Embrace the Pain: Using Criticism and Feedback to Grow as a Leader

To this day Benjamin Franklin has his fair share of admirers, but he was more interested in those who didn’t always agree with him, saying, “Critics are our friends, they show us our faults.”

When new leaders and managers are faced with criticism of their organization or them­selves, we find too frequently the impulsive reaction to dismiss that criticism, squash the negativity and perhaps fire those negative people.

Great leadership requires getting beyond the initial shock of friends and former peers calling you out for ideas and behavior that until your promotion may have made you “one of them.”

So how do you get past that shock? Follow these tips and join me Aug. 5 and Sept. 16 at info sessions for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Emerging Leaders Program, which will help new leaders tackle new challenges.

Leaders search for opportunities to change the status quo.
Dismissal of critics can be a mistake. These critics are often passionate about your organization and you, but can’t artfully voice the desire for improvement.

Worse, when you ignore them, they are denied an opportunity to contribute, collaborate and feel part of an organization. (Click here to read our white paper on why critics both outside and inside an organization need a voice.) Disengagement leads to unhappiness, which, in turn, leads to lowered productivity. As a result you lose an opportunity to keep your critics engaged in your success.

Properly harnessed criticism and complaints can be turned into constructive feedback that can be used to improve professional development programs, products, services and strategic planning.

It starts with the ask.
Properly constructed, 360-degree tools can contain criticism of management or leadership and filter it. Not only are critics given a voice, but also a platform to constructively and candidly engage with company management and leadership, which can lead to change. Research has proven that if the correct behavior change is sustained, it will improve an organization’s effectiveness.

Custom surveys can also be used to capture qualitative data and feedback about products and services. Properly con­structed with statistical validity, these surveys can help interpret changing consumer tastes, competitive threats and demographic trends. Also, this data can be used as leading-edge indicators that drive innovation efforts and strategic planning, as well as risk identifi­cation and risk manage­ment.

While criticism may be misdirected or downright mean-spirited, using survey tools can contain the criticism and engage the criticizer. Done right, survey tools will filter the feedback into useful and meaningful data that can be used to improve leaders and managers, improving the productivity and profitability of your organization.

Want to learn more about the Emerging Leaders Program? Click here to register for the info session on either Aug. 5 or Sept. 16.

Ken Greenberg is the CEO of KLG Consultants, LLC, a talent acquisition and management firm based in Colorado. The firm offers large company, C-level talent on an outsourced and permanent hire basis to organizations of all sizes.  The firm also offers executive training and coaching that drives organizational performance.

Visit klgconsultants.com for more information.

[Photo by Ryan McGuire]