedback 

Your team takes your feedback seriously. So give them the respect they deserve by properly preparing for the meeting. Prepare your feedback by gathering data and facts. This quantifies your feedback with hard numbers and examples. 

Look for both positive and negative data to balance your feedback. This acknowledges what your employee does well while also identifying things that could use improvement.  

Preparing for your meeting also ensures that you cover everything that needs to be covered. The last thing you want is to meet with your employee and then bring them back for a second meeting because you forgot topic points during the first meeting. This drags the issue out longer than necessary. 

3. Eliminate the Sandwich Approach 

It’s time to say goodbye to the positive, negative, positive formula. Employees see right through this approach. The result is disingenuous compliments and increased anxiety as you delay the negative. You’re doing more harm than good. 

Don’t waste your time and theirs. Be direct and tactful as you deliver negative feedback. You can then follow it up with a solution for correcting the issue. 

If you do have positive feedback to give, make sure it’s genuine. Separate it from the negative feedback to have it be more meaningful and less like a diluted afterthought to soften the blow of the negative feedback. 

4. Know When to Give Positive and Negative Feedback 

Studies have shown that novices and beginners prefer positive feedback. This is because they are new to the venture and need encouragement. Consider this when giving feedback to new employees or those who are inexperienced. Positive feedback can motivate them to work harder and hone their skills to become more productive. 

Conversely, long-time employees or those who are experienced in their field prefer to receive more negative or critical feedback. These employees have already committed themselves to their position and career. Negative feedback is instrumental in refining their skills. 

Be a Great Leader 

Delivering feedback is a part of constructive leadership that will help your employees improve while not destroying their morale. This is key to cultivating a strong and happy team. To be a great leader that can deliver effective constructive feedback, you need to prepare, get your timing right, be direct, and know what type of feedback will be the most effective. 

Sometimes it can help to practice your delivery with an expert. Working with a career coach can help you test-run your feedback delivery to hone your skills. 


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