We have our weeks where things go great and we have weeks where things go…not so great. There are a number of feelings and emotions that come into play once something happens and they differ from person to person and from team to team. But, one thing’s for sure, we can’t just hide in the trenches; it’s something we have to deal with as a good tech team leader. How can we do things better and deal with these situations better?
Criticism is a difficult thing to deal with. A leader at National Community Church once told me, “Being a good leader means growing a thick skin, but cultivating and keeping a soft heart.” Some of the most important things to say to someone criticizing your team are “please”, “thank you”, and “I’m sorry”. It’s simply part of being respectful and polite. Otherwise, you’re just as wrong as the person voicing their unwanted opinion. There are four types of criticism: good criticism from a good heart, good criticism from a bad heart, bad criticism from a good heart, and bad criticism from a bad heart. Here are the basics on how to deal with each one:
- Good criticism / good heart = Take it into account and filter through what was said. You should welcome this from whoever it comes from. Think about it and apply it where you can.
- Good criticism / bad heart = This one is probably the most difficult to deal with. The person is right but they’re doing it with the wrong motives and you know it. This is where humility comes into play. Love the unlovable and filter through the comments. You might reflect on what was said with a close friend or a mentor.
- Bad criticism / good heart = I get this a lot. They’re well meaning people but what they’re saying is completely wrong. Their feelings may be valid and it’s fine to affirm that, but it doesn’t mean that you have to take what they say and apply it. If this criticism is from a leader above you, you’ll need to think and pray about your responses if you have the opportunity to before you talk with that person about it.
- Bad criticism / bad heart = Politely ignore it. They’re just trying to tear you down and there’s nothing you can really do. Hear them out. Thank them for their opinion. Then move on.
I’ve talked to so many leaders who get frustrated that no one sees them when things go great, but feel like they’re the first one to get the smack down when they do something wrong. They also feel personally hurt, offended, or ticked off because of what was said. If that’s you, there are a few perspective shifts you need to consider.
Criticism is an opportunity for improvement. It isn’t personal. Take criticism and spin it around so you have something to work on and get better at.
Secondly, when things go wrong and it’s neither you nor your team’s fault, don’t instantly deflect blame or pass the buck. As a leader, you need to shield your team from distraction and filter criticism. Protect them. But don’t be overly defensive and don’t be so quick to shift the blame. It’s a gut reaction that’s more harmful than helpful. Instead, acknowledge and validate the individual’s concerns and redirect the concerns to someone who can help solve the problem.
Thirdly, be decisive and give your team action steps to correct their problems. Then, if necessary, make your leadership aware that you and your team are in the process of fixing the problem. The longer you wait, the more awkward the situation gets, and the more stress your team will feel. There’s always going to be some discomfort dealing with problems. But the moment you simply shrug off the failure and ignore it is the day you’ve lost touch with what you’re actually doing and how important the details really are.