Communicating Criticism to Drive Positive Business Impact

Everyone has a different leadership style, and you can find various perspectives on when and with whom you should use these styles. Often leadership comes down to relationship management and communication.

How do you address a problem by delivering your feedback in a way that drives positive change? 

It’s common practice to avoid aggression or negativity in your approach to feedback. Unless you’re cutting ties with an individual, your goal in giving feedback should be to motivate the person to improve. So, how can you soften the blow without beating around the bush?

All you need is two letters: w and e. 

Read these sentences:

  • "You need to change the way you do XYZ."
  • "How are you going to ensure this doesn’t happen again?"

Now, read these sentences:

  • "We need to change the way we do XYZ."
  • "How are we going to ensure this doesn’t happen again?"

Did you feel the difference?

You’re ready to find a creative solution and think about the big picture, rather than being hung up on what YOU did wrong.

A true leader wants to see improvements, and needs his team to realize the impact of them.

Improvements come from the confidence to try new things and letting go of the fear of failing. We have to show our people that we’re on their sides; that we have their backs. I find it’s a useful tool when coaching clients, as well.

Using “we” language creates a sense of comradery, alleviates pressure, and makes people feel hopeful that there is in fact a solution and that they’ll have the support from their leader (or coach) to make positive changes. What would it mean for your business if your team was walking away from critical conversations feeling motivated rather than discouraged?

On the flip side, when giving praise stick with “you.” Really build that person up by attributing the positive outcome to them. The caveat here is if you’re addressing a group and it was a team effort then “we” may be more appropriate. But, if you didn’t touch the project personally it should be, “You all did great!”

English is a complicated language, but communication doesn’t have to be. Sometimes we just need to step back and make simple changes to the words we choose to be more effective communicators.

 

 
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What are your tips for giving constructive criticism? Share them with us at CONNECT@3Ccomms.com for a chance to be featured in a future post!

 
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About the Contributor

Christina Brennan is a go-getter, a provider of results. With a background in event planning and advertising, she has a deep understanding of how others digest information. She helps people get to the point by figuring out what the point is.