Coach, Don't Criticize

In our book, Juggling Elephants we point out that, "The relationship between the ringmaster and the performers affects the success of the circus." One key area of building or tearing down your relationship with the other performers in your circus is how well are you providing feedback or correcting others when a mistake is made. Do you tend to coach or do you just criticize?

When mistakes are made, emotions tend to be added to the dynamic of the situation. You may be mad, frustrated or confused that the mistake was made. The person that made the mistake might be embarrassed, discouraged, defensive or oblivious. Your natural tendency might be to just quickly point out the mistake, tell them to fix the problem and then move on. Addressing a mistake poorly can just add fuel to an already smoldering fire. Turning your back and not taking advantage of the moment to teach or help others improve is just being selfish.

There are plenty of critics out there pointing out what is wrong with something and then conveniently moving on. Next time that you see the opportunity for improvement consider the following:

  • Stop. It is easy to ignore an opportunity to coach

  • Think. Don't jump into a potentially flammable situation without taking the time necessary to properly organize your thoughts

  • Listen. How did the mistake happen? What were the causes? What is their side of the story?

  • Teach. Share knowledge, experience and how to...

  • Discuss. Work together to come up with a potential third alternative on how to improve and keep the mistake from happening again
It would be nice if there were more coaches that are in it "for the season" and who not only point out the problem, but also help create a solution. Be the coach and not the critic.