An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Giving Constructive Criticism

One thing every entrepreneur needs to do but often hates to do is give constructive criticism. Do you know why we don’t like to give constructive criticism? It’s because every time you do it, somebody walks away not liking you — no matter how you do it. But if you’re somebody that has any plans to do something big, but struggle with giving people proper feedback and direction, you’ll never develop the strong leaders you need to develop to make it big. In this article I get into eight steps to take when giving constructive criticism.

A Simple 8-Step Process for Giving Constructive Criticism

#1: Talk About Their Gifts

First, schedule a time to meet with the person. When you meet, start off by talking about their gifts. Tell them how much you believe in them, how much value they’ve brought to your organization, and how much you believe in their capabilities.

#2: Talk About Your Own Mistakes

A lot of times we forget the mistakes we’ve made as leaders. We need to spend a lot more time talking about our own mistakes. A good parent talks about his or her mistakes and because of it, is able to relate with their kids. A good leader talks about their mistakes a lot more than the successes. Your team will talk plenty about your successes. You need to spend more time talking about your failures and the things you did wrong. So number two is saying, “Look, I need to talk with you about things that need improvement, but first, let me tell you some of the mistakes I’ve made.”


#3: Ask Permission to Be Direct

Ask, “Do I have your permission to be direct with you? Do I have your permission to be honest with you? Can I be very direct with you?” And they’ll normally say yes. And if they say no, schedule another time to talk to them and be direct with them. But remember, you have to ask permission.

#4: Address the Issue

Bring up the issue. “John, here’s what I want to talk to you about today.” Here are some examples of the types of things you might say:

  • Can you tell me why _________ took place the way it did?
  • Why are your numbers the way they’ve been?
  • I heard you speaking to ________ the other day. Why did you speak to them that way?
  • Why haven’t you been showing up consistently?
  • What’s up with your attitude the last couple of weeks. You typically have a positive attitude.
  • What’s been going on with you that we don’t know about? Is everything okay?

They’ll then explain things to you. And the more questions you ask, the more feedback you’ll get. This will help you get to the real problem.

Step #5 : Give Proper Direction

Next, you have to give them proper direction. For example, you may tell them to watch a video or read an article or book and tell you what they get from it. And then you can give them direction on how they can improve.

And by the way, the more books you read and the more you feed yourself, the more value you bring to yourself internally. That increases your capacity to give more value to others, because you can say, “I just read this book. You need to read this.”

#6 Sell Them on What Could Happen if They Correct Their Mistake

Now you sell them on what could happen if they correct this. Sell them on what could happen if they make adjustments in their attitude, work ethic, the way they deal with people, etc. Whatever it is, you sell them on it. “If you work on this, you could have ______________.”

#7: Pour Belief

Pour belief into them. Talk about their gifts, their God-given talents, about your mistakes and how you improved, and that they can, too.

#8 Hold Them Accountable

Now, you must hold them accountable. For example, “Can you read this book by Friday and get back to me?” or “I want you to watch this video by Thursday. Can you watch it by Thursday and then send me an email with three paragraphs about what you got out of it?

You hold them accountable on what they need to be doing to improve that specific area that you were not happy with.

If you approach constructive criticism in the way outlined above, you’ll see that there will always be a little bit of friction on your team. If there isn’t, you’re not really calling enough people out. There will be friction, but everybody  on your team will elevate. And if you don’t call people out, everyone stays down at a low level.

As a thought leader, you have to be willing to put your ego aside and realize that at times, some people won’t like you. You have to be willing to have the tough conversations that raise the entire level of leadership.


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