A Conversation with a Critic
Leaders don’t have to search for critics. They attract them.
I’m often in the position to hear negative feedback about leaders that I coach. Everyone judges a leader’s performance. Even those who think you’re great have passed judgement.
People who don’t like you are more helpful than those who think you’re great, when it’s time to improve. Bill Gates put it this way, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
Critic: “You never listen”
Leader: “I’m so glad you said something. Thank you. I have to say it stings a little. I want to be a good listener. When you see me not listening, what do you see me doing?”
Critic: “You always interrupt.”
Leader: “Could you remind me of a time when you saw me interrupting?”
Critic: “The last time we met in the hall, you cut me off when I was explaining a production issue.”
Leader: “Yes, I remember that. I’m sorry. If I listened better, what would you see me doing?”
Critic: “You wouldn’t be looking down the hall. You’d look at people.”
Leader: “Thanks. Anything else I might do to listen better?”
(Ask for at least three suggestions.)
Leader: “I’m so thankful for your suggestions. I need some time to think this over. I’ll touch base with you next week.”
12 elements of the conversation:
- Express gratitude.
- Practice vulnerability.
- Declare positive intentions.
- Go with negatives.
- Invite clarification.
- Define behaviors. Clarify broad statements like, “You never listen.”
- Seek examples.
- Turn toward positives. “If I listened better, what would you see me doing?”
- Identify three or four positive behaviors. Solve problems with behaviors.
- Don’t make rash commitments.
- End with gratitude.
- Ignore people who don’t know you.
- Critics often overstate. Don’t answer overstatements.
How might leaders get the most from critics?
When is it good to ignore critics?
By truly listening, paying attention to what your hearing, be open minded your missing a bigger picture.
Ignoring critics if they are naturally negative, some people live their lives in a negative world all the time, move on, life’s too short.
We have to determine what works for one person isn’t a ” all shoes fit solution”, and there are instances, there is a good solution for all.
Thanks Tim. Hats off to you for consistently sharing your insights. I think I want to write another post on dealing with persistently negative people.
You actually used some of the language that I have in my rough draft but had to delete!!
Your welcome, glad to be a participant!
Dan, I appreciate this post. It is written to leaders. What about the person who works for an overbearing or micromanaging boss? How should that person approach such a conversation?
Thanks Pete. So we need a post about dealing with an Overbearing Micro-manager? Hmmm. I’ll have to think that one over.
We know that people leave bosses not organizations. So it’s an important topic. I wish managers understood how important they are to employee satisfaction and engagement.
The first thought that comes to mind is don’t shoot yourself in the foot by being adversarial.
That’s a good first thought. I do hope you might post something for the one being managed.
Elements of good conversation with a critic:
–Be curious to learn/understand his/her point of view.
–What does the critic do to “always listen”, “never interrupt” etc.? What tips/suggestions do they have for you?
Ignore the critic who only offers vague, general feedback.
Ignore the critic who is condescending.
Thanks Paul. I wish I had used the term “curious”. It’s so powerful. Cheers
Happy Saturday morning Dan!
Great post. I especially like the statement, “Leaders don’t have to search for critics. They attract them.” It is easy for people to take shots at leaders. The very fact that leaders are out in front and visible makes them easy targets.
I also like the last two words of advice. In today’s social media environment, if we listen to everyone “out there,” we will constantly be trying to justify and defend ourselves to people we don’t know and don’t really care about.
Thanks Jay. Good afternoon to you! Great seeing that you dropped in today.
Overall, leaders should anticipate criticism. They often give more encouragement than they receive and get more criticism than they expect.
Knowing who to ignore is freeing. I plan to write a post about who and when to ignore critics.
One suggestion I’ve heard is to ignore people who aren’t prepared to help you move forward. I’ve said it myself. I think there’s some wisdom in that statement. However, we might also miss some useful suggestions.
Great post. I invite feedback – and when it’s not good (rarely – ha!) I try my best to go to the source of the feedback (if not anonymous through a course written eval) and ask “What could I have done better?” or “Could you please explain a little better?” if that feedback is vague and I’m truly not clear of that input. Even when the followup may be negative and I have no intent of changing, I always thank the contributor and express my appreciation – because doing so may encourage that contributor to continue providing feedback to others down the road and they will not perhaps be reluctant to do so if I were to jump them and downplay their current contribution. Thanks, Dan.
Thanks SGT. We shouldn’t give the impression that we are going to do everything a critic suggests. However the conversation is worthwhile and should be received openly. Thanks for your insights. Have a great weekend
Thanks for this topic! Two questions that came to mind after reading today’s post:
1) What might it look like when a leader doesn’t answer an overstatement from a critic? I have been responding to overstatements and generalizations ( “ALL we do is…x, y, or z”…”EVERYONE thinks that…”) by stopping the statement with a clarifying question, “specifically how many people are we talking about?” (they usually don’t have data like that, and/or have to admit it’s the three people they eat lunch with). But I am interested in other ways to manage the overstatement.
2) What about the silent (to your face) critic, who shares, or even promotes criticism of leadership with teammates …a Ninja-Critic…
My suggestion for #1. Require DATA. Ask the person to create a one question survey and ask 10% of the target population to complete the survey. After survey is completed, discuss results.
Paul B. Thornton
True. Only the branch full of ripened fruits gets the maximum throws. Facing throws is an art, well articulated only by experts.