July, 2016

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Master Delivering Tough Criticisms

Delivering Constructive CriticismOne of the skills managers and leaders who participate in the workshop that I facilitate (Delivering Constructive Criticism) would like to sharpen is providing tough feedbacks. However, this soft skill is not just relevant to leaders in the corporate world. Christian leaders should also develop this attribute. It’s true that delivering tough feedbacks, especially for people with whom we live and work closely is hard, to say the least. These could be our lovers, relatives, co-workers, disciples, mentees, children, friends, mentors, teachers, parents, and what have you. We don’t want to offend them, and in turn affect our relationship.

Though it is tough, mastering this skill makes you an effective communicator and leader. It empowers you to get along with and lead others effectively. It also enables you to earn the trust and following of others. When you master giving tough criticisms, you know how to be nice and at the same time honest to give critical feedback to the people you love and care about. Remember, they need your feedback desperately. Know that they may not know that the feedback you have for them has been getting in the way and sabotaging the success of their personal, family, career, and spiritual lives. It’s their blind spot need your help to uncover it.

But, be careful not to give feedback for the sake of it. To get along with others and also become a successful spiritual leader, you need to know how to provide a tailor made feedback that leads to improved spiritual, social, and career performance. If somebody says, behaves, and/or does something and if it gets in the way or contributes toward the betterment of your team, and for the attainment of your organization’s mission that is when you need to provide a tailored made feedback.

What do you mean by tailor made, you may ask. For starters, state the issue clearly. Let’s start with a positive feedback. You might have noticed that someone has been humble and you know that this attribute has been one of the reasons why you like this person, and also you know that it contributes for that person’s personal, professional, and spiritual success. Tell him/her, “You are humble.” Then, explain how you come to conclude that that person is humble: “I know you are humble because you fully submitted yourself to the will of God. You don’t seek praise for what you do. You put others’ needs ahead of yours. You listen what others have to say, and also learn from others.” If necessary, you may point out some instances where this person demonstrated humility. You may encourage the person to use this attribute more often including by suggesting where and how, if you have some options for the person to practice humility.

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Let’s see another example. This time, a tough feedback that requires telling someone that he/she needs to make improvements. Be specific and tell the person what is not working well (what should change). “You have been wearing inappropriately against our dressing code.” Give some examples when that happened. And then ask why was that? The person may or may not be aware he/she is violating the rules. Give them a room to explain themselves, and even ask them how they plan to make the amendments.

Be direct! People respect you, even if they may not agree with your feedback. Rather than going behind and stabbing them or using a proxy, if you offer them criticisms directly, they admire and honor you. They come to you in the future to solicit more feedback. For instance, rather than saying ‘some people don’t even know how to pick the right tie’, and hope the person gets it, pull aside the person who needs this feedback desperately (it’s his/her blind spot), and tell him/her in their face: ‘You look great with this suit and tie. You may not be aware. I want you to know that your tie doesn’t match with the occasion’, and offer some options for next time use.

In conclusion, don’t give feedback for the sake of it. Don’t flatter or belittle people with your feedback. Learn how to give and receive feedback, give more frequently, and also ‘beg’ for feedback from the people who work with you closely. When you give tough feedback that requires improvements, be positive, direct, and offer some options for that person to make improvements. When people see that you care enough to take risk and give them tough feedback, they know that you have their best interest in your heart. People also reciprocate it by giving you back tough feedback that have been your blind spots. They trust you that you won’t be offended or get hurt if they give you tough feedback because they saw you doing the same.

Jesus was a great feedback provider who didn’t shy away from delivering tough criticisms that aimed at educating and enlightening his disciples, and even distractors. He offered the former numerous direct feedbacks. Once they were arguing about who was the greatest on the road. He listened their arguments carefully, and waited to give them feedback when they arrived at their destination: “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9: 35)

Jesus wasn’t crooked. He was direct. He gave tough feedbacks to His distractors. For instance, the Sadducees created a scenario to challenge His position about marriage after resurrection. Knowing that they lacked adequate knowledge about the matter, He offered them a helpful feedback: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matthew 22: 29 – 32) Learn from Jesus and master delivering tough criticisms…