Are You Giving Constructive Feedback or Criticism?

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It’s a fine line between feedback and criticism. You may think you’re offering one, but it could come across as the other – and this could lead to a team member feeling disheartened, knocking both their confidence and motivation. So, how do you know if you’re being constructive or outright critical? In this blog, we outline the difference – as well as our favoured model for effectively delivering feedback: E2C2.

What counts as criticism?

How exactly can criticism be unknowingly veiled as constructive feedback? First, you’ll focus entirely on the negative things and none of the positive. You’ll also neglect to give helpful pointers on how the recipient could do better or tell them something you’d like to see from them in the future. Essentially, you’ve provided a problem but no solution.

Criticism like this also comes across as judgemental. The recipient feels they’re being accused of something, and there’s the implication that their worth is “less than” the ideal or that of another person. What’s more, criticism reflects badly on the person giving it, labelling them as authoritative, condescending and arrogant – something no manager or leader wants to be.

How do you define feedback?

Feedback, on the other hand, acts as a basis for improvement. You’ll be clear about what the team member needs to do in the future. As a result, you’ll give them the opportunity to act on any problems as well as boost their strengths.

This type of feedback can prove to be a motivational force to the recipient; they might even find it inspires them. It will inform them of your expectations, and they won’t feel attacked or like any of their personal characteristics are being insulted. Plus, the feedback will always be centred on what can happen to help them move forward in the future – whereas criticism is generally focused on a past action or event.

What is E2C2 and how can you use it?

There are many different models out there for giving constructive feedback, but our preferred one is E2C2. This is an acronym, which stands for the two Es – ‘evidence’ and ‘effect’ – and the two Cs – ‘change’ and ‘continue’.

You begin with evidence (something that you’ve witnessed). For instance, you might say, “When you were talking to the client, you didn’t convey our USP”. You then go into the effect of this – the impact it has had on you, them, the organisation, or your team. This might be something like, “The effect this has had on the business is that you didn’t secure the client, reducing the team’s sales figures, and ultimately reducing your commission”.

You’ll simply be outlining the situation as it stands, and taking your opportunity to critique – albeit in a constructive way as you’ll be stating the facts. You should make your observations clearly – don’t go into the ‘why’ or offer your opinion. Do this, and you risk potential character assassination or causing motivational or confidence issues.

Once you’ve covered off the two Es, you’ll then go into the change you would like them to act on. For example, “It would be fantastic if you mention our USP on your next opportunity as this will help to differentiate us from the competition”. You’ll add by saying what you’d like them to continue, such as, “You have a fantastic rapport with your clients, so let’s discuss how we can maintain that while ensuring you always mention our USP to improve the chances of you securing clients”.

E2C2 with BMS Progress

E2C2 is the model we coach here at BMS Progress on our Management and Leadership course and our Level 3 Team Leader Apprenticeship. We use it because it consistently has a positive impact, and proves to be a success for our clients.

Each of these training programmes is entirely bespoke to the business and individual, making them best placed to help your leaders engage and inspire their teams as well as provide the kind of feedback that gets results. Like to know more? Get in touch today

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