Constructive Criticism

Why Criticism Should Be a Priority for Team Motivation

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No matter how you spin it, negative feedback is difficult to receive. It might be surprising after your experience with your last boss that the vast majority of people are as reluctant to give feedback as they are to receive it. The pressures of social stigmas against candid input from all members of the team can lead your organization down a perilous path of tolerating average quality and subsequently setting the bar too low. In the early days of Google, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were notorious for engaging in heated debate with team members and finding satisfaction when the team disagreed and challenged their opinions.

The benefits of criticism can seem counter intuitive and counterproductive inside groups of varying personality types but the impact of honest and open discussion can influence organizations at every stage. A feedback loop is vital for youthful organizations to get right. Motivating a team during the launch and growth phase of an organization is exceptionally complicated as newly formed teams coalesce to navigate the uncharted territories of innovation.

When NASA studied teams of astronauts that have flown together compared with teams of astronauts who have never flown together, simulations showed that the bonds between familiar groups resulted in significantly higher performance.

In the event that your team isn’t engaging in open discussion to produce the necessary results, you will need to remedy the situation fast. Dysfunctional teams are usually the result of dysfunctional leadership and culture which is why the foundations of a company culture must be built upon constructive criticism.

Building Criticism Into a Company’s Culture

Striving for meaningful relationships within a team is essential for high-performance and a team that can attract and retain talent. You should value and set out with intent to construct an organizational culture that is conducive to fair and open exchanges. If you value and reward this type of communication the resulting increase in productivity and satisfaction will be well worth the initial pain.

The way in which you present yourself in stressful situations like a negative performance review is indicative of the likelihood of correction and overall success. Asking for genuine criticism from other team members and indicating how you are, without a doubt, going to find a plan for improvement will encourage the other team members ability to do the same.

Kim Scott, the creator of Radical Candor, talks about how she reinforced her request for legit criticism when a partner specified that she frequently interrupted others. To demonstrate her dedication to improving, she wore an elastic band around her wrist and requested that other team members snap it at when she is interrupting. Taking action like this can illuminate how accepting the workplace is of critique.

The successful leaders of major companies and organizations typically have one thing in common, they are all aware that their non-verbal communication means just as much as what they say. It’s been found that people can start to make assumptions about you in just 100ms of seeing your face which is why non-verbal cues are very important.

The Do’s of Constructive Criticism

The highest offense a team member can make is wasting the time of another. In his book When Daniel Pink discusses how biological makeup can produce different circadian rhythms which greatly influence mood and productivity throughout the day. Most people have their most productive hours in the early to late morning and hit a trough in the afternoon. When to criticize someone is important because you don’t want to interfere in their most productive time or dig the afternoon trough any deeper.

It is troublesome for most people to hear they have been failing to meet expectations or a drag on the team’s performance, but this is fundamental to team success. Those that advance and develop their careers are usually the individuals who acknowledge the input and execute on a strategy for improvement. Both parties should engage in building a plan for success since it is both parties who will ultimately benefit from the execution of the plan.

Once the criticism has been imparted and a plan of attack hashed out, Ensure the goals, objectives and key performance indicators meet the S.M.A.R.T criteria. These being goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-sensitive. It’s far easier to set goals than it is to achieve them. This is why every January gym attendance soars after new years resolutions have been made but quickly regresses back to low volume.

The air is likely tense around a negative performance review which is why you will want to diversify your feedback with some positives, although you will need to be careful not to make the positive feedback seem insincere. Regardless of whether you are applauding a small ability, they bring to the table, any positive reinforcement can make someone feel appreciated.

Receiving Negative Feedback the Right Way

As we talked about before, feedback can be hard to swallow when it’s focused on your flaws. Regardless of whether the input is coming from top-down management, your peer group or a subordinate, it takes a certain amount of stoicism and confidence to accept it humbly. If you react compulsively and lash out in a counterattack you will almost certainly be heading in a downward spiral.

Taking time to listen and keeping your emotions in control is definitely important. But it is also important that it is two-way discussion and an opportunity to truly address the problem head-on. This should not be an opportunity for one person to lecture. One’s silence can also be misconstrued as a weakness and by simply asking questions and digging deeper can reveal your strength.

Once the problem has been identified and the message communicated, a solution will need to be found. Although the recipient has better insight into how “S.M.A.R.T.” the goals are, talk through the issue and conceptualize a solution together.

This full visual from GetVoIP highlights noteworthy tips you can actualize at your earliest opportunity to provide feedback. If you are apprehensive to give feedback you should reconsider the long-term implications your silence can have on the team. Investing in your employees is one of best ways to increase job satisfaction and subsequent productivity.

how to give and receive constructive criticism

This is a guest post written by Reuben Yonatan. 
Reuben is the founder and CEO of GetVoIP. As an entrepreneur and tech enthusiast, Reuben brings a wealth of hands-on telecom industry experience, backed by a 10-year track record in strategically shaping operational functionality in all his ventures. Connect with him via Twitter.