Garbage Stinks – How to Benefit from Praise, Criticism, and Failure
Don’t drag garbage from the last thing you did into the next thing you do. Learn and throw it out.
Respond to the present with the future in mind. Past failure teaches you what to stop. The future calls you to try new things.
Any fool can point out failure and warn of danger. Critics matter when they’re helpful, which might be an oxymoron.
Preventing failure only matters if you’re moving forward.
Criticism and correction matter when they:
- Teach you from past mistakes. But understand the limits of learning from past mistakes. Failure teaches you what to stop. You touched a hot burner. What’s the lesson? Don’t do that again!
- Motivate you to pursue excellence. A critic that sharpens your mind helps you, as long as you release drama. Stop obsessing about the opinions of people you don’t like and don’t respect.
- Help you build the future. Critics are good at stopping things. Critics bring value when they add positive suggestions. (But chronic critics don’t know what they want. They just know what they don’t like.)
One harsh critic is louder than ten loud fans. But raving fans aren’t that helpful either.
Affirmation and praise matter when they:
- Challenge you. The people who love you tend to agree with you. But that’s the path to mediocrity.
- Affirm character and hard work. “You worked hard,” is better than, “You did a good job.”
- Look toward the future. Point out the good AND look to the future. “What’s next,” is more powerful than, “Good job.” (Allow time between accomplishment and challenge. Savor victory for a day or two, then ask, “What’s next?”)
How might leaders get the most out of criticism and praise?
How might leaders use criticism and praise to build-up others?
“One harsh critic is louder than ten loud fans. But raving fans aren’t that helpful either.”
I love praise. Criticism hurts. False praise from sycophants is harmful. Criticism that is true is helpful. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it is hard to tell who is helping and who is hurting.
Maybe the question is, how is this helpful?
How might leaders get the most out of criticism and praise? By sharing the results of similar events. Show what we can do with these tools.
How might leaders use criticism and praise to build-up others? When we choose the path of constructive criticism and praise we build, add in subordinate critiquing and rebellion may develop. If all parties have each others respect then I see win/win situation.
Thanks Tim. Respect makes words matter. If we don’t respect each other, we don’t listen to each other.
How might leaders get the most out of criticism and praise? (To draw upon learning from YOU over the past couple of years) humility and forward-facing curiosity! The humility to put all criticism and praise in proper perspective- as responses to the moment/ situation and rarely as deep dives into personal character; to know that criticism is not about utter incompetence nor praise an indication of “arrival”! The humble leader will not promote self by camping in a spotlight of self-pity or self-congratulation, but will seek to know – with forward facing curiosity- the WHYs of the criticism/ praise (whether personal or situational) and what can be learned from them in order to adjust and move forward. ** I so agree- “good job” is nice to hear but means absolutely nothing when it comes to what to do next; (as I am coming to learn) humility tells me that good work now does not guarantee good work later without forward facing curiosity about what made that work “good” and how to carry that learning into future planning/ collaborating/ leading. Thanks for all of your guidance Dan!
Thanks Karen. It’s encouraging to see that you’re learning the practice of humility. It’s a process. 🙂
The expression that comes to mind as I read your comment is, “Don’t take it personally.” It’s not about YOU it’s about what you DID.
Hi Dan and all,
Good job often means ” I see you ” and is neither criticism or praise. It’s encouragement, the verbal thumbs up. Let’s not underestimate the value of noticing. If you want to hone it, hone it, but don’t miss small opportunities to stay in touch and encourage while waiting for the chance to make a bigger comment or speech about the future
Thanks Cate. Yes, noticing matters. I suppose the issue is what and how do you notice. Having said that, all noticing has impact. Negative noticing as well as positive.
This stands out, “Stop obsessing about the opinions of people you don’t like and don’t respect.” When I started doing this many years ago I was free to explore, to blaze new pathways and to succeed and yes fail forward. It’s such a free feeling when you can stop that activity. Freedom baby freedom to roam.
