If you’re leading a team and you want them to perform at their best, you need to have the skills to offer true critique, not just feedback, yet very few people are good at it. A few suggestions to get better at it:
- There’s a big difference between giving critique and ‘just being honest’, which often comes across as just being blunt or even rude. true critique still takes account of somebody’s feelings, and recognises the work they have put into something. It’s about making that work – and its output – better.
- Critique isn’t appraisal, it’s not measuring people against KPIs. It’s making practical, actionable assessments of what someone is doing. You can’t critique what someone ISN’T doing, only what they are.
- Critique certainly isn’t an opportunity to take people apart or put them down. It should be a positive experience for the recipient as they gain insights and suggestions from someone more experienced (and whom they, hopefully, respect).
- Critique should be a 1-2-1 session, not done in a group. What sounds like honest critique during a personal conversation can sound like a harsh dressing down in front of peers and colleagues.
- Don’t give critique ‘off the cuff’. Prepare for the conversation (and think of it as a conversation, not a meeting). Make some notes of the specific, actionable items of critique you want to pass on, to ensure you cover everything you want to without casting around for ideas in the moment.
- Prepare yourself mentally. Be in an open, honest mindset and if you’re stressed or angry, take time to reset before you start and if necessary, rearrange, explaining to the recipient that the postponement is nothing to do with them.
- Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. How do you think they’re feeling? How have you framed this for them – a formal meeting? A ticking off? How can you make this a constructive experience for them?
- Invite critique yourself, from your peers, from your colleagues and even from some of your staff. Understand what it feels like to have your work properly critiqued, not just appraised.
- Check in with the recipient at the end of the conversation but also a few days later. How was it for them? Have any questions or worries arisen in their heads as a result of what was said? What was the most powerful learning point for them? What have they (or haven’t they) been able to put into action? Was anything that you said hurtful or has it upset them? If so, apologise unreservedly – because that meant you gave poor critique.
A true leader should see critique as a powerful tool available to them to help individuals to become more rounded, more productive and happier team members. Examine what you’re currently doing – are you giving feedback? Appraising? Or are you truly giving honest, actionable, constructive critique?