As a leader, you want to be a helpful mentor to the people under your care. To guide a team to excellence you must make an effort to be with them every step of the way. You have to be present to recognize the achievements of a team. Of course, you should also be ready to give constructive criticism when team members are not performing to the best of their abilities. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, a good leader surely has the best intentions of the team and the members in mind.
However, while giving compliments can be as easy as pie, making negative comments can be a bit stressful and complicated. It is like walking on a tightrope as a slight misstep can drastically send a team’s spirit spiraling downwards. You need to carefully and consciously apply management strategies to ensure that honest criticism will have a motivating rather than disheartening effect on your team. The following reminders can help you elicit a positive outcome from a negative feedback.
Explain the reason for giving feedback.
The reason for giving feedback may be self-explanatory but it still pays to discuss it with your team. Good communication is essential to build a thriving team, so it is best that you explain why you want to bring attention to the weaknesses of the team. It greatly helps if everyone understands that even if feedback may not be pleasant to hear, it has to be discussed because it plays a crucial role in the the growth and development of the team. This is also one way to ensure that negative feedback is not meant to malign or hurt anyone. To prove this point, research done by the Center for Creative Leadership reveals that giving feedback regardless if it is positive or negative is effective in motivating employees.
Allow the team members to assess themselves.
A team’s inability to deliver excellent performance can probably be felt by all members, not just the leader. In the same way, teammates who are not contributing as much as they should probably know it too. So you can talk to the team (or to a difficult teammate) right away to voice your concerns. Or give your team members time to do some self-reflection and evaluate themselves. The latter is a better option because the task of identifying the wrong things in a team becomes a collaborative effort rather than an individual task. By asking your team members to rate themselves in terms of work performance, you can smoothly proceed to discuss ways on how they can improve themselves.
Be specific and honest.
The last thing you want to do is confuse your people by giving vague feedback. Explain in detail the issues you notice and specifically point them out. Team members who cannot understand what they did wrong are likely to feel upset over the feedback. To make your message clear, do not forget to be honest when talking with your team. Do not try to sugarcoat your message with false praises just to soften the blow of a criticism. According to an article that appeared in Harvard Business Review, leaders who deliver negative feedback by starting and ending it with positive comments risk losing the trust of their staff. Another thing, a leader is unlikely to see favorable improvements since positive comments are the ones that will stick out in the mind of the team or the concerned individual.
Create an environment that welcomes discussion and feedback.
To prevent ill feelings about negative feedback, give your team a chance to explain their actions or behavior. It is also important that you are ready to take back negative comments if you realize that you have made a wrong judgment.You also want to improve your leadership style, so allow your team to evaluate your skills as well. If everybody on the team is helping each other to improve, your road to success will be shorter and faster.
Leadership is never an easy role. One of the most difficult aspects of heading a team is when you need to discuss their mistakes. It may be a situation that everyone wants to avoid, but it is necessary. Just like growing pains, negative feedback can hurt, but it can turn your group into a power team!