When you lead others, one of the greatest challenges you will face is keeping yourself from becoming critical. Leaders expect a lot from people (as they should), and when those expectations are not met, they can quickly become cynical. At first it might happen only occasionally, but over time cynicism sets in and it becomes a habit. Eventually, cynicism leads to a perpetual state of criticism.
It’s at this point that your leadership can begin to suffer. Being constantly critical and negative brings others down, and it erodes your ability to lead well. The bottom line is this–people don’t want to follow a leader who is always critical.
On the other hand, you can still maintain high standards and expectations by being constructive instead of critical.
How does a leader do this?
1) Affirm the positive – provide affirmation and encouragement. Team members need to know what they are doing well, and they need to hear it from you on a consistent basis.
2) Be honest but kind – share openly and honestly about any area that needs improvement, but do it in a way that is not demeaning or harsh. Frame it as an opportunity for growth and development, not something that is punitive.
3) Offer solutions – lastly, being constructive means bringing ideas to the table that will improve the situation. Critics thrive on bringing others down; constructive leaders thrive on building others up by sharing insights that will help them become their best.
Leaders should have high expectations, but they should never drag people down with criticism when those those expectations are not met. Commit to being a leader that others want to follow by offering constructive feedback that challenges people to grow and improve.