Even if you are an experienced executive, it’s likely very difficult for you to advise other people where they need to improve. Many bosses delay criticism until an employee’s scheduled employee review. That’s seldom effective. Neither is stockpiling problems, waiting for the “right moment” to bring them up. By doing so, chances are the employee will simply be overwhelmed.
Criticism is best given real time or immediately after the fact. Don’t wait for the problem to fester. But remember, unless this is the “last straw” for this employee, there should be a liberal usage of positive remarks if you want your negative observation to be understood in the proper context. I like to refer to this as “catching them doing something approximately correct”.
The very best time to provide constructive criticism is whenever somebody is making positive progress but still has room for improvement. This allows you to begin your remarks saying something to the effect of: “Overall I saw a lot of good things that show me you have been listening and learning. I appreciate that. There was one area though that I think could use particular improvement. Consider doing…”
By following this formula you are being pleasant, yet firm. You are remaining positive. But most importantly, while being somewhat non-specific with your overall appraisal, you are being very specific regarding the behavior that needs improvement. Give this coaching method a try. You and your staff members will both be better for your having done so.