The great thing about the political silly season is watching and listening to the amazing antics and superlatives that accompany each politician’s rallies. There is a valuable leadership lesson I would not want any student of leadership or executive who is responsible for leading their team to success to miss. Learn the proper use of this one concept and your leadership capacity will increase exponentially. You win every time!
What is the concept? In a word—CRITICISIM!
As a leader you should be aware that the quickest way to crush enthusiasm and the spirit of a team member and eventually the team itself is criticism. Everyone, you included, wants to feel important. I know some of my more humble readers may be disagreeing with that thought. It’s OK. It is human nature. We, all of us, are born with desires. We are all born with the desire for good health, food, safety, long life, prosperity (aka: gratification), and a strong desire for feeling good about ourselves.
Criticism, regardless of the intent of the criticism, treads on the desire to feel good about one’s self. The phrase “constructive criticism” is anything but! Yes, the person on the receiving end of that constructive criticism appears to be taking the criticism in the spirit you intended. In most cases they are not taking it well. The smile or the pleasant look the subject of the criticism is giving you belies the indignation the person has for you. Moreover, the person will, at best shut down, or worse, cast blame to someone else and shut down effectively throwing another team member, as the vernacular of the day would call it, under the bus. The cohesive team has now been dismantled.
Those running for political office are great examples of the human inability to accept criticism. Pay particular attention to your candidate of choice, any will do, and listen to how they respond to criticism. In most, if not all, instances, blame is shifted to someone else for the issue being criticized.
My advice is to learn how to use praise and encouragement vice criticism.
It is human nature to want to feel good about one’s self. Employees and team members want to use their talents to accomplish a task. Recognition, sincere recognition, will get more results from your team than any type of criticism thinkable. This includes “honest feedback,” code for brace yourself, I have something to say and you are not going to like it.
Your team members will go through brick walls for the leader that seeks out opportunities to recognize them, singularly and collectively, for their accomplishments. There is a danger if you are not sincere or are recognizing less than stellar achievement. The key to using recognition and encouragement is to withhold it as your statement of disapproval when the situation warrants. Giving recognition for just showing up or just meeting the mark will diminish what you are working to achieve.
Charles Schwab once gave excellent advice on the use of praise. He said “There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of a man as criticisms from his superiors. I never criticize anyone. I believe in giving a man incentive to work. So I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. If I like anything, I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise.” Charles Schwab was considered one of the great business leaders of his time. Having led men and women as a Marine Officer and a businessman, I concur whole-heartedly with Charles Schwab.
In order to lead effectively at any level, to win, learn to appreciate the accomplishments of your team. Be their biggest fan and you will be surprised at the results you accomplish.