Five Steps to Handle Criticism

We’ve all dealt with criticism in the past.  It’s not always what we want to hear, but it’s something we need.  It’s imperative for organizational leaders to be able to accept constructive criticism as a learning experience, so they can further act in the betterment of the organization.  We sign ourselves up to be criticized when we become leaders, since not everyone is going to agree with the decisions we make.  As such, we need to be open to constructive criticism when it comes.  Here are five things that I believe great leaders should do to handle constructive criticism:

1.  Acknowledge the criticism.

This means that you are aware of what others are saying about you.  By acknowledging your critics, you show that you do care about what others say about how you do your job, and you are aware of what they are saying.  Leaders are well-known within their organizations, and people will know if you try to “sweep things under the rug”.  When others see that you’re aware of your critics, it can also show people that you are honest with them.

2. Understand the other person’s point of view.

Communication is a two-way street.  If you want others to understand where you are coming from, you should give the others a chance to voice their opinions so you can see where they are coming from.  Take the time to understand why your critic(s) feel the way they do about you as a leader, and you might learn something about yourself you didn’t know before.  If you still don’t agree with what they’re saying, tell them your take on the situation and how you’ve approached the choices you’ve made.  Even if you don’t come to an agreement, at least you’ve built some mutual respect for each other.

3.  Own up to your mistakes.

No one is made to be perfect, and that includes you.  Everyone makes mistakes at some point, it’s just a matter of how you move on from those mistakes.  There’s no humiliation in admitting that you’ve made a mistake.  It takes a lot of courage and honesty to do such a thing, and I think it’s something to be respected when a leader admits that they might have done something wrong.  If anything, it’s admirable.

4. Create action steps to fix the problem.

Once you admit to making a mistake, it’s time to fix it.  What can you do next time to prevent the same mistakes from happening again?  The best start would be to create some action steps to correct the problem.  Open up some discussion with your critic(s) regarding the issue and ask for their suggestions on improvement.  By creating these action steps, it becomes easier to not repeat the mistake in the future.

5. Check progress.

Go talk to the person who pointed out your mistakes and let them assess your progress.  Simply tell them that you still remember their criticisms and that you’ve taken the steps to learn from those mistakes.  I feel this is something that leaders need to do more of because it leaves a very positive impression in the other person’s mind, as they know that their leaders care about their suggestions.

If you’re receiving constructive criticism from people, it’s a good sign, because it shows that people care about your development as a leader, as well as the well-being of your organization.   Remember, it’s not about never making a mistake, it’s about learning from your mistakes and making the right changes so you can lead your organization to the best of your ability.

Related Thoughts:

10 Ways to Get the Most from Criticism

How to Respond to Criticism without Being Defensive

John Maxwell:  4 Steps to Handling Criticism

How do you handle criticism?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by commenting below.


3 thoughts on “Five Steps to Handle Criticism

  1. drdebbright

    Great advice! Only one criticism! Editors and psychologists would comment that “constructive criticism” is an oxymoron. So what we are left with is a dilemma of what to call it- one suggestion would be “quality criticism”.

    The author gets accolades for calling it what it is- criticism. Too often organizations shy away from the word and try to disguise it by calling it feedback, negative feedback, critical conversation, caring confrontation, or fierce conversation. The author is straight forward and has earned my respect!

  2. Pingback: Why You Should Accept Resistance | Live to Lead

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