The concept of constructive criticism is such a classic example of something in serious need of unlearning on at least two levels.
First it is such an obvious example of a much out-dated thinking that continues to perpetuate itself. Somewhere someone must have used the expression and with a total lack of conscious awareness and lacking an application of simple common-sense, kept using it.
Then for some reasons others, without an awareness of what the statement really even means, continued to carry it on.
Think about it.
Let’s start by looking at the definition.
Definition of critical
1a: inclined to criticize severely and unfavorably.
Definition of criticism
1a: the act of criticizing usually unfavorably.
Now think about when you were being on the receiving end of the criticism.
“Did you feel the communication was constructive in how it was delivered to you?”
“Did you feel that it was being pointed out to actually improve your performance; or, just to make you wrong for the way you did it?”
Before going too far here, is this suggesting that we overlook something that needed being addressed?
NO! Quite the opposite!
The issue here is how many with titles have used the pretty commonly known expression, constructive criticism, to justify how poorly they tend to interact with their people.
This includes a low-level awareness of how their communication is being received. “Cause I said so and I’m the boss!”, only goes so far.
First thing to consider is, ‘what is the desired outcome from the interaction?’ if the desired outcome is progress in performance, what approach has worked best when you were on the receiving end of the criticism?
A personal example of the difference in desired outcome occurred the first time I met Christine. We were both at an event. We ended out in the same four-person breakout group.
A few minutes after our group started the discussion Christine reached over, tapped me, and said “you went away, how can we get you back in our discussion?”
I was so impressed by how she handled this interaction that we’ve been working together ever since, (eight years as this is written).
Here’s another factor to add to this situation. Christine and I are perfect opposites in so many ways. We use this. Because we see things so differently, we each provide a second set of eyes for the other. So often, we each notice something the other has missed.
There is no criticism in conversations between Christine and I, because neither of us have a need to be right. We are there in support of each other – we are a team.
At the beginning I mentioned two levels of importance of the increased awareness.
Constructive criticism is only one example of the cost of the lack of awareness in our simple languaging. More will follow.
A place to start is with awareness and a few simple questions.
Is the way you’re doing now getting the result you want?
What can you do differently?
Who can you ask?
Who do you know that had to improve performance with someone that you want improvement from now?
What worked for them? (IMPORTANT to remember that what worked for another leader may not be what you want to do, it can only provide some ideas to startwith.
How will you know you got it figured out, this time for this situation? It’s easy! It worked!
More examples of the costs associated with the lack of conscious awareness in languaging will follow.
The purpose here is not to provide another specific approach. Us being the latest experts.
If the desire is there, it will be up to each leader to figure that out for themselves. In addition, what will work to have one of their people will not necessarily be what will work for others.
“What are examples of this from your experience?”