Solution Saturday: Your Pie Needs More Sugar

This email, from a Leadership Freak reader, arrived yesterday.

Hi Dan,

… I recently (this week) came up on a situation with a would-be employer and immediately thought of you.  Turning to my trusted network: would you be open to having a quick conversation about it? …


Fred (Not his real name.)

I'd rather you just enjoy the pie and say thank you

Our call:

We chatted for about 30 minutes.

Fred explained that he was nearing decision-time, after a lengthy interview process, when one senior interviewer offered a slight criticism.

I felt Fred’s frustration. Everyone loved Fred. Frankly, when we do a great job, a thank you seems sufficient.

Fred wondered if there was a power-play at work. “Perhaps he’s putting me in my place.”

I asked, “If his critic’s intentions were positive, what might they be?”

Fred replied that his critic might be testing him to see how he responds to criticism. Perhaps he wonders if I can adapt to their culture?

Our conversation turned to apple pies.

Apple pies:

Suppose you’ve been making apple pies – that your friends and family love – for years. Imagine a stranger, who takes a bite, and, offhandedly suggests, “It needs more sugar.”

Possible responses to the more-sugar-suggestion:

  1. You should enjoy the pie and keep your mouth shut, except to say, Thank you. (A personal favorite.)
  2. Everyone loves my apple pies!
  3. How many apple pies have you made?
  4. The sugar bowl is in the cupboard. Help yourself!

About critics:

  1. Some jerks are actually trying to be helpful, they just suck at it.
  2. The criticism has a grain of truth in it.
  3. Maybe your critic is a jerk.

Possible responses:

  1. Thank you for your observation. … Gratitude.
  2. What makes you say that? … Cause.
  3. How might I address this issue? … Solution.
  4. Wow! I hadn’t thought of it that way. … Exploration.

How might leaders respond to criticism in areas where they feel they excel?

What’s important about offering criticisms?

**This post reflects our conversation. It is not verbatim.