Berger Leadership Blog

Why you need criticism to grow

Dan BergerJust as there is no success without failure, there is no improvement without criticism. Many of us likely are our own worst critic, but being able to take someone's constructive criticism in stride and grow from it is the sign of a great leader.

In a recent blog, leadership guru Dan Rockwell explains how criticism, if poorly handled, can derail leadership. Instead, he offers ways to help leaders "gain advantage from criticism":

  • Courageously open your heart. Humility is an important trait for leaders to have. Humble leaders acknowledge their limitations, delegate responsibilities effectively, and demonstrate that they care about people's wellbeing. One quality that does not fall under this trait: defensiveness. Rockwell says, "defensiveness derails growth and development," so he offers some mantras to keep leaders down-to-earth:
  1. I'm not great at everything.
  2. I aspire to improve.
  3. I'm not as smart as I think I am.
  4. I'm not as right as I think I am.
  5. I could be wrong.
  6. Other people are better than me at some things.
  7. They could be right.
  8. Maybe there's another way.
  • Don't hide behind the imperfection of critics. We try to justify things we don't want to hear or believe. We come up with excuses for why someone isn't qualified to give us advice, but here's a news flash – none of us are perfect. As a leader, you must put your ego aside and recognize the value others bring to the table. Constructive criticism can come from above or below you on the organizational chart; I recommend using these tips to start encouraging your team to provide you with honest feedback.
  • Release pressure of all-or-nothing thinking. Take time to digest criticism. There's no need to launch immediately into addressing it, and maybe the issue brought to your attention could be addressed better by another approach. Rockwell recommends you express gratitude, commit to reflection, take notes, and seek positive suggestions.

Criticism has a negative connotation, but it is not inherently mean. We should all have coworkers, friends, and family in our corner that are willing to help us be the best version of ourselves.

Rockwell's tips can help you develop a mindset to deal with criticism in a positive way, but don't get too focused on improvement areas. Be sure to take time to reflect on what you're doing right, too.

Follow me on Twitter (@BDanBerger).

About the Author

B. Dan Berger, President and CEO, NAFCU

Dan BergerB. Dan Berger first joined NAFCU in 2006 and has helped expand the association's reputation into becoming a premiere advocate for the credit union industry.

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