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3 Steps to Growing Your Company Through Constructive Criticism

Providing constructive criticism to your employees is admittedly not the most exciting aspect of running a successful business. While you would probably rather close a sale or discover a new product line, constructive criticism is a necessary part of developing your team.

Unfortunately, many managers take the wrong approach to constructive criticism. In the hustle and bustle of running a business, some managers push aside issues with their employees until criticism comes out in an unhealthy and unproductive manner.

If your direct reports are unaccustomed to receiving constructive criticism from you, they will likely become defensive when you approach them with an issue. They may even become demotivated and disengaged, which will be costly to your business.

According to studies by the Queens School of Business and Gallup, disengaged workers will dramatically affect the overall health of your company. Consider these statistics of disengaged workers compared to engaged workers:

  • 37% higher absenteeism

  • 49% more accidents

  • 60% more errors and defects

How did these factors affect the productivity and financial results for the companies included in the studies?

  • 18% lower productivity

  • 16% lower profitability

  • 65% lower share price

If the goal is to have productive, difficult conversations with employees without demotivating them, then you need to follow a process to make constructive criticism a healthy part of your company culture.

What Steps Should You Take to Use Constructive Criticism Effectively?

The central issue that separates effective from ineffective constructive criticism is whether everyone in the company understands -- and even appreciates -- the value of these difficult conversations.

Top leadership needs to set an expectation for constructive criticism, and employees need to be ready to receive it. How do you get to this point in your company? This transformative approach requires three steps to be successful:

  1. Understand that constructive criticism is valuable to grow your company

  2. Measure the emotional intelligence of each employee to understand their motivations

  3. Plan how to provide constructive criticism in a timely and healthy manner

Step 1: Embed Constructive Criticism Into Your Company Culture

Constructive criticism is not to be abused as a tool to instill fear in your employees to make them work harder. Taking that approach will lead to demotivated, unproductive employees.

Instead, constructive criticism needs to be embraced as a positive tool that will grow the capabilities of your employees. You want to develop a culture where these difficult conversations can take place in a healthy environment where employees can positively receive feedback to help them develop.

Embedding constructive criticism into your culture will set the right tone for your company. It will also send a clear message that everyone will be held accountable and that employees can expect to receive feedback from their managers. Setting the right expectation will help remove defensiveness, reducing the risk of demotivating employees through difficult conversations.

Step 2: Identify How Employees Will Best Receive Constructive Criticism

You need to evaluate the emotional intelligence competencies of each employee to uncover their blind spots and motivations. Then, you can use this objective measurement to tailor communication to the employee so that you can provide constructive criticism in an effective manner. This way, the feedback is received and does not lead to defensiveness.

If you do not evaluate the competencies of each individual, then you risk demotivating employees through an approach that does not align with the employee’s thinking.

For example, some employees will have the courage and resiliency to receive constructive criticism in a team meeting. However, other employees will shut down in a group setting because they perceive the feedback as being “called out” in front of their peers. For the second group of employees, the feedback should be presented in a one-on-one setting where there is enough time for both parties to thoroughly discuss the issue.

How do you know which employees are best suited for each setting?

  • An individual with clarity about how to view him or herself, their inner worth, and their strengths and weaknesses will have thick skin and confidence to take constructive public criticism.

  • An individual with less clarity about how they view themselves, is hard on themselves, and is sensitive about criticism of their work, will not take public feedback well and should be addressed in a one-on-one setting.

You may be surprised to find that some employees who appear to be very confident actually have less clarity about how they view themselves. Therefore, they would be more receptive to constructive criticism in a one-on-one setting, not in a group forum. That’s why it’s critical to obtain measurable information about each employee before deciding how to provide constructive criticism.

Step 3: Plan to Deliver the Constructive Criticism in a Timely Manner

When you embed constructive criticism in your company, it’s important to conduct it in a timely manner.

Unfortunately, many companies fall short in this step and find themselves in the trap of only providing constructive criticism at the annual review.

To effectively use constructive criticism in your company, you must follow through and reinforce the feedback. Ultimately, the follow-through step helps you complete the process of using constructive criticism to grow the capabilities of your employees:

  • Hold yourself or managers accountable for providing constructive criticism.

  • Identify the best method to have the conversation with each employee based on their competencies.

  • Create the right setting and time to have the critical conversation with each employee.

  • Set goals and establish metrics to track the results from the conversation.

  • Measure progress in each employee’s development when you have the next critical conversation.

ZERORISK HR Helps Companies Understand, Measure & Plan Constructive Criticism

It is a daunting task to achieve a transformative approach to constructive criticism. Not every company has the time or energy to convey the value of constructive feedback, measure the competencies of their employees, and follow through on a firm plan.

Fortunately, ZERORISK HR is fully equipped to help business owners and managers achieve this transformational approach to growing their business.

We offer the Manager Development Program that provides a comparison of each manager's emotional intelligence competencies with their direct reports, peers, and direct manager.

Included in the program is the Team Directory Report that shows each manager how to have a critical conversation with their direct reports based on the employee’s motivations. The results will guide you on situations such as which employees can handle a public conversation and which employees should receive constructive criticism in a one-on-one setting.

To find out more about how the Manager Development Program can enhance your constructive criticism, complete this form today. Our team looks forward to discussing your specific situation to find a solution to fuel your company’s growth opportunity.


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