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I’m not sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way, the phrase constructive criticism came into being and as far as I’m concerned it’s an oxymoron just as ironic as clean dirt. There simply is no such thing. Criticism is one thing that almost all dislike receiving and most dislike dishing out. But, how do we improve without some sort of feedback? After all, we are our own worst mirrors for accurate perceptions of our own behavior.

In Contagious Leadership we talk about criticism in chapter 2, 8 and 9, but we refer to it as feedback and its not a synonymous word choice. There truly is a difference. When you give feedback, you share with someone your opinion, your take, and your perspective. You are not insulting or taking offense to what they’ve done. You’re giving guidance. You’re allowing someone to do it their way and then suggesting one that based on your experience, knowledge, or wisdom, might work better. When you share criticism, there is a degree of accusation infused that sounds a bit like “you didn’t do that right”, usually meaning your way. The very word criticism carries a negative connotation and can begin your coaching session on a negative note. So here are some ways to improve the results from those from whom you would like to see improvement:

1. Ask for permission to share your opinion. As the leader of a team member, it is appropriate to ask if this person is open to feedback. When they say yes, you at least have opened the door to a dialogue. Provided your goal is to communicate versus dictate, you will be on much better footing.
2. Determine what your goal is for sharing such feedback. If the result you are getting is not what you want, keep your conversation focused on that and perhaps even explain why you think another way would be better or more effective.
3. Enlist their input on the exact course of correction. Contagious Leaders involve the team member in the conversation, the improvement and the process, and unless your feedback is about how to put out a burning building, there are just very few work related situations in which asking for their input is inappropriate or untimely. Most will not argue with their own data and when they suggest a solution or course of correction, they are more likely to follow it.

None of us are perfect and yet finding out you have done something differently than your boss might like or differently than is approved of by someone else, can sting. If one’s self esteem is already in a low place, it can in fact do damage, but that is another Monday Moment. Your primary focus when sharing feedback is to see improvement and the less negativity present in that course correction conversation the more likely you will get the behavior turned around. Be constructive in your conversations. Even be contagious in your conversations. But when you’re critical, you show yourself to have been tolerating said behavior up until that point and that has more of a negative impact on you, versus them. It’s improvement you want, not damage control. Share your feedback in a way that is positive.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, Stay Contagious!

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