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Dr. Michael Newman: “Wrap criticism with a compliment”

Wrap criticism with a compliment. Complimenting as part of the criticism shows that the employee is valued and the criticism is intended to be productive. As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Michael Newman. Dr. Michael Newman is one of […]

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Wrap criticism with a compliment. Complimenting as part of the criticism shows that the employee is valued and the criticism is intended to be productive.


As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Michael Newman.

Dr. Michael Newman is one of Southern California’s top plastic surgeons. He is held in high regard by his patients for his thoughtful and compassionate demeanor; qualities that are evident in his work.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I am a board certified plastic surgeon with offices in Beverly Hills and Torrance including a full service medical spa and surgery center. I was inspired by a family member to seek out a career in medicine. I knew I wanted to be in a competitive field and in a competitive geography so I decided to dedicate extra time on subspecialty training and experience in order to differentiate myself and excel within my industry.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our company’s success is built on customer service and satisfaction. Our clients know that we will do everything in our power to take the best care of them and achieve the best possible results. We frequently have clients that have been to other medical and plastic surgery offices and they often will tell us that our service, staff, and compassion are unparalleled.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

You never know when you are going to come across someone that changes you whole life. I was fortunate enough to meet a client who later developed into a colleague, friend, and leader in the community. She now runs a large non-profit organization helping breast cancer patients leading to documentaries, charity events, and networking that I would have never even dreamed could be possible.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Dress the part. When I first started working, I often would wear what was most comfortable to the office thinking that would allow me to work more efficiently. I later realized that you are a representation of your brand so you need to broadcast that image in everything you do and everything you wear.

What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

As my senior colleague used to tell me, life is a marathon, not a sprint, so be aware of the big picture. Be sure to take the time to care for yourself in order to help you make the right decisions without haste and make sure that you are around for the long haul.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership encompasses a variety of skills and attributes including the ability to adjust and handle whatever situation arises. Most surgeons exhibit leadership daily during surgery as the decision maker in the operating room, guiding staff, patient care, and managing the team. Those same skills such as confidence, communication, delegation, and problem solving are used to run a successful business.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

Exercise is the best way to clear the mind. Elevated adrenaline levels during exercise force you to focus on the task at hand (the exercise) and put the upcoming stressful events on the side table for a moment. After exercising, most of us can think more clearly. Sleep is also critical. Many events or situations seem incredibly stressful when in the middle of the situation or anticipating it, but a good night of sleep often wipes away some of the stress and allows us to focus on the real problems.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?

Communication is the most critical element for any relationship. This remains true in businesses as well. It is vital to give employees positive feedback and to try and relate to them as human beings. Employees are more motivated when they feel valued and feel part of the team.

This might seem intuitive but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?

Setting expectations and goals is very important. That avoids problems later when employees fall short of the goals. It also helps motivate employees to achieve those goals. It is much easier to shoot for a target that is visible. Imagine playing basketball and trying to make a basket when the basket is invisible. It is much easier to make that basket when you can see the basket. Setting goals helps employees focus their energy and prioritize tasks to achieve the goals.

One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.

Wrap criticism with a compliment. Complimenting as part of the criticism shows that the employee is valued and the criticism is intended to be productive.

Be direct. Avoid using theoretical or vague terms. Use actual facts from an actual situation the the employee witnessed or was involved in. That is the best way to avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Relate. Show compassion by possibly using an example of when you, a colleague, or another employee was faced with a challenge that they were able to overcome.

Be private. Avoid giving criticism in groups. Have a one on one conversation to avoid shaming which can be counterproductive and create resentment or anger.

Document. Keep track of the feedback and how often it is needed in case it happens again or in case that employee denies it was addressed in the past.

Can you address how to give constructive feedback over email? If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote.

Be succinct. It is easy to misinterpret mood and attitude over email so avoid going into too much detail that could be misunderstood or distracting. Offer to have a phone, virtual, or in person conversation to discuss details.

How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Start and/or end with a compliment. Express some optimism or hope for the future.

In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals? Can you explain what you mean?

The best time to give feedback is within 24 hours of the incident. Waiting too long can lead to excessive gossip among coworkers or anxiety from anticipation. In addition, the longer you wait, the more likely the specific details of the incident will be forgotten leading to a less productive discussion. Nip it in the bud. Address incidents as soon after the incident as practical. Avoid giving criticism in group settings though so wait until you can have a one on one discussion.

How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?

Great bosses should be inspiring and should be role models. A large part of good leadership is leading by example.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Universal healthcare. It is embarrassing that our country does not offer health care to all of its citizens. We ultimately pay the same price already through disability benefits, Medicaid programs, and county hospital funding. Health insurance companies reap endless profits with CEO’s making tens of millions of dollars. That money could be used to care for the uninsured citizens of our country instead.

Can you please give us your favorite” Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity. Life is full of opportunities for success, but you have to be watching for them and ready seize the opportunity when you recognize it. Stay at the top of your game and be ready to pounce.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me @drnewmanplasticsurgery

Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.

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