Anyone in a prominent position or in any type of leadership is going to receive criticism by the bucketful. It comes with the job. And while criticism naturally hurts, it’s wonderful for growth. But how do we handle criticism? Don’t buy into the lie that the criticism is always true OR that you are never in the wrong. I’ve developed 12 tips to handling criticism well from my time as a pastor and leader. Hopefully these will help you face criticism well!
- Determine how broad-based the criticism is. People have a tendency to say it’s everybody: “Everybody thinks the new protocol is terrible.” Whenever somebody uses that word, I always ask “Who is everybody? “Oh, I don’t want to betray any confidence.” Well then I’m not going to respond. You tell me who they are so we actually deal with this issue. In all my years, I have never had a criticism where someone specifically said everybody feels this way and it was true. Don’t buy into that line. That said, it is important that you determine how broad-based the criticism is because there ARE times when criticisms represent the general consensus. If a criticism is universal, then you as a leader must sit down and examine:
- Am I communicating? Am I making sure that I’m getting across my message and intention?
- If I am communicating, what’s the problem? Meaning is the problem with me? Is the problem with my attitude? Is the problem with the issue that we’re dealing with?
- I call together a group of representative people, whether it be leaders or people of that group and ask them “How do you feel about this issue?” And if the criticism is confirmed through them, then as the leader I need to take the time for deal with the issue by examining myself and growing.
- Keep your attitude right. The last thing you want to do is get defensive. You need to keep your attitude right. If you get hurt and defensive there is no way you can objectively deal with the issue. If you feel yourself getting defensive or hurt, then you need to surround yourself with people who can help give you some perspective. Other leaders can broaden your perspective because they may have dealt with a similar issue. Their experience can give you insight into how you should handle things. As a leader you will be constantly dealing with other people and their attitudes. But the main thing that you are personally responsible for is going to be your own attitude! It’s ok, and healthy, to find fellow healthy leaders who you can vent to. But it is not ok to continue to vent about the same issues. It’s ok to say I’m hurt, I don’t understand, give me some perspective. Just don’t camp out there.
- Offer resistance when the other person needs it. We should always be accepting of people regardless of where they are initially. If someone says they have a problem, we accept they have a problem. If someone says they’re challenged by something, we accept the fact that they’re challenged by something. But as they continue to come to you with criticism or a particular problem, you need to begin to set boundaries and offer resistance. Otherwise, you’re just facilitating their behavior. The problem is that we don’t always know what the real problem is. We just assume we know. But if we offer resistance by asking good questions and pushing deeper, it might be the first time that person has been offered healthy resistance—and because of that they may be able to grow and learn. Ask yourself, do I care enough for this person that I don’t care what they think about me? Sometimes we don’t offer resistance because we’re afraid about what the other person will think about us. But that’s not leadership. If you don’t start setting boundaries, you can find yourself in a hole that you’ll never climb out of with that individual. In order to have a healthy relationship to someone you’re leading, you need to offer a healthy amount of resistance.
Have you ever offered resistance to a friend or someone you were leading? Share your experience below!
Join me Friday for part four on handling criticism.