Thanks Roger. Glad you found something to spark your thoughts. Your connection between freedom and obsession about the opinions of others feels important.
We cannot be free when we are controlled by the opinions of others.
Dan; “We Cannot be free when we are controlled by the opinions of others” How come so many do not see this in everything they do, is it a lack of confidence, knowledge, passion or just laziness? I wonder as I see this play out all over. I am blessed in that I can share with my 24 year old son these issues and he can tell me what he see’s in his college peers. He believes it’s confidence in one’s self that drives it and we always seem to come back to that aspect.
Great question, Roger. Your suggestion about confidence makes sense. I’ll add that we need a sense of identity that is based on who WE aspire to become. We spend our early life working to become what others want us to be. That’s not all bad. Our parents and teachers are molding us. But, at some point, it’s important to take our previous learning and own it for ourselves.
I also think the idea of ‘please yourself’ has a selfish component. Yes, please yourself, but don’t be a self-serving person.
Thanks for food for thought.
“It’s not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It’s the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our very being is good stuff.”
Mr. Rogers was a smart man.
Dan, when I first started reading your blog about 18 months I was constantly reminded of my inherent inability to lead. Ugh. I wanted better for myself, and those who rely on me. I steadfastly worked on my inside-out transformation, and my interpersonal skills have increased.
I lost someone’s trust recently by not being responsive. I am typically not a wooer or someone who restores relationships. However this time, I used the opportunity to assertively engage and rely on my new strengths (moral courage, empathy, connection, inclusion, strategic, and futuristic) instead of being defensive. I was persistent about restoring a relationship which was unusual for me. The irony I wooed and restored by authentically relying on my other strengths. I prevented a young man from becoming my foe unnecessarily. He instantly felt validated, felt the need to shake my hand, and the groundwork for stronger mutual respect was laid.
I instinctively took the three steps above after feeling unspoken criticism. I tapped into strengths I used to be unaware of or were underdeveloped before.
I was compelled to write about the unseen impact your blog has. Thank you.
Thank you Anil. Your kind words are an encouragement. You might have received some benefit from Leadership Freak, but you did the work!
Relationships can be messy. It’s so good to read that you brought good out of difficult. Best wishes for the future.
I know many people in leadership positions. These are not the type of people who wish to have their leadership credentials questioned. They have egos, big egos at that. There are leaders who can discern between an innocuous question and a personal attack on their character. These are leaders who have developed emotional intelligence. As well as mastered a neutral state-of-mind to balance out their thoughts/thinking process. In my opinion this is a true leader, someone who can detect and weed out nonsense and all the while stick to the business at hand.
Thanks ZK. Your insights are important. Keep your eye on the prize. ONe of the challenges of leadership is not being distracted.
Leaders should not use criticism and praise to manipulate behaviour for their own benefit i.e. bonuses…
Thanks Gerry. I think the difference between manipulation and influence is motivation. Manipulation acts with self-interest in mind. Influence acts with the interest of others in mind.
Criticisms is hard to hear, and I am not sure that it ever gets easier. Maintaining your composure and responding with compassion and grace can be quite a challenge, naturally. It is difficult to take the information from critics and consider it as feedback to help you to improve your personal or occupational performance. In order to get the most from these critiques sometimes you just have to be compassionate towards yourself. The moment of receiving the criticism does not have the be the same moment that you graciously accept the advice and learn the changes you need to make to move forwards. Immediately reacting can prevent opportunities to learn and influence “spur of the moment” decisions. Take some time to absorb the information and reflect on why you may have received it or what the critic may have been thinking. Try not to take it personally, as hard as that may be, but consider it more as collected data. It can be helpful to ask yourself, “From this data, what have I learned?” or “What changes does this feedback highlight the need for?”
Giving yourself the time to reflect before acting demonstrates respectable leadership. Recognize the validity of the criticism, make the necessary changes or adjustments, and move forward.