I’ve written numerous posts on criticism previously. Two of the more popular are 5 Right Ways to Respond to Criticism and 5 Wrong Ways to Respond to Criticism. All of these have been written from the perspective of the leader receiving criticism.
There are times, however, where someone needs to offer criticism. In fact, the best leaders and the best organizations are made better by learning to receive, process and respond to criticism.
No one particularly likes criticism, but when it is offered properly it can actually improve life for everyone. You see things others don’t see. You have experiences others don’t have. As a leader, I personally value healthy criticism, even when it is initially hard to hear.
The problem is often getting that needed criticism heard.
Working with dozens of leaders each year, I can testify that much of the criticism received is never taken as seriously as it probably should be. We all know there are times someone shares criticism simply to “blow off steam.” They are angry and want to express their displeasure. Some people are only known for their criticism. Some people share criticism simply out of selfishness; considering no one else in their complaint.
In my experience, when it is determined that one of these is the case, the criticism received is rarely considered useful or valued by leaders.
How do you keep criticism that may be helpful from being drowned out by a perception that it is nonhelpful criticism? That’s what this post is about. You can have the best advice for someone, but if it’s delivered poorly, it will almost never be heard.
Here are seven ways to offer criticism that actually gets heard:
1. Recognize and compliment the good.
My mother used to say, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Make sure you take a bigger picture approach when offering criticism.
Most likely, you are criticizing something small in the overall scheme of the organization, so think of the good things that are happening or have happened in the organization.
Think of the good qualities of the leader. Start there. Compliment first. Some even recommend the “sandwich approach.” You start with praise and end with praise with a little criticism in the middle.