Nobody’s perfect. Not you, definitely not me, not your spouse, your parents, your kids, your boss… I repeat, nobody is perfect.
Criticism in any form, shape or fashion is a weapon designed to cause pain. Too many parents are guilty of raising their children on ‘constructive’ criticism, and when confronted, results in dumb excuses like, “Well, if I don’t tell her what she is doing wrong, how is she supposed to learn?” Horsefeathers! When you call someone down for doing something they did that was wrong, you are all but assuring they will make a life’s work out of doing the same thing again.
Those of us who were brought up on ‘constructive’ criticism, can’t wait to dish a little bit out ourselves. The instances of bullying (which seems to be all the rage these days) often start with the use of this so-called ‘constructive criticism’. Remember this… criticism in any form is always destructive.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
Depending upon the extremeness, criticism can result in having the exact opposite effect. Children and adults who have experienced criticism as a fact of life can develop emotional problems that set themselves up to be bullied and criticized for the rest of their lives. Either way, criticism, no matter what the intent, is the gift that keeps on giving, both to yourself, and to the recipient(s). But, breaking the habit of using it is easy. It is a simple, four-step process. Here’s how to do it: Before you utter the first word…
Admit to the person you are addressing that you are far from being perfect yourself
A. “Helen, I have watched you struggle with this problem, and it reminds me of the time when I too was struggling with the same thing.” Your employee may have entered the meeting feeling stupid, but because of that statement, that’s not possible anymore.
B. “You know, Joe, when I started as a salesman with this company, I felt the same way as you do today. I could not see how I would ever be able to have a successful career in our company.” Obviously, you have made a career after all, and the inference is, ‘by following my example, so can you’.
C. “Carla, retail sales is tough. I’m aware of that, and I APPRECIATE how hard you are trying. This might be hard for you to believe, but when I started, can you imagine that I was just like you?” Okay, now you have an ally. As far as this topic in concerned, we now have an army of two, and the possibility of success has doubled.
Ask their permission for you to give them your help
A. “Do you mind if I share with you an easier way to get the job done?” Of course they will agree to listen. And since you have gotten their permission, they are committed.
B. “Is it alright if I share with you the steps I took to get where I am?” Maybe at the onset, they had no intention of rising in the company. However, you may have just changed that.
C. “I couldn’t help but notice, how you get agitated around, Paul. I had a similar problem getting used to working with Paul at first, but now we’ve become good friends. Would you like to know what I did to gain his confidence?” Ha! They’ve nodded their head, ‘yes’. This is a trick question. They’ve gone into this conversation believing that Paul is a monster. Now they begin to suspect their reaction to Paul may not be all Paul’s fault after all, but their own misconception of Paul.
Lead by example
A. Just for a while, bring yourself down to the level of the person you are trying to help. You don’t have to go shopping with her, or attend her son’s bar mitzvah, or drive her daughter to dance classes. You just need to show a tiny bit of empathy for her going forward.
B. Show the person you are human. Don’t be too proud to tell them about your previous failures. “I smashed my finger in that dang machine more than once when I started to work here.” Translated: No one expects you to be perfect… but you can reach for it.
C. Instill confidence in them that they can do better than you did when you started. “I think you will do much better than I did, because you have me on your team.” Leadership is all about teamwork. Without it, no one can truly succeed in being a leader.
D. Make them feel important. “I know things seem difficult to you at the moment, but I have a sense about you. I think you have the foundation for becoming a really GREAT manager some day.” Oops, maybe they never intended to become a manager. Maybe they didn’t think they were capable. You may have just changed all that.
Reinforce the sale
A. Get them to admit to you directly, how much easier the ‘new method’ will be. “Can’t you see how this method will make your job easier?” “Do you see how this approach will increase your sales?” “Don’t you agree that keeping the store organized will improve our customers’ shopping experience?” Build their confidence by telling them how much you are depending upon them to do their job.
B. Follow up in the days to come to be sure they haven’t wavered from the principles you instilled in them.
Does this take more time?
Of course it does, but how much time does it take to replace a person, tossing out the investment you have already made, and training a new person to do their job?
And the very next time you consider saying, “Do you know what’s wrong with you? Do you know what you are doing wrong? Are you stupid?” or you have the urge to remind them of why they will always fail, bite your tongue. Because when you purposely put someone down, there is always a price to pay, and it can be a great deal more than you bargained for.