As a leader, one of your most important roles within an organization is providing guidance to other members of the company. It is common for leaders to encounter situations in which they have to provide an employee with constructive criticism. One study even found that employees appreciate constructive criticism because it can help them improve their job performance. Providing this type of guidance can be a challenge, however, as it is important to find a way to communicate your intentions without causing people to feel defensive or sparking resentment. Fortunately, there are a few ideas that leaders can keep in mind to provide their group with better guidance, helping everyone to function well as a team.
Demonstrate the qualities you want to see in others
It is important, before approaching any employees about possible areas for behavioral improvement, that you are not making the same mistakes. Employees are more likely to listen and respect a leader who offers critical feedback when that leader provides a living example of how to improve. For example, if a particular employee has demonstrated difficulty controlling their temper or managing tasks within a group, and their leader makes the same mistakes, the advice about how to improve will not likely be nearly as well received or respected.
Use real, specific examples
When you have the conversation and offer your feedback, make sure you use actual, observed examples to demonstrate the behaviors that you would like to see amended. Speaking about particular instances will give your critique far more credibility. It will also focus the conversation on particular events and ways to resolve them, rather than delving into personality differences or hearsay, which is not very productive.
Be aware not use the words, ‘always’ or ‘never’. These words can inspire defensive reactions in people because they over-generalize. For example, speaking to an employee about their tardiness by saying, “You are always late” will make them feel the need to defend themselves against the accusation and find times when they were not late. Saying instead, “I’ve noticed that you have been late for the past three days, this can be disruptive for the team,” will produce a far more productive discussion.
Describe your reaction
As you progress through the conversation and explain to the person the behavior you observed, you also want to make sure they understand the impact of that behavior on you, others in their group and the organization as a whole. For example, a person who struggles to effectively work in a group should be shown how their behaviors are leading to poor performance for everyone on the team.
As you progress through these steps, it is important to let the person know that they have your support and that you are not trying to cut them down, but rather help them grow as a better employee and stronger member of the organization. Keep this objective in mind as you discuss the situation and resulting solutions.
Give the other person a chance to respond
After you finish explaining your point of view and the changes you would like to see from your employee, give them a chance to respond. It is important to remember that sometimes perceptions are not reality, or that there may have been external circumstances of which you were not aware.
Also allow the employee to have the opportunity to brainstorm ways that they might be able to improve the situation moving forward. Make them a participant in the conversation instead of just a listener and inspire them to follow through on the discussion.
Providing people with constructive criticism can help members of your team overcome problems that may hinder performance and cooperation. An important part of being a leader in learning how to guide your organization forward, and that includes reducing negative behaviors or transforming them into positive ones. Should situations arise within your group that demand attention, keep these ideas in mind to improve communication and have a productive conversation.
Being an effective leader can be challenging at times. There are many ways one can go about leading and there are some methods that work better than others. A helpful question for leaders to consider early on in their lives is: What do I want my leadership legacy to be? Thinking about the answer to this question in detail can help a leader figure out how they want to leave an impact on this world. To me, a leadership legacy is the path taken by a leader, which is navigated by the leader’s personal beliefs, standards and ethics. It is essentially the impact or change the leader has caused because of their actions and behaviors. How have others observed the leader, and how have they changed as a result? The answer to this question can be either good or bad, depending on the values of the leader. Indeed, many legacies have been tarnished by a single action. How does a leader live up to their full potential and leave behind a legacy that can benefit many?
These questions have no simple answer. While I am still unsure where my future will take me, or rather where I will take my future, I do know that whatever I am working on and whomever that may be with, I want to be a leader who can leave behind a positive legacy. Personally, I want to be a leader who is humble and appreciative, and who realizes the many blessings she has been given, often undeservedly. Not only recognizing these strokes of good fortune, but also giving back to others who have not been so fortunate is a goal that I have as a leader. I want to be a leader who leads by example, who is a good role model, who does the right thing, no matter the circumstance. I want to be an approachable and understandable leader. Being feared is not a goal of mine. To me, a dictating leader misses out on the opportunity to receive positive criticism or feedback. I want to always be the kind of leader who people feel they can come to with questions, concerns, or criticism. At the same time, I want to make people feel challenged as I have been challenged, but also accepted and comfortable sharing opinions and ideas. Most importantly I want to be a leader who listens well and responds to others.
These goals, will on some level, help me build a legacy, which could positively impact the world; however, to reach these goals will require me to be consistent, optimistic, motivational, and determined to go the extra mile. There will always need to be that little bit of extra effort that can play a big part in leaving an impact on others, whether it is making sure to thank someone for their hard work, or reaching out to those who are in need, or to those who simply had a bad day. I must always be conscious of my behavior, and myself, asking the question: how do I come across to others? And, what can I do now to positively impact the people I work with and the people who I meet throughout my life?
