Although we should avoid criticizing our subordinates, as leaders we will always be faced with situations that will require us to give some sort of criticism. In order to help you do that effectively, here are my Top 5 Tips for Giving Effective Criticism.
5. Start with the Positives and Go in Collected: Before you even consider giving criticism, make sure that you collect your thoughts and keep your emotions in check. As military leaders, this particularly important and often difficult to do. If we approach people yelling and scolding, it will most likely only temporarily correct the issues. Once you have yourself collected, begin by pointing out the things that your subordinate is doing well. This technique oftentimes prevents the criticism from seeming like a criticism. It also gives that person a sense of what they are doing right and allows them to reference those things in the future.
4. Be Specific: Do not be vague, as we often times are saying things such as, “This is unacceptable” or “I am disappointed”. We must explain exactly why their efforts or actions are sub-par. Being vague will only put that person in the defensive and never shed light on what you truly wish to be corrected.
3. Criticize the Action, Not the Soldier: “PFC Snuffy, are you stupid? Why can’t you see all the mistakes you’ve made on this 5988E!” This statement is never going to be received by the Soldier. Always avoid making your criticism personal and focus only on the person’s actions instead. Making a mistake doesn’t make you an idiot, and we all know that. Always strive to avoid making criticisms negative and personal.
2. Have a Diplomatic Approach: When giving criticism, it is often helpful to use diplomatic terms, such as it appears to me, I believe or if I am not mistaken, etc. Using such terms often times softens your tone of criticism. Ben Franklin, on of history’s greatest diplomats, used the same techniques with much success. Emulating such character can only help us as leaders and professionals.
1. Make Suggestions for Improvement and FOLLOW UP!: Our goals as leaders is to improve our Soldiers. That being said, any and all criticism must be given only with the intention of improving others. While specifically identifying shortcomings, we must also specifically issue a suggestion for improvement. Just knowing their mistakes doesn’t help them improve at all. We must offer our suggestions to improve. Lastly, always follow up. Our criticisms won’t do any good if we don’t follow up with our suggestions. By letting others know that you will be following up with them, they’re more likely than not going to correct their actions.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Utilizing these tips for giving criticism are only a guideline for us as Leaders. We must always remember that not every Soldier responds to criticism the same way. We must use discretion. After all, some Soldiers require more of a foot up their third point of contact. However, these techniques have been tried and true practices for years and should be considered the next time you must criticize a Soldier.
Do you have any added suggestions for giving effective criticism? Any questions? Please post them below. Thank you.