Brain Food: Your Route to the Top - Constructive criticism

Instil trust. Criticism can be a bitter pill to swallow, so sweeten it by showing that you're trying to help the person, not looking to feed your own ego.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Know your aim. Work out what you want them to do differently, and keep this in mind while you talk to them.

Think right place, right time. Have the conversation as soon as possible after the incident, so that the events are still fresh. If it's a sensitive issue, take it somewhere private.

Set the scene. Make it clear from the outset what you need to talk about.

If you think the other person knows what you are going to say, then start with a question, such as: 'How do you feel this morning's presentation went?'

State what went wrong. Be specific. Criticising them for staring into space and tapping their glass during the FD's speech will be more effective than: 'You were so rude this morning; you made it clear that you didn't want to be there'.

Keep it crisp. Make your point upfront and then get them to talk. This reduces the scope for misunderstanding and gets them involved early on.

Share the impact. Describe the effect it had and on whom: 'Your lack of interest in the meeting distracted others in the room and infuriated the FD'.

Hold your space. People react in different ways - don't be nervous or defensive. Be ready to take criticism yourself and don't feel uncomfortable about a silence.

Reinforce their identity. Encourage them to think positively about themselves.

Citing their qualities as a role model for the team makes it easier for them to accept specific criticism.

Seek solutions together. Ask lots of questions and decide between you what you will do to make a positive change.

The Mind Gym: Wake Your Mind Up is published by Time Warner (£12.99),

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