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The right way to criticise your team members so they learn from their mistakes and stay motivated

by , 15 July 2015
Criticism has the effect of labelling someone as 'wrong'. So, it's no wonder no one likes to be on the receiving end, even when you can justify it. If you don't give criticism tactfully, you could demotivate your team members. This results in them becoming defensive, blocking-out your message and resenting you.

What's worse is you'll lose the chance to help them learn from those experiences.
There are two instances you need to tell your employee he has to change an action or behaviour. 
The first is when he's done something wrong. The second is more subjective... When he does a task you know from your own experience won't get the results you're trying to achieve.  
Here are some guidelines to help you turn the situation when you need to criticise and employee into an amicable learning experience...
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How to deliver constructive feedback when your employee does something wrong
  • Let him know as soon as possible when he's done something wrong, while it's still fresh in his mind. If you leave it for too long, his anxiety will start to fester or he'll repeat his mistake not realising he's doing something wrong. Having said that though, never confront someone when you're angry. Wait until you're calm and thinking rationally before you address the issue with the person.
  • Make sure you have a valid reason for confronting him. Telling him he's done something wrong should only be to motivate him to do it right or better in future. 
  • Except in emergencies where someone may be endangering his own life, or his colleagues, always take the person aside. Don't make a public show out of the situation. Email is not an effective tool for delivering this kind of message either.
  • Get your facts straight before you draw conclusions. Ask him questions about the incident to find out exactly what went wrong and why. You could find that it wasn't his fault; someone else could be to blame for what went wrong.
  • Stick to the facts and discuss the act you want to change. Never attack the individual, only focus on what he did. For example, instead of saying, 'You're irresponsible!' say 'You missed your deadline'.
  • Explain why his action or inaction is important to change. How did it, or could have, affect the business or the other team members? 
  • Let him suggest how he can resolve the problem. By letting him raise the suggestions, he'll be more committed to the change, as opposed to having it dictated by you.
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How to tell your employee his work won't get the results he wants
The second instance, is when your employee does something that isn't necessarily wrong, but won't get the results he's trying to achieve, isn't as clear-cut as the first. It requires a 'compassionate revelation', which involves revealing the consequences of your team member's action to him truthfully and compassionately.
For example, Peter puts a proposal on your desk that in your opinion, you think he must re-write. Most of us would say something like, 'Peter, I'm sorry to have to tell you this even though it's for your own good. Your proposal won't work. You'll have to rewrite it if you want a chance at getting the business.'
The more effective and less demoralising way to handle a situation like this one is to say, 'Peter, in my experience, this proposal isn't going to produce the result I think you want. Let's talk about it and determine what could get us the business.'
So the next time you start criticising an employee, stop yourself. Apply one of these guidelines to ensure you get the results you want. This should always be to motivate your team members to do something right or better in future.

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