The best leaders never stop growing. The input of others is an essential component for a well rounded leader. We all have blindspots that inhibit our performance. In spite of that, most people do not respond constructively to criticism. Elbert Hubbard observed, “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” If you are engaged in meaningful work, you will attract attention—both positive and negative. We have three tips to leverage criticism as a tool for growth.
1. Be open. Most criticism is brushed off before it has a chance to affect positive change. The moment you realize you’re being criticized, it’s natural for your defenses to go up. Take a beat. Time will give you the perspective you need to evaluate whether or not the message rings true. Signal your willingness to engage with a response such as, “Can I take some time to consider what you’ve brought to my attention?”
2. Receive the good. Your goal when assessing criticism should not be to poke holes in it. Aim to learn at least one way you can improve. This shift in thinking transforms criticism from your enemy to your ally. Embrace the opportunity. Even if you decide the criticism is unfounded (And beware of thinking that: usually there is at least a grain of truth in every critique!), it clues you in to how your actions are being perceived. You may need to adjust your tone or manner moving forward.
3. Express thanks. Follow up with the individual who offered the criticism. Offer genuine thanks and share how you’ve integrated their feedback. When you respond positively to criticism, you signal that you are part of a collaborative team that is working together.