Most of us learn to live with a few doses of negative feedback, especially when we have the opportunity to rebound.
Averting criticism that has the potential to be truly damaging, though, takes savvy.
Protect what matters.
We each have a personal, career brand to protect so we can keep moving forward. Our bosses have one too plus the reputation of their work groups. Leaders need to protect the brand integrity of their organizations to remain competitive and viable.
Unfair, relentless, and ruthless criticism can turn your good efforts into ashes.
Consider the potential criticism leveled at a supervisor who:
- hires or promotes an employee who steals, bullies, or lies
- decides to absorb another work group and then releases excess employees
- makes downsizing decisions that cause employees to lose their jobs
- replace fully functional equipment or technology with new ones
Everyone affected by those changes, whether directly or indirectly, is a critic in waiting. If the move is successful, they will likely be quiet. If not, watch for incoming!
There’s no reason to be a sitting duck when the potential for criticism is in your path. Going on the offensive, most often, is your best strategy.
You don’t make decisions in a vacuum. There are good reasons to act and risks too. You are ahead of the curve when you anticipate criticism and behind the eight ball if you don’t.
Keep your head out of the sand.
I recently facilitated the annual board retreat of a small non-profit facing the stepping down of four board members, including the president and vice president, both of whom were founders.
These officers were beloved, dedicated, and capable, having led the organization with warmth and strength for eight years. They were to remain as committee volunteers but it was time for new leadership.
The original board of ten would now be down to six, with two becoming new leaders. This was an unsettling time, focused mostly on internal matters. But what about the critics.
The board needed to consider what their constituencies would think and say about this major shift. How would it impact membership, sponsors, donors, partnerships with other organizations, and confidence in their sustainability? These are the questions that once answered and acted on would avert, though not eliminate, significant criticism.
The board decided on some key actions:
- put together the messaging around these changes
- prepare the slate of nominees for election at the upcoming annual meeting; arrange for mentoring by the exiting officers
- develop a Power Point presentation for the annual meeting outlining past achievements, ongoing and new projects
- write a press release for the announcements
- arrange to meet with key allies to answer questions and strengthen relationships
Not only will this work strengthen their brand in the marketplace, it will raise the confidence of the board members and provide the messaging needed to expand its membership.
You avert criticism by defusing the arguments of your critics:
- Provide the details of your story (transparency) before misconceptions are devised
- Talk about your good work and successes as a foundation for your decisions
- Anticipate and address potentially damaging issues when you see them
- Address legitimate concerns; reinforce your intentions, purpose, mission, objectives, and positive actions
- Be upfront and out-front, affirming the standards and values that support your position
- Build a coalition of supporters who have your back and are willing to say so
By getting ahead of an issue, you empower yourself.
These steps also help if you’ve:
- experienced a decline in your performance
- violated a company rule or policy
- mishandled a customer or vendor problem
- damaged company equipment or software
Whether you’re an employee, supervisor, manager, or executive, managing your career progress means anticipating criticism, whether deserved or not, and then averting it.
So do you best to get ahead of the curve and watch your value rise.
Photo by lel4nd via Photoree