Friday, February 26, 2016

Biashara Coach 8 tips towards successfully giving constructive criticism

By Virginia Mburu

Mwakazi, the Passionate Entrepreneur and Owner of Makao Interior Designers was unhappy about some criticism he had received from one of his employees.

His mentor had advised him to review 2 Samuel 11 & 12 where he got 8 tips that greatly assisted him openup to correction. 

He   also realized that he needed to improve how he offered criticism to those who need feedback whether via request or those he wants to activate an improvement. In the process of the review, Mwakazi also came up with another 8 tips on how to successfully give feedback;

2 Samuel 11

26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

2 Samuel 12

12 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Tip 1.....What is your goal?

Are you providing feedback so as  to seek an improvement or change in a skill, design, process, action or behavior etc.,  or are you seeking to boost  your ego and lower the other person’s self-esteem?  David had committed adultery and murder – and he knew that this was against the commands of God. Furthermore, he was neither remorseful nor repentant! God had to bring him to acknowledgement and repentance!

Could you be making  assumptions? That you are the only one who knows what needs to be done or that there is only a certain way of approach or measurement of success etc.?  Carefully sift through your assumptions.

Tip 2....What are the goals and the situation of the other person?

Unless you understand the person’s situation and goals, you will not know what the person can act on or not. What have they done so far and what have they not done? 

Focus on what you can improve on- what is not done yet. If they have failed a test, concentrate on what they can do to perform better in future not what they should have done to pass!  You may even be shocked that the failed test was not in line with their goals! 

We see Prophet Nathan coming in to correct King David long after the baby is born. Could the situation have demanded that the time immediately after the wrongdoing was not right? Could it be that the war was not over yet?

Tip 3....Can someone else do a better job?

You may have to respect to the line of command and have a direct supervisor deal with the feedback/correction. At other times, you may delegate should you realise that you are not able to resolve the negative energy such as anger or resentment toward the person being corrected.  God preferred to send  Prophet Nathan.

Tip 4.....What if you have to be the one to do it

Realign your emotions and attitude towards the person being corrected. Which words will you use and how do you expect the other person to receive it. You have to control your voice tone, the facial expressions and the body language – These non-verbal clues convey more than or even a different message from your words.

Watch your words such that you come through as suggesting not criticising.... “It would seem that…,” or “I may be wrong, but…” Could you be holding personal preferences in this issue? You may have to lay aside your personal preferences and offer objective feedback. Whereas you may not like a certain car model, be objective about its good and bad features!

Tip 5.....When and where is critical to success

You improve your likelihood of success when you choose a private location when offering your feedback...never in public! Be sensitive to the emotional and physical state of the other person-  It is not the right time to introduce  critique to a  person who is  sick, tired, stressed, hungry etc., Nor will you perform well if you are in similar conditions!

Prophet Nathan approached King David when he was alone and in the right mood to listen to a good story!

Tip 6....Serve them a PCP sandwich

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 

Start with a positive (P). Even the most difficult persons have a positive attribute. The compliment should be  sincere otherwise it will ring hollow and not achieve the desired result- building a  rapport as well as appreciating their strengths and thus boosting their esteem.  They will then be more open to the correction. 

While at it, ensure you make eye contact. You will then be able to read their response quickly and adjust accordingly. Also, give them total distractions such as working on your computer which shows disinterest.

Provide the criticism(C)

  9Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 

This is where you have to be tactful... Focus on the   specific action/behavior not the person followed by the impact of the shortcoming. Example- I have noted you reported to work late  on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday  which  meant that....rather than the personal attack-  ‘You are......  always late’ or  The Sales report is not correct and cannot be presented to the board in the present state  rather than ‘Your sales report is not correct’.  

Note that Prophet Nathan did not say- ‘You are an adulterer,  a murderer’ but focused on the wrongdoing-‘you despised...., you struck down.... you took......’  

10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 

12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” 13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Now you can delve into the specifics on the errors noted. You are likely to get an admission if you  have used the right approach. Ask them for recommendations on how the shortcoming can be improved and why they think will work or will not work.

You may also chip in your suggestions. You want them to own the process therefore let them compile and present you (or the team) a report on  the recommendations, rationale, expected results, by when, progress review etc. Prophet Nathan appraised King David  of his error- despising God and the king concurred.

End with a Positive (P)

.....Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

Appreciate their strengths once again and  summarise the  positive results that will come from the recommended  new action or behavior. King David did get a positive feedback- he was forgiven of his sin but he still had to bear with the consequence of his actions.

He had already pronounced a judgement on the rich man who had slaughtered a poor man’s lamb! nevermind that that he was pronouncing his own judgement! The man happened to represent his own self!

Tip 7..... What about injecting some gentle humor- where possible.

For someone you are used to, you can directly critique them in a light-hearted manner. A relevant joke or story will hit home pretty well like what happened to King David after listening to Prophet Nathan’s story. 

Have specific example of a behavior that is close to what you want to correct.... could be a real case that had happened leaving out the facts that would get the person to identify themselves and thus get defensive. 

Prophet Nathan presented King David with a compelling story whose plot was very close to what the king had done only different actors and a different scenario. The king did not immediately identify himself but went on to pronounce judgement on the rich man.

Tip 8.....Teamwork does it.

Work with the person being corrected to improve the situation.  Provide the necessary support and environment for them to succeed.  After all, your goal is for them to improve/change and when they succeed, you also do. Appreciate and celebrate the milestone achieved in the improvement journey. 

Despite the punishment King David had  to bear as a result of his shortcoming,  God gave  him another son who went on to become the next King!

Over to you Passionate Entrepreneur

  • How do you offer constructive criticism?
  • What other tips can you share with the Passionate Entrepreneur Network?

Share with your experiences, suggestions or questions in the comments section below and help another Passionate Entrepreneur.

Whatever you do, make sure it results in less work, more money and positive impact.


Virginia Mburu

Passionate Entrepreneurs Coach

Virginia empowers and motivates Passionate Entrepreneurs to realize their purpose and pursue it. She then assists the entrepreneurs to clarify, prioritise and focus on management and marketing strategies and action plans that will get them to work less, make more money and positively impact within one year.  Download some of her gifts- absolutely free lessons on

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