On Shark Tank, Daymond has to tell people “No” a lot. It’s not a lot of fun, but he takes it as a challenge to help them better themselves and their proposals. In a perfect world, he’d never have to pass on a pitch, but we don’t live in a perfect world. The next best thing, for Daymond, is when he can communicate why he’s passing and what needs to improve. Then, in a few weeks or months, when that person comes back, they’ll have taken care of the holes in their plan, and Daymond will be ready to write a check.

Managing employees in your business can be a lot like being in Daymond’s shoes on Shark Tank. You want to give your employees the most freedom possible so that they’re inspired to do their best work for you, but you also have to rein them in, spur them on, and show them the way, too. If work isn’t up to par, or someone isn’t being as productive as you need them to be, you’re going to have to step in. That’s where good techniques for giving constructive criticism can really help you be a better leader.


If you need to give constructive criticism to an employee, you need to talk to them face-to-face whenever possible. Emailing negative feedback seems impersonal and can feel like an attack. When you speak with them in person, they’ll have your inflections and body language to go on, and you can discuss what happened, how it happened, their perspective and how to do better.


Next, don’t criticize an employee’s performance or idea in front of others. Criticism should be given on a one-on-one basis to avoid embarrassment and negative feelings. Furthermore, if you talk about sub-par performance in front of a group of other employees or, worse, in front of customers, you make yourself look much worse than your employee.


If negative feedback is all your employees ever hear, they’re going to flinch every time they see you coming. They’re going to learn to fear private meetings in your office, and they’re highly likely to try to hide mistakes from you, to avoid another talking-to, rather than what you really need them to do, which is bring issues to you immediately.

To avoid a scenario like that, be as liberal as you can with positive feedback. Give your employees praise for their accomplishments and contributions. Show them that you appreciate them this way, and you’ll make the environment feel safer and more positive.

Then, when you do have to give some negative feedback, start with the positives. Start with what they’ve been doing right and how much you value their work. Then transition to the issue at hand. Ask them if they’ve been having difficulty keeping up or if there’s a specific problem they’re having at work or home. Then the two of you can figure out how you can facilitate improvement and how they can work to fix their mistakes and perform at a higher level in the future.


And, finally, I know how much your business and its success matter to you, and I know how personal it can feel when someone’s not doing their part or makes a big mistake. Take a breath and let it go, because this isn’t about you. Keep emotions out of your criticism, and keep it as positive as possible. You’ll get much better results, and your employees will appreciate you a lot more, too. All that adds up to more productivity and better success in the future.



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