Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dealing with Criticism

When I became a pastor over 26 years ago  and was, for the first time, in a real leadership position, my greatest desire was to please everybody all the time.  I worked hard to do that.  It did not take long for that dream to die a quick death.  The first time I was faced with criticism, I was devastated.  As hard as I was working to please people, I could not understand why someone would question my actions - or even worse, question my motives.  That was a defining moment in my life.

I learned the hard way that if you are a leader you will be criticized.  And criticism will come from those within your organization and from those outside of your organization.  Criticism will come from enemies, from friends, even from complete strangers.  Some of the criticism will be true, some will be false, and some may be outright malicious.  But as one wise person said, “If you’re getting kicked in the rear it means you’re out in front.”  If you’re going to be a leader, you’re going to be criticized.  So you better learn how to handle criticism constructively.

Here are four things I would encourage you to consider when handling criticism.

1. Consider Yourself
Know your strengths and weaknesses.  Know your purpose and passion.  When you are faced with a critic who says to you, “Let me tell you what you are not good at” if they are correct you can look at them and say, “I agree, can you help me in this area?”

2. Consider the Critic
Is the critic friend or foe?  If it is a person who is simply out to hurt you, then you may not need to give much weight to the criticism.  If the critic is a friend or loved one who has your best interest in mind then you need to give more weight to what he or she is saying.

3. Consider the Criticism.
How was it given?  Were the words judgmental or did they give me the benefit of the doubt?  What was the spirit in which the criticism was given?  Was it given to inflict a personal hurt or for my benefit?  Even if the criticism is from someone who is out to hurt me, is there an element of truth in their criticism?  I have found that there is some truth in every criticism no matter who it comes from.

4. Reconsider Yourself
If there is any truth in the criticism, take note of it, quit whining, and make the necessary changes.  I have become a better leader because of changes I made as a result of criticism.  If you will handle the critic this way, even the person who was out to simply hurt you has actually helped you.

The truth is: criticism will never stop.  If you are able to get to this fourth step, criticism won’t have a negative effect in your life.  Remember, “If you’re getting kicked in the rear, it means you’re out front.”