The Constructive Criticism Myth

There are countless well-meaning leaders who genuinely believe that criticism is an indispensable tool to improve people’s performance. Unfortunately, criticism all too easily becomes a way of finding fault with what people are doing rather than a way of building them up. By constantly correcting others, you create a workplace where people perform in order to avoid being scolded but don’t necessarily learn new skills or become more motivated. That’s why so many leaders find themselves having to criticize and correct the same behavior over and over.

We tend to overemphasize the value of telling people what they’re doing wrong rather than what they are doing well. Ask yourself whether you prefer to be told you’re doing something wrong or praised for your successes? What is more likely to help you achieve at a higher level, fear of being reprimanded or positive words about your performance? People in leadership positions don’t criticize because they have to, it’s usually because it’s the only approach they know and they haven’t really thought about how it affects their employees. Leaders who possesses self-awareness fully understand the profound effect their behavior has on their employees’ performance and morale.

Right around this time, my workshop participants will ask questions like, “Well, what do you do when someone is doing something wrong or making a mistake?” The implication is that you absolutely have to go over to the person and criticize what they’re doing. Here’s an alternate point of view: Create a workplace environment where you praise people and build them up rather than pointing out faults. The key to moving past the constructive criticism model is to praise individuals and provide educational opportunities instead of catching them doing something wrong. What will you do to construct instead of criticize?

Take care,

Guy



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