How Great Leaders Handle Criticism

Getting negative feedback from others is never easy. We often find it hard not to immediately get down on ourselves and overanalyze what we could have done differently. Or maybe even worse, we deny it and dispel that person’s opinion altogether.

Now think of the way a great leader might handle receiving tough criticism from a colleague or superior. Probably not by doing what we listed above or at least not by showing it.

In the following post, Arden’s coaches dissect how great leaders handle criticism. Treat it as fuel for the next time you’re tested by a piece of challenging feedback.

Leaders Treat Criticism with Curiosity

Feedback is such an invaluable tool in the workplace. By knowing other’s perceptions, we’re able to piece together a reflection of our own performance. But as you may have experienced yourself, what we feel and what we see in the image that’s bounced back to us doesn’t always align, and that’s where the challenge lies.

Great leaders are great in part because they can get past the initial rawness of criticism with a level head. Instead of being reactive and letting their emotions determine their next move, they dig deeper to see what kind of value the criticism holds. Only with your ego elsewhere can you treat criticism as an opportunity for improvement rather than a personal attack.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

Well, actually it might be both. Instead of instantly writing off a comment as mean or invalid, when you handle criticism with curiosity, you’re more likely to get a dual benefit from it, leading to a higher sense of self-awareness and a better sense of the person providing the criticism.

In a post by Arden’s CEO Maren Perry that lists tips for accepting feedback gracefully, she cites paying extra attention to feedback you get that seems as if it’s come from left field.

Knowing the way another person perceives you tells you almost as much information about you as it does about them, their feelings and sensitivities. With a particularly hard-hitting piece of feedback, ask yourself what this person may be afraid of (e.g., looking like the odd man out or not having enough direction to do their job).

If you’re the group’s leader, further exploration of the criticism may allow you to glean information about the overall environment and whether current processes are working. From here, determining a course of action for improvement comes naturally.

Don’t Leave a Criticism’s Potential Untapped

Less attention is typically paid to the person on a criticism’s receiving end, even though how they handle it determines the result of sharing the feedback in the first place.

The next time you’re faced with an off-base comment about your performance or a piece of criticism that strikes a chord with you, try handling it like a great leader would: Get curious, probe a little deeper, and see where it takes you. Chances are you’ll come out on the other side more informed than before and ready to help yourself and your people get what they need to succeed.

A coach’s objective lens can be immensely helpful in this context. If you’re interested in seeing how Arden’s coaches can help you or your organization’s top performers embrace a leadership mentality and apply the forward momentum of feedback with confidence, contact us for a complimentary consultation today.