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How to Take Criticism and Be a Great Leader

Wednesday January 31st 2018

As a leader in your company, you are not immune to criticism. Your style of leadership will be under constant scrutiny by the members of your team, as they observe your communication style, your effectiveness as a leader and your impact on the company culture. Additionally, the way you handle criticism will either make or break your reputation within the office. Earn the respect of your subordinates and colleagues by welcoming and accepting constructive criticism and using it to better yourself and the company you represent.

It’s Not Personal; It’s Business

You’ve heard the phrase a million times – it’s not personal; it’s business. When dealing with criticism in the workplace, those sentiments could never be more pertinent. When faced with criticism on your leadership skills, don’t take it personally. Rather, accept it and own it as an opportunity to create positive change not just for yourself, but for your employees and the environment you are providing for them. If constructive criticism is offered, recognize that it is being offered by people who are looking to contribute to a more positive company culture. It is not an attack on you personally, but a chance to grow and develop your leadership skills in order to better manage your team. Accepting critiques can only make you a better leader and a stronger force for positive change, which will make you invaluable to your company.

Don’t React. Respond.

The hardest part of accepting criticism is learning how to listen patiently without reacting. It isn’t easy to hear negative feedback about yourself, but the way you listen and respond will shape the relationships you build with your team. If you welcome criticism and accept the fact that as a leader you are not immune to it, your team will offer it in a respectful, constructive manner. If you react defensively or in anger, you are likely to stifle the types of conversations that are needed to improve your company culture.

When criticism is offered, listen first. Do not interrupt or offer an excuse or defense. After all, whether you agree with the critique or not, the simple fact is that someone on your team believes you needed to hear it. So really listen. Put away all distractions, focus on the conversation and make sure that you acknowledge the thoughts being shared with you. Once you’ve heard the critique in its entirety, respond thoughtfully and positively. Encourage useful criticism by making a change to improve the environment for your employees. Keep the lines of communication open, and not just for praise. If your team knows you are willing to make changes on their behalf, their respect for you and trust in your leadership will be solidified.

Build Relationships

Changing the conversation around criticism into a positive learning experience goes a long way to becoming a great leader. But it is the relationships you build with your team that will really impact the way criticism is offered and received. Get to know your team on a more personal level and get rid of the “us vs. them” mentality that is often shared between management and subordinates. Operate as a team, acknowledging that you are all working towards the same goals and seeking success as a unit. Demonstrate respect and trust in the abilities and opinions of each member of your team and they will surely reciprocate. Developing strong relationships with your employees will decrease your chances of receiving harsh criticism and increase the likelihood that they will feel comfortable offering respectful, constructive criticism in a positive manner. The combination of a great working relationship with open communication is the foundation of every successful team.

Remember, when you receive a critique, it doesn’t mean you are failing as a leader. It simply means that your team recognizes an opportunity for greatness and respects you enough to give you that opportunity to grow and build a stronger, more successful company.

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