Paul McGee is an international speaker and author. He has spoken in over 30 countries to date ais author of the best selling book S.U.M.O. Shut Up, Move On.: The Straight Talking Guide to Creating and Enjoying a Brilliant Life. His latest book, How to Succeed with People Easy ways to engage, influence and motivate almost anyone, is launching in April.
Here he gives us a few tips on how to make constructive criticism truly ‘constructive’:
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE LONG TERM EFFECT OF JUST A FEW BRIEF WORDS:
Challenging people without undermining their confidence isn’t easy. There are of course those that go to the other end of the spectrum and sugar-coat their criticism to such an extent that the person hearing it thinks they’ve just been paid a compliment. Rather than challenge people about a piece of work or the way they’re behaving we’ve ended up so wanting to avoid upsetting them that they feel they’ve just received a big cuddle, not a mild rebuke.
So is there a middle way? Is there a way of giving ‘constructive criticism’ without actually having to use the phrase? There is. Firstly, let’s be clear in our own mind that our focus has to be on solving issues, not fixing blame.
WE WANT OUR WORDS TO BUILD UP PEOPLE, NOT BEAT UP PEOPLE:
When giving someone feedback, point out the positives by talking about ‘what worked well’ and giving some specific examples. Point to any potential negatives or areas for improvement by beginning with the phrase ‘even better if…’ and highlight how things can improve.
WE’VE SACRIFICED A LOT IN OUR QUEST TO PROTECT PEOPLE’S FEELINGS BY DELUGING THEM WITH DIPLOMACY:
Let’s simply cut to the chase and get to the point. That’s exactly what we can do by using the ‘what worked well’ and ‘even better if…’ approach. When you do, remember the gloves are not off and be aware of the positive and negative impact of your words. Cutting to the chase is fine, telling someone they have the potential to be rubbish isn’t.
So after you’ve given your feedback you might also want to ask if they have any comments or questions about what you’ve said. Your points may need clarifying and if someone disagrees with your comments welcome this as an opportunity to discuss things further. You could end your feedback session by asking the person two more questions:
1. What have you learnt from this experience?
2. What, if anything, would you do differently next time?