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Issue 232 - Criticize in Private

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 5 Issue 232
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



In his book The Essential Wooden, with Steve Jamison, Coach Wooden offered his input on: Seven Ways to Make Your Criticism Count:
1. Get all of the facts. 2. Don’t lash out. 3. Be specific. 4. Don’t make it personal. 5. Do it privately to avoid embarrassment. 6. Only the leader gives criticism. 7. Once done, it's done.
The idea of criticizing privately was a fundamental principle that anchored the culture of team spirit that was so strong in Coach Wooden’s basketball teams.
This does not mean that Coach Wooden did not correct players at practice in front of other players. He did. In his book A Game Plan for Life with, Don Yeager, Coach described his approach to serious discipline issues:
If there was an issue I felt needed attention with my players, I tried to do it by taking them aside and speaking to them privately. There is an understanding that is forged and an appreciation for the private correction. No one likes to be called out in front of his or her friends. Humiliation is not the same thing as correction: One attacks the person; the other attacks the problem.
Coach also described his policy on public criticism of a player’s performance:
I would never publicly criticize a player for poor performance. Even in moments of extreme frustration, I would check myself because it just didn’t seem right—because it didn’t seem like something my father would have done.
In the book Coach Wooden's Leadership Game Plan for Success, former UCLA Head Coach Gary Cunningham, who was John Wooden’s Assistant Coach from 1966 through 1975, described how the culture of Criticize in Private impacted the way Coach Wooden treated his Assistant Coaches in front of the players:
He was very inclusive and gave us both authority and respect. When we fouled up, he never criticized us in front of the team, nor would he allow the players to challenge us.
The manager who corrects the assistant manager in front of an employee undermines the authority of the assistant manager, offends the assistant manager, presents themselves in a bad light and makes the employee feel uncomfortable.
The same could be said for a parent that corrects another parent in front of a child, the coach who corrects the assistant coach in front of a player, the supervisor who criticizes an employee in front of another employee and a supervisor who corrects a salesperson in front of a customer.
Telling an employee you want to see them in your office, right now, in front of a coworker or using the intercom system to page an employee to come to your office qualifies as public criticism and should be avoided.
Employees are hesitant to communicate this to their boss because they don't want to get in trouble, but they are offended and less receptive to being coached.
People must be held accountable, but as Coach Wooden demonstrated, there is a right and wrong way to handle these situations.

Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman
Twitter: @woodenswisdom




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Application Exercise

Favorite Poetry


Some Favorite Thoughts from Coach Wooden’s Library 


 Be you to others kind and true,
As you’d have others be to you;
And never do nor say to men
Whate’er you would not take again

Isaac Watts

Have you had a kindness shown?
Pass it on, pass it on!
‘Twas not giv’n for thee alone,
Pass it on, pass it on!
Let it travel down the years,
Let it wipe another’s tears;
Till in heav’n the deed appears,
Pass it on, pass it on!

Henry Burton

Little drops of water,
little grains of sand,
make the mighty ocean
and the beauteous land.

And the little moments,
humble though they may be,
make the mighty ages
of eternity.

Little deeds of kindness,
little words of love,
make our earth an Eden,
like the heaven above.

Julia Carney







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