The best way to learn about others, and to figure out how to positively impact them, is to listen. Listening to others, reaching out to others, even when they have a differing background or opinion, is often what allows us to expand, and to build perspective. On one of my flights this summer, as I was coming home to visit my grandfather who was in the hospital at the time, I was seated next to an older blind man. At first, I was slightly uncomfortable sitting next to someone with a handicap, feeling as though I should do something for him or offer to help him even though there wasn’t really anything to help him with. As the trip went on, we made casual conversation; both nodded off at times, and had a pretty normal flight. As we became more comfortable with each other, I asked him about where he was going, whom he was visiting, and what he would do when we arrived in Philadelphia. He informed me that he had a short layover and had to catch another flight. He mentioned how it was sometimes difficult for him, having to rush during a layover. I could only imagine how scary it would be to navigate through an airport, blind, trying to find the correct gate. When I asked him about this he said, “No it’s not scary. It’s not scary because people always help, I just don’t enjoy being in a rush.” What stuck with me most was that people always help.
He said after a time you get used to asking for assistance and give in to the fact that there would be no way to do things on your own without embracing the help of every friendly stranger. When we landed I grabbed his bag for him and pointed him in the right direction, saying goodbye and good luck and silently feeling that touch of emotion when you put yourself, truly, into someone else’s shoes, and imagine a life so different from your own that it alters your state of mind in such a way that you feel changed.
After that flight, I thought of many things, about how it might be in a way, freeing to lose your sight, to experience the world in a totally new way. I thought about how that man must listen to others, feel for others, and rely and trust others, even strangers, completely. I learned from that encounter that I want to be a leader who listens as well as the blind man does, who trusts others, and who reaches out for help when I need it. It also reminded me that I should always think about the decisions I’m making from multiple perspectives.
While I think it is important to ask ourselves how we want to be remembered or regarded, I don’t think anyone can really say exactly what he or she wants his or her life to become. What would be the fun in that? I propose we contemplate, not only what we want to achieve but also how we want to achieve it, and who we want to be whilst we achieve it. I don’t know exactly what I want to achieve, but I do know some things.
What I do know is that I want to work hard. As a petroleum engineer I’ve often received criticism about my career choice. I hope that throughout my time as an engineer I can educate people about energy, the dilemmas we face as a nation and as a world, and what I’m doing to make the current system more efficient, more sustainable and more affordable. While natural gas won’t last forever, it’s helped our country reduce green house gas emissions tremendously. It serves as a greener base electricity generation fuel, enabling the use of renewables through peaks in demand and intermittency. Without gas, we wouldn’t have the power to do the things necessary to make this world run, to power the medical field, to power the farmers, to power the people, quite literally. It’s the fuel of today while we work out the kinks to wide scale development of the fuel of tomorrow.
I do know, that I want to make a difference, to help people, help the environment, and help the communities in which I work. I aspire to become a manager, or to go back to either law or business school. Maybe I’ll become a professor, or a high school teacher. I dreamed of becoming an environmental lawyer at a time, I don’t know if that is right for me or not now, but I know I will figure it out, because I will be honest with myself. More than anything, I want to start a family, full of love and happiness, as mushy as that sounds. I want to eat good food, go on plenty of adventures, and experience the world with the people I love most, while also doing my part to make the world in which we live, better for everyone.
I want to be a leader in my career but also in my life. One day I want to be a devoted wife, a loving mother, and also continue to maintain the good relationships I have with my parents and family now. I want to be the person who friends come to for advice, the strong, steady, loving, compassionate woman who can not only help people achieve success but also help them find happiness and peace in their lives. I know this won’t be easy as a career woman too, but I think I’ve already struck a good balance between work and life.
As a young woman in college with a serious boyfriend, I feel as though many of my peers don’t quite understand some of my more recent decisions. I don’t go out with my friends as much anymore, and sometimes I drive 3.5 hours to Philadelphia just to see Kevin for 2 days! But the thing is, I could never regret these choices, to choose him over friends sometimes, or to choose to go away for some weekends instead of enjoying Penn State, because when I’m with him, I feel a deep peace. I feel happy, loved, important, and beautiful. I feel like the best of myself when I’m with him. He finds work to do when I have to study all day on Saturday. He calms me down when anything or everything seems to be going wrong. He makes me think more positively, makes me appreciate life more. He has helped me to enjoy more fully, the arts, philosophy, and technology- fields I am not exposed to as much in my major. Essentially, he makes my life more full. He makes my life more warm, rich, and valuable. While the long distance has been challenging, we’ve made it work better than many couples I know. Now we are in the homestretch, with our plans to move to Pittsburgh after this summer, and I can rest easy knowing we will finally be in the same town again.
I bring this up now because, a few years ago, I never could have imagined how my priorities would change, but my drive to be a successful student, to be a leader in the Society of Petroleum Engineering, to be a highly regarded intern, and to maintain important friendships hasn’t changed. While my social life has changed quite a bit, my goals as a leader have only been supported more fully as my relationship has developed. The point is that new people can come into your life and change things for the unexpected, you just have to know enough about yourself to realize what won’t change, and hopefully that will be what you value most.
While I don’t know exactly where I am going in my career or my life, I know who I will be, and that is where I will build my legacy. I will be a strong woman, who encourages the people who she leads, who can connect with all kinds of people from the introverted engineer to the extroverted businessman, to the artsy secretary, to the extreme environmentalist. I will maintain a positive appearance, mindset, and attitude. I will strive to put a smile on the faces of the people who I come in contact with. I will do my best to be an engineer who strives for safety, environmental protection, and efficiency. I will strive for humility but will also use my voice and my story to encourage and motivate others. I will listen, to myself, to my family, to the people I work with, and to the strangers I meet on airplanes. I will listen, and I will adapt to changes all while staying true to myself.