Guest Post by Kelly Gregorio
No leader can deny the wonderful feeling of being well-liked by his or her team. You work hard to create harmony in the workplace, and your efforts are paid back in a loyal and engaged staff.
Luckily, with some tweaks to perception and practice you can get through this difficult part of the job and still have people liking you in the end.
Nothing Should Come as a Surprise
Effective leaders are proactive leaders, which means if you’re doing things right, your criticisms should not come as a shock. Employees are better served when leaders keep an active conversation going about strengths and potential pitfalls.
When the time comes that you do need to have a formal sit-down about an issue, your employee’s nerves and anxiety are likely to be on high alert. Being able to truthfully say, “We’ve talked about this before” will be helpful towards your effort of finally breaking through.
The Best Offense is Not Having a Defense
Spare your employee any unnecessary embarrassment and have your talk somewhere private, preferably off-site. Do your best to focus only on the facts and shy away from emotions. Calm the situation by using inclusive verbiage like “we” instead of “you” wherever appropriate.
For the compassionate leader, opening up and sharing your own past struggles and flaws could be soothing. Above all, if you still see promise in your employee, emphasize your desire to strengthen his/her potential and make it clear that you want to make this work “as a team.”
Serve Up a Sandwich
Criticism is best served in a sandwich. The actual criticism should always be poised as constructive and sandwiched between two compliments.
For example: “Jane, let me start out by saying how impressed I am by your ability to accomplish W; I really value you as a member of our team. However, my hope is that we can figure out a way to improve your X because I think it will better serve the group’s efforts for Y. I’m sure with your strong Z skills, we will be able to make this work. What do you think?”
Follow Up and Require Respect
Note that at the end of your criticism you positioned a question back to your employee. Language like this will keep delivering criticism a natural conversation and will open the floor for ways to reach a solution together.
Be sure to brainstorm possible steps toward improvement and set measurable benchmarks to help motivate and track your employee’s progress. Following up is equally important to establishing new goals. You’ll want to serve as a mentor for your evolving employee, offering support, recognition and feedback all the way through.
Keep in mind that people not liking you will not break you. If, after everything and despite your efforts, you still loose a peer in the cheering section, that’s OK.
Ultimately the only thing that matters is respect – respect for your delegations, the business environment and the work at hand. Yes, it would be great if we could all be friends, but more important is making the effort to enhance an employee’s performance and doing the job you’ve set out to do.
What other tactics can help leaders deliver criticism?
Kelly Gregorio writes about topics that affect small businesses and entrepreneurs while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a merchant cash advance provider. You can read her daily business blog here.