Leaders, of any sort, will deal with criticism from people they are entrusted to lead and serve. Regardless of your title or the context in which you lead, you can be confident that there will be some under your influence and guidance that have things that they want to say about your performance. Most people want their leaders to grow and succeed. Their critique is help toward that end…at least that’s the goal.
Honestly, leaders should expect this kind of feedback from those who are part of their organization. We should be aware that we need to grow and that we can’t see all perspectives clearly. We should expect that this kind of feedback is coming and learn to receive it with humility so that we can grow into healthy leaders who lead healthy organizations. Good Leaders should be prepared for this kind of feedback. Great leaders solicit it.
As I have experienced critique from those I’m entrusted the lead, I’ve noticed three questions that guide how I respond to their words.
- Is he speaking in an honoring manner? This will considerably affect my response to the critique. In fact, it probably affects it more than the other two questions. If the person speaking to me is doing so in an honoring way, I know that I have an ally who is interested in my growth and the growth of the organization we are discussing. If the person is sharing critique, but not doing this in an honoring manner, my tendency will be to either defend myself or start mentally going through my task list while I let them blow steam at my face. If you are offering critique to a leader and you want to be listened to, please do so in an honoring manner.
- Is she on to something? All leaders know that we are finite, limited human beings. I know that there are parts of the organization I lead that needs to be improved. So, when I’m hearing critique, I try to ask: “Is she on to something”, “Is she seeing something valid”, or maybe “What part of what I am hearing is valid” and “How can I learn from this encounter”.? Active Listening and Probing Questions help me make this decision. This may in fact be constructive critique that will help the organization grow and become more healthy. I need to do the work of listening and assessing what part of critique I need to hear and apply.
- Is he ready to be part of the solution to the criticism he is bringing? Far too often, critique comes from those who are either not doing what they are complaining about or they want someone else to do it. If I sense that a person is not willing to be the change they want or at least be part of the change, I am not quick to hear the critique. But, when they are saying, I see this need and I want to help…I’m all ears. Is he interested in bringing his gifts to bear on this? Is he willing to train others to do the same? Or is he “the ideas guy” that just wants our organization to “go to the next level”? If he won’t put skin in the game, I’m probably finished listening.
I have been blessed to serve with people who bring helpful critique to me on a regular basis. I feel honored by them, learn from them and get to watch them get involved in addressing the issue. It helps me grow as a leader and the organization I lead grows. I have people I meet with for the purpose of asking, “What are you seeing that needs to be addressed?” Helpful critique is just that…helpful.
If you have critique for someone you are following or are influenced by, perhaps these questions should guide how you communicate with them.
- Does your tone communicate honor and respect?
- Do you have something valuable to say?
- Are you ready to be part of the change needed to address the criticism?
Don’t let your good observations get lost in a dishonoring tone. Don’t let your words seem hollow because you are not willing to contribute to the solution. Show those you lead that you are invested and want the best for your organization.
Leaders must be prepared to hear and learn from critique. Others must be aware of how we offer it. What are some things that guide the way you offer or receive criticism?