Maybe Criticism is the Problem

Dateline: February 7, 2014

Welcome to our Friday WRAP – one thought-provoking idea to think about over the weekend.

This week’s thought for the weekend comes from a recent article by Daniel Goleman, Co-Director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University and author of a variety of top-selling books.  His recent blog at Harvard Business Review, titled When You Criticize Someone, You Make It Harder for that Person to Change, suggests that research has shown managers who focus only on criticism may be limiting their team members from achieving the very goal they set out to achieve.  Goleman referred to work done by Richard Boyatzis, Professor at Case Western, on brain activity while participating in a problem-focused or future-looking interview.

Working with colleagues at Cleveland Clinic, (Richard) Boyatzis put people through a positive, dreams-first interview or a negative, problems-focused one while their brains were scanned. The positive interview elicited activity in reward circuitry and areas for good memories and upbeat feelings – a brain signature of the open hopefulness we feel when embracing an inspiring vision. In contrast, the negative interview activated brain circuitry for anxiety, the same areas that activate when we feel sad and worried. In the latter state, the anxiety and defensiveness elicited make it more difficult to focus on the possibilities for improvement.

He continued,

Of course a manager needs to help people face what’s not working. As Boyatzis put it, “You need the negative focus to survive, but a positive one to thrive. You need both, but in the right ratio.”

How do you give performance feedback?  How much of the feedback you give is criticism versus supportive?

That’s a WRAP!  Have a nice weekend.

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