Constructing a team begins with guiding individuals to discover their greatest potential. In order to this, individuals need to be coached so they can address their weaknesses. A team is dependent upon the strengths of each individual, and it is weakened when members are too weak to carry their loads.

One of the most critical factors in coaching team members is to teach them that constructive criticism is not personal. It is a necessary piece toward building their talents. It is really an offering of assistance from the leaders who care enough to show them a better way, a shortcut to success.

When I coached collegiate basketball, our players never touched a basketball, lifted weights or ran a wind sprint before we talked about the importance of being coached, which was defined as the ability to accept criticism from both coaches and teammates. Throughout the season we continued to stress that our constructive criticism was essential toward improving each individual and creating a championship team.

While there are many ways to be constructive with criticism, it should be noted that the individual receiving it is still being told that what she is currently doing is not good enough. This means that no matter how carefully you phrase your criticism, it might not be heard it as you intended. What I learned as a collegiate basketball coach was that my players often did not hear the positive feedback we were giving them.


It was imperative with our coaching staff that we use positive language, and we gave as many warm, fuzzy statements as we could when we were coaching. We wanted to build our players up and not tear them down. We followed many of the rules for feedback:

  1. Always start with a positive statement.
  2. Avoid attacking or judging personal characteristics. Instead make suggestions on how to improve behavior.
  3. Avoid “You did” or “You are” statements.
  4. Provide options for improvement.
  5. Ask questions to make certain the team member understands the conversation.
  6. End the session a choice scenario: Here is what happens if you do change and here is what happens if you fail to change.
  7. Own your feedback.
  8. Be specific when giving feedback.
  9. Never use the “but” after a compliment. It negates everything said before it.
  10. Only give positive feedback when it is true.


We tried to use as many of these methods as possible, but yet we still discovered that a majority of our players would leave practice thinking they had done nothing right. This, of course, is a typical reaction to criticism, the feeling of being incompetent or unworthy.

In order to help our players hear our compliments, we instituted a rule that they had to say, “Two points” every time they heard positive feedback. Every time they heard constructive criticism, they were to respond with “Rebound.” The idea was that they would hear themselves saying “Two points” much more frequently than “Rebound.”

This ensured that the player heard the positive feedback. It also gave us a reference as to how many times we were using positive statements versus constructive criticism. Maybe this idea sounds too juvenile for your company, but it works. You might want to choose different language or a different reward system, but the most important thing is to find a way to convince your team members that constructive criticism is, in fact, for their benefit.