Err on the Side of Praise
Begin with Praise and Honest Appreciation – When addressing mistakes made by others, begin with something positive. When I coached basketball we lost an important game on account of several missed free throws. My natural reaction was to yell at my team. Instead, I praised them for being aggressive and getting to the free throw line consistently. We then practiced free throws for the next hour. My players, already upset by the loss, responded well to praise.
Call Attention to People’s Mistakes Indirectly – Nobody likes to be called out. Calling attention to one’s mistakes indirectly gives them a chance to save face without letting them break the rules. At my school, dress code prohibits the wearing of hats. I became fanatical in my approach to enforcement and created a lot of resentment. One day, a student came by wearing a hat, but instead of shouting at him to remove the hat, I asked, “How are all the girls going to admire your long hair with that thing covering it up?" The student laughed, removed the hat, and never wore it again.
Talk About Your Own Mistakes Before Criticizing Others – The season began with three straight losses and team confidence lagged. My players were playing far below their capabilities. After a particularly tough loss, players, parents, and even some coaches began pointing fingers at each other. At practice the next day, I unloaded on the person most responsible. I pointed out every mistake I had made that season, and those very players who were blaming me for the losses, were coming to my defense and admitting their own mistakes. Instead of pointing fingers, we identified our individual weaknesses, improved them, and had a successful season.
Ask Questions Instead of Giving Direct Orders – Nobody likes to be bossed around. If you want people to follow you, ask questions. My former principal suggested a great way to get students to be more productive in class. When a student is not on task, ask him a series of questions: “What are you doing?" “What are you supposed to be doing?" “What are you going to do about it?"