Key Leadership Skill: Constructive Criticism in Leadership

Feedback is a very important part of any coaching system. In addition, so is criticism to make sure that mistakes are not repeated. The biggest concern  though is the fact that the word, "criticism," has emerged as an offensive word in the recent past. Pick up any dictionary and you will read the meaning of criticism in the forms of disapproval, objection or nit picking. Now, the truth is, it does not have to be that way. The word constructive criticism comes with that thought in mind.

A criticism and especially the one that is intended to insult someone is often not taken nicely. This is damaging and demoralizing, and most of all does not provide space for growth.

When a coach or a manager provides nothing but criticism at the end of the day in the form of feedback,  the employees will get so badly unmotivated by this negativity that they might lose any interest in doing their jobs. So what can you do for an employee whose feedback chart contains nothing but mistakes that need to be taken care of, without having to compromise your credibility and lose his respect? In this blog, we will be discussing a series of steps that could help you in doing exactly this.

Constructive Criticism in Step by Step

First, give positive feedback as well as negative feedback in the same manor. Be consistent and try to be balanced. If you are offering negative feedback you are trying to change a behavior away from some action.  If you are offering positive feedback you are working to change a behavior to bolster an action. They are both equally important. It is best to offer one bit of feedback at a time.

Turn the criticism or negative feedback into a coaching, which will help the employee welcome your feedback wholeheartedly.


Create a strategic plan with your employee: Being in a management position, you must know how important a strategic plan is before you start. Be ready for a conversation that might go wrong and you might have to handle it. You need to focus on a clear, open and flexible conversation. Make sure you leave enough room in your plan for questions and answers.

Start with boosting their confidence: The starting of the conversation must focus on the highlights and positives of the person. You need to build confidence, so you can put down your cards with ease. This is not to bring up something just to make him or her ready for a fall. It is mainly to let them know that they are important and thus are valued by the company.  This is why you are taking the time to work with them.

Do not waffle around: When you have created a confident and trusting environment, put down your cards. Make sure you do not waffle around, rather provide clear criticism.

Focus on a solution: When you come up with the criticism, all you need to do is bring the person up again. The criticism should not pull their confidence down. To do this, you can focus on a solution. Ask them what needs to be done now to help them raise their performance. Ask them about their opinion on your assessment. Really listen and try your best to take their suggestions and ask them to implement the solution for themselves.

Follow up: The final skill for success in this feedback is a loop around to follow up. You need to check on the employee and his/her performance. Make sure you assign a second meeting as soon as the performance increases or decreases. Even a quick compliment for an increased performance should do.

The intention of any coaching is not to bring the motivation of an employee to rock bottom, but is to make sure the performance of the employee gets better with each passing day.