Most leaders I know aren’t enamored with being criticized. We are quick to defend ourselves against any verbal assault, valid or otherwise. Instead of viewing negative feedback as an opportunity for improvement, we tend to dismiss whatever truth might be lurking in the words and assume the other person is only out to hurt us.
Is it any wonder that so many teams struggle to hold each other accountable when being frank in their conversations with each other is rarely encouraged? In fact, many of the most powerful leaders in the worlds of politics, business, and religion seem to view criticism as an anathema. “How dare you question my motives, effort, intellect, or decisions?” they seem to imply through their words and actions.
Tibetan Master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche taught his followers how to use criticism as an chance for self-improvement. He said, “When you are criticized, accept it as an opportunity to acknowledge your hidden faults and increase your humility. Criticism is like a teacher, destroying attachment and pride.”
While I will always prefer a word of praise to negative feedback, I have come to appreciate the courage of clients and friends who point out my faults and offer insights about how to improve the work I am doing. Those who confront me face-to-face about my behavior or who challenge my assumptions about ideas and issues are offering me a gift. Like the challenging process of refining gold, continually being made aware of our faults and then following the advice of mentors and teachers, allows us to grow and improve as leaders.
Leaders who encourage their team to be frank with each other and with them will soon discover a greater level of trust, commitment, and accountability develops among everyone. A cohesive, healthy team knows that negative constructive feedback and criticism is something to be encouraged and practiced regularly. It turns out that being frank has its perks.