Criticism, after being filtered, becomes an amazing way to develop and measure our work or strategies. Even more, strategy without criticism is not a strategy. External criticism should be part of our daily strategy work and it is presented in many ways..

What a KPI is? Just an objective criticism of your current applied strategy.
What about our users’ feedback? Just a cooler & softer word than the criticism word but, after all, the same thing.

So your work and strategy is going to be criticized. Directly or through its final results. At your face or at your back. Learning to filter out criticisms correctly is key to separate noisy ones from the valuable ones..

What a criticism is?. How many types do exist?

If you’d have asked me this question several years ago, I’d answer, off the top of my head, just two. Those that “I do like” and those that “I do not like at all”. The first are usually called “positive criticisms”, and the latter ones are called “negative criticisms”.

Ask this same question to your relatives or friends. Most of them will answer you in the same way. It’s a social issue. Probably a dysfunction in the educational system. And, no doubts, a big issue in team working.

I prefer, however, to distinguish 4 different kind of criticisms. You can view them in the next picture.

I’ll try to explain the four of them by using the same example. This time John is going to be criticized.

Poor John.

Positive constructive criticism .

“John, I loved your presentation. Adding the comparative and showing our strong points in the last slide have been an excellent idea”.

This kind of criticism shares a positive message but also a constructive one since you’re explaining why you liked it. Unfortunately it is a criticism in danger of extinction.
Recognizing John’s effort  doesn’t just motivate him, but shows him the correct way. All-in-one

.A really nice example of positive constructed criticisms are KPIs. A KPI showing an improving trend, can be understood as a positive criticism but, best of all, it is also a constructive one since KPIs are objective.

Negative constructive criticism

” John, your presentation has been too weak. I do really believe that adding a comparative and showing our strong points in the last slide would have worked better”.

Really few times negative criticisms are shared in a constructive way. We haven’t been tought that such kind of criticisms exist. Maybe that’s the reason why best leaders are those who use this kind of criticisms with ease. And best workers are those who accept this kind of criticisms without feeling personally attacked.
obviously you’re not satisfied with John’s work, but explaining him where the failures are will help him to understand your strategy. If you let him to share his counter-opinion, and you end with a smile and a “Next time we will nail it!”, next time  John will be hyper-motivated.
Also KPIs are a kind of Negative constructive criticism. A KPI showing a sinking trend can be understood as a negative criticism of your strategy, but it keeps being a constructive one since it points you where your strategy is failing.

Negative destructive criticism.

“John, your presentation has been too weak. I didn’t like it at all. Sorry, but not.”

This is the Queen of criticism. You can find 15 of these one per one of the others. I bet you’ve been criticized at least once in this way or that you’ve already used it.

Back to the example: Why didn’t you like it? What is wrong with his presentation? My 3 years old neighbor can explain himself better than that. As a result John will return back home just thinking about the time wasted, and cursing in loud voice. That’s why it is destructive. It doesn’t help at all but, even worse, our message will strike us back.

Positive destructive criticism.

“John, I loved your presentation. You are my hero. The best worker/boss around.”

Can a positive criticism be destructive at the same time? You’ve a great example above. It’s the typical flattery. If someone tells you are an “ace” without any more reasoning. Do you really believe it blindly? or could he not be sharing his real opinion?

Beware with potential “false friend” criticisms. On the other hand, if we’re really pleased with John’s work, we’re losing a great opportunity to share with him which key points in his presentation have really amazed us.

The importance of criticism.

A well-argued criticism leads to continuous improvement. Criticisms come from everywhere, but the most important bit is filtering all of them to keep just the constructive (being positive or negative) ones. The destructive ones, even when positive, shouldn’t bias you when analyzing your strategy. Even more, these latter ones, can really confuse you. Haven’t you ever heard a “Your product is amazing. We’ll call you soon” but such call never taking place?

Probably the hardest task is to accept and to learn how-to formulate negative constructive criticisms.

Learning to accept negative constructive criticisms will help us to improve our work and strategy, and knowing how to formulate them will help us to add extra value to other’s work. Keep in mind that the best leader and the best worker are the ones mastering this kind of criticisms.

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