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Three Easy Steps Leaders Should Take When Being Criticized

As a leader, chances are you are used to dolling out constructive criticism to employees in an effort to increase productivity and efficiencies. What happens then when the tables are turned and an underling gives you a bit of advice or a harsh critique? “Accepting criticism is an essential leadership trait yet too many of our leaders in high places, be it team leader, head coach or CEO, do not seem to take it well,” CIO reports.

Being on the receiving end of feedback could be uncomfortable enough to knock even the most confident and stalwart leader out of his or her comfort zone. With that in mind, below are recommended coping techniques that will do more than mitigate bruised egos; they will leverage the opportunity for improved workforce management.

  1. Roll With the Punches. Take your lumps however painful or awkward. It is not an admission of being in the wrong; rather, you are simply acknowledging your employee’s point of view. In listening to your employee be sure not to use it against him or her by terminating or demoting just because you can. Instead, remain calm, respectful and listen.
  1. Pause. Not doing anything can be a difficult impulse to avoid. After all, as a leader chances are you got to your position by taking swift, decisive action. Don’t do it now. Take your time in responding. “When you receive criticism, take a deep breath and thank the person who gave it. If you reflect and then act you will demonstrate a degree of leadership that engenders respect.”
  1. Learn. If after you have had time to digest the information and consider its validity you find the feedback reasonable, be sure to incorporate it into your workflow to improve your leadership skills.

The point of accepting criticism from employees is that bosses no longer lead in a vacuum given today’s workforce. Accepting hard-to-swallow critiques from employees will go a long way to creating a positive work environment. “Over time [this] creates a culture where others up and down the organization feel empowered to offer criticism that is based in fact and intended for improvement.” This culture of inclusion will work to strengthen the bonds between employees and leadership.

Take Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, for example. “He’s saying out loud it is not just all about me. That, after all, is a major characteristic of leadership.” This is one of the reasons that employees and critics alike see Cook as an influential business and social leader. On the other end of the spectrum is former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who rather than have the hard conversations with her leadership team let them go. As a result she found herself without a supportive staff when times got tough at the company. “While you’re on a smart path, if there’s no one behind you, it will be much harder to reach your goal.”