As a leader, it is inevitable that you will be Scrutinised, Ridiculed and Criticised by everyone, from your Competitors to your Critics. It is human nature to be taken back by a Fiery personal attack or criticism of how you go about your business, but a true leader knows the techniques to stand strong in the face of adversary and demonstrate their Solidarity. Here are 3CM's 11 Steps to facing Criticism:
Step 1: Acknoweldge that you will be criticised.
Recognise that you as a leader, will have faults. Someone will always be out to put you on the defensive...it's an occupational hazard. Awareness of this will make the criticism easier to accept. Remeber the saying: 'They who shrink from criticism cannot be showered safely with praise.'
Step 2: Show up and face your criticism as soon as possible.
Criticism is often the result of faulty communication. Whether you believe the criticism is fair or unfair, it's important if possible to make personal contact with your critic. Open dialogue will prevent build-up of resentment and help defuse a potentially damaging confrontation. Your actions must demonstrate Transparency and willingness to engage with those who disagree with you.
Step 3: Keep your cool and be calm.
When people criticise you to your face, breathe deeply. Don't raise your voice and wave your arms about. The more control you have of your emotions, the stronger you will appear. If you have a chance to respond, as the critic’s voice rises, lower yours. Speak deliberately and with a sense of calm. The way you vivdly respond to criticism will be remembered more vividly later than the argument you present in reply.
Step 4: Listen to the criticism with an open mind.
Let your critics criticise openly and safely. resist the temptation to interrupt with defensive and justifiable counter-arguments. Don't let your emotions block your listening. Weigh the words carefully as you hear them. be courteous. Angry critics in particular need to be listened to before they will be prepared to hear your point of view.
Step 5 : Clarify the criticism, separate facts from stories.
To understand your critic's perspective fully, seek further details and insist it be based on facts. Facts are an actual occurence, something that can be proven through observation or measurement (e.g. what you saw vs what you thought you saw).
Step 6: Find any hidden causes for the criticism.
Analyse the credentials, identity, and motives of your critics. are they just passing the buck to save themselves. Are they critising merely to compensate for their own faults or to vent their rage? Is this one criticising from a genuine desire to improve your performance? is this a chronic complainer? Look out for the three clever stories, the victim stories, the villian stories and the helpless stories.
Step 7: Acknowledge your shortcomings.
When you meet your critics head- on, it is an opportunity to admit any failings on your part. Admitting mistakes allows you to act with honest confidence.
Step 8: Encourage your critic to offer a solution.
How might you have better handled the situation that generated the criticism? invite your critics to work with you to find a workable compromise. Ask them what are they prepared to contribute towards it.. Often such a discussion can clarify roles, change priorities, and cause responsibilities to be shared.
Step 9: Take appropriate action by responding positively or criticise gently.
The spotlight may be on you, but the heat is also on your critic/s. Give as good as you get, but do it with a sense of diplomacy. If the situation permits, a good natured jibe here or there is good for you as well as with others. It reveals your humanity.
Step 10: Acknowledge criticism with courtesy and follow up.
Thank your critics for pointing out the aspects of your behaviour that upset them. Don't sulk, lighten things up by relaxing your facial muscles. This demonstrates that you are in control. Smile when appropriate, but avoid the now-famous Peter Costello smirk. Don’t let them see you sweat, either. Smiling help to keep you on a more even keel. If your critics' grievances or suggestions were valid and helped you perform better, let them know about it because criticism often does improve overall performance.
Step 11: Leave them wanting more.
Don’t hang around for too long after an event in which you have been a key player. Everyone wanted to rub shoulders with the delegate who acknowledged his critic, but he ‘disappeared’ into the crowd: there was no need for him to stay around and mingle and soak-up the attention. Do ‘an Elvis’ and leave the building.
When the heat is on, showing your face to your harshest critics is a great way to demonstrate that you are in control of yourself as well as your message. Standing up to those who oppose you is a strong measure of demonstrating that you’ve got what it takes.