Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Fire Your Fear For Criticism
No-one ever had ‘criticism’ listed as their cause of death. No-one is immune to the human tendency to avoid negativity. No-one can deny having ever dreaded and feared that which makes them feel uncomfortable.
When criticism comes your way, when your ideas are questioned, you can start with the following three steps:
a. De-personalize the criticism and detach yourself emotionally
When stakes and visibility are high and when you’re passionate about a proposal, approach or project, it is highly likely that you act human – that is with an almost instinctive, defensive gut reaction. This is generally not productive. To take in criticism without allowing it to overwhelm and crush you, don’t turn to the person handing out the criticism but turn to yourself. Turn to your own assumptions, interpretations and judgments about criticism and stop speculating about the motives behind the criticism. De-personalize the feedback by looking at it as an outsider would. Rather than seeing it as a personal attack, see it as a piece of information that can enrich your thinking and improve your performance.
b. Distinguish between productive and unproductive feedback
Some feedback is simply not worth your time. The criticism might be too detailed, lack relevance, it might be untimely, or based on incorrect information. In these cases, don’t waste your time and energy rebutting or fighting the criticism or getting all worked up about it. However! I wish to interject a big “However”: Be truthful and accountable for how you judge the relevance of criticism and avoid hiding behind excuses. Is the criticism really too detailed, untimely, off-focus or is that merely your way of ducking for unpleasant perspectives, feelings and possible consequences?
c. Consult with people you trust
Criticism that is meant to be productive and that appears to be genuine deserves your attention. Be sure to be curious, to ask clarifying questions, and to invite candor and directness. Research and evaluate the criticism as if it were a business problem. Discuss the criticism with trusted people within or outside your department or organization. If you really wish to be a life-long learner I suggest you make it a habit to consult with people who don’t look, think and act like you do. Seek out people who dare to disagree with you, who care enough to be clear and direct, and who truly add a different perspective.
The bottom line
If you conclude that the criticism has merit, use it as a trigger to help you adapt and grow as a person and within your role. Criticism is a perspective, criticism is information. Information that can help you uncover blind spots. Criticism is information that can help close the gap between your intentions and the effects you create. Criticism is information that can fill in the gaps between how you think you are being perceived and how you are really perceived. The better you know yourself and the effects you have on others and on the business, the more you will learn, grow and add value.
Toss out toxic criticism, fire your fear for critique, and get going with the ever-lasting game of growing.