Constructive Correction: A Positive Experience

My manager told me to stop doing something the other day. And you know what? It was easy for me to hear and accept his correction.

It was about an email I sent. I handled the problem at hand, but I should have delivered the result differently. My manager addressed that later with an email, short and sweet.

Now I’ve had the emotional wind knocked out of me in the name of “correction” before. But this time different. This was calm and easy to swallow.

But why? What made this correction a positive experience?

  • For one, I was being corrected — not scolded! There’s a big difference. Corrections are respectful and helpful. Scoldings are demeaning and frustrating. Do this poorly enough, and the receiver’s spirit may break.
  • For two, the feedback was timely. It wasn’t pouncing upon weakness the moment it appeared, but it wasn’t digging up ancient failures, either. The incident was still fresh.
  • For three, it was direct. It addressed the problem in two sentences. It got right to the point in a factual, impersonal way.
  • For four, it was fair. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t appreciate a response appropriate to the action. Not a reaction, but a response. A fair response gets me every time, and I have no complaints when the punishment (or correction) fits the crime (or mistake).
  • For five, it provided an alternative method. This is important! It’s easy to goad someone for doing something the wrong way. But it is much harder to fully understand the problem and suggest a better solution to the problem at hand. The proposed solution clicked and made perfect sense. I will solve the problem that way from now on. It wasn’t a huge lightbulb moment, but perhaps a Christmas light.
  • For six, it was constructive and beneficial. This was not a snide comment meant to pull me down or justify someone’s authority. It was a small change to improve the quality of the work from the manager’s perspective, as well as my own. Heeding this constructive feedback benefited me.

I’m no expert at confronting others about mistakes or problems, but I do know this went well. Experiences like this help me see how important it is to build others up in the small encounters of life.

This is how I want to lead.

Tell about a constructive correction you have experienced. Why did it go well?