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  • Writer's pictureDoug Fleener

Criticism and Leadership

Criticism is evaluating, analyzing, or judging the merits and faults of a work, idea, or action. It can apply to many domains, such as art, literature, music, philosophy, and social behavior.

Criticism is a natural aspect of human communication and interaction, where one expresses disagreement or disapproval towards something related to another, such as their actions, behavior, or performance.

I recently watched the movie Otto with Tom Hanks. I loved it. That’s praise. If I explained how I loved everything but one part, I would be criticizing the one element I didn’t like.

But as a leader, criticism can hurt your team, their performance, and your results. The negative impacts mainly result from improper delivery or reception of criticism. Instead of fostering improvement, criticism can deflate someone’s self-esteem, trigger anxiety, and lead to turnover. Constant criticism leaves individuals feeling devalued, sparking fear of failure. Of course, it then results in failure.

Have you worked for a highly critical manager? I did. Nice guy. Which made the criticism even harder to process. I realized after working for him that the guy never praised me. Didn’t give instructive feedback. Just criticized. If you sold $30k in a day, he said you should have sold $35k.

As a leader, you must evaluate and analyze people and their work. What you don’t need to do is judge.

You do need to tell people how they're doing. You do it with praise and instructive feedback. Explain to people how they can be better. But if you criticize, you’re sure to impact performance and results. Just in the wrong way.

Leaders in recovery need to be especially careful to avoid criticism. We sometimes struggle with our self-esteem, which we overcompensate by being judgmental. Resulting in criticism. Resulting in fractured relationships. Resulting in not a good day.

Remember, leaders give feedback. Not criticism.

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