|Criticism is inevitable. As a leader, know that you will get criticized… A LOT (even in successful seasons).
How you handle criticism will be an important piece to your effectiveness and longevity as a leader.
There is a saying “don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from.” My heart wants to follow that advice…but my experience tells a different story. We can learn from everyone…not just those who we would take advice from.
The key to handling criticism is not the ‘who’ but rather the ‘how’.
The key is how you receive and process any and all criticism. Some of my best growth moments came on the heels of getting criticized from someone who I wouldn’t take advice from.
Tips for handling criticism
Remove the ego– This is extremely hard to do but absolutely necessary. We are not above receiving criticism. When the ego is involved, we get defensive, prideful, and don’t learn from our critics. But when we remove our ego it becomes a logical, intellectual, and factual exercise and removes the personal and emotional aspect.
Have a true growth mindset- Many of us say we have a growth mind set but fail to live it out. An ego-less growth mindset sounds like this “This criticism stings, but I need to evaluate and analyze to see if I can learn anything from it. I believe deeply in what we are doing but I want to entertain the fact that I could be wrong”
Detach your identity from your job– Again, hard to do but necessary. When we get criticized it is almost never about us as people. If someone criticizes your decision making, that is not criticizing your personhood but rather your decision making. If it seems that the criticism is personal, again, it is probably more about them and not you. When our identity is attached to our job/profession, it makes it virtually impossible to separate who you are from what you do…which in turn makes it extremely difficult to handle criticism in a helpful and healthy manner.
Recognize their perspective– Everyone has a perspective. When we get criticized by a parent, generally it has to do with their child’s situation. As mentioned above, if a parent criticizes you, especially the irrational type of criticism, it says way more about them than you.
Handling criticism is like a muscle– If we consistently handle criticism with defensiveness and self-protection, that muscle is going to get strong. If we handle criticism void of ego and with a growth mind set, that muscle gets stronger.
Be aware of how you handle praise– I love the quote by Andrew Arndt “To the degree you are moved by praise, you will be crushed by criticism.” Everyone needs affirmation and encouragement. The problem is what it does to our heart. If we ‘need’ or ‘crave’ praise, but get crickets (silence) or criticism, it will often crush us.
Why this is so important
As previously stated, there is a 100% chance that if we are in a position of leadership for more than a week, we will get criticized.
If we are ill-equipped to handle it, we will lose confidence and lose our way. We will consistently be defensive. And believe it or not, we will make decisions with our critics in mind.
This is the great criticism paradox. We ignore, self-protect, and defend ourselves from the criticism but then turn around and allow that criticism to impact our decision making.
It is usually pretty easy to spot when an athlete has lost confidence or lost their way. Spotting that in a leader is a little tougher. But it happens. A LOT. It has happened to me. And it sucks. Again, the very thing we are defending against (criticism), negatively impacts us in big ways.
Steps to handling criticism
When you are criticized…work like crazy to do the following…
1. Recognize your ego and try like crazy to squash it. Remember, we are not above criticism.
2. Ask yourself “Is there any validity to this and if so, what can I learn from this criticism?”
3. Then ask trusted friends if there is any validity to the criticism. These must be ‘truth tellers’.
4. Quickly either move on from the criticism (the personal, irrational type), learn from it, or make the necessary adjustments. Do not wear any criticism heavy. By minimizing your ego, this step becomes much easier to pull off.
The more consistent we are with handling and learning from criticism the less it will effect us.
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