Today I read an article titled, When Critiquing Others, Try Critiquing Yourself, Too by way of @Efficient CEO on Twitter where author Richard Walker shares a great leadership learning moment. While making some notes for suggestions that would help a colleague, he suddenly realized that the notes he was making applied to himself, too.
I love this story for two reasons. One, it’s relationship to (authentic, internal, personal) humility, which is critical to growth and personal development.
We all have co-workers (whether above or beneath us on the organizational chart) who feel that they have so honed their leadership, presentation, management and other work skills to the point that they don’t feel the need for change, regardless of any feedback they receive to the contrary. They become their own worst enemy when it comes to the future, and that includes how they will (or will not) benefit your business in the future.
Because if you are not open to change and growth, and if you are not humble enough to realize that you don’t, in fact, have your act completely together, then you will miss opportunities for personal growth. If you have “arrived” to the point that you no longer need constructive criticism, then you’ve peaked, too (and you are probably somewhere high up on the “pain in the butt spectrum” for colleagues and subordinates).
Authentic humility (this has nothing to do with making self-deprecating statements, this is an internal trait) is critical to being open to change. (Duh.)
But the higher you rise, and the more successes you have on the job, the more tempting it is to believe that you’ve got it all mastered. The more likely you become to resist change, because you believe that what got you there will keep you there. That attitude only reveals that you don’t know what really “got you there” in the first place.
What likely “got you there” in terms of success wasn’t something inherently yours in terms of skills or style; rather, it was your ability to learn, identify opportunity, put in the work and be developed, personally, throughout the process.
And those abilities begin to disappear when you start to rest on your past accomplishments.
Great leaders remain humble and retain the internal traits relative to being authentically humble that enable them to continue to learn and grow and develop, personally and professionally. Great leaders don’t think that their style or performance is above reproach; instead, they listen to criticism intelligently, analyze it and then make changes based on the truths they gleaned during the process.
And that brings me to the second thing I love about this story. Strategically and systematically using institutional criticism could become a great tool for you as a CEO or manager.
If you want to identify the next great leader within your business, watch how they handle criticism. In fact, create opportunities for potential leaders within your business to be in a position to receive constructive criticism relative to presentations (which could even be staff meeting presentations) or performance on projects.
Create opportunities that include 360 degree feedback and see how these individuals analyze and incorporate findings based on feedback from co-workers and subordinates into their personal and professional work and style. See how they communicate with their subordinates about feedback received and changes they intend to make as a result.
And you can use criticism as a tool even before you decide to hire a new employee, too.
If you have a multi-step hiring process, include an opportunity for candidates to receive constructive criticism relative to some aspect of their candidacy: a suggestion on how to improve their resume, how to improve their interviewing skills, how to present themselves in terms of dress or style, etc. And then see how they react to the criticism. This could be especially helpful in the hiring process when you are dealing with a “superstar” type of candidate, as it will reveal whether they are teachable and whether they possess the authentic humility needed to become a contributor as part of your team (rather than just individually).
And finally, as Walker himself did, take this story to heart as a leader, yourself. Authentic humility and transparency are traits which can create strong loyalty among your colleagues and subordinates who will discover that they can trust you. It will also create loyal followers who realize that, since you are open to learning and growth, the sky is the limit and the best is yet to come.
Elizabeth Kraus is the Author of 365 Days of Marketing, the 2012 Small Business Marketing Calendar and her newest book: Little White Marketing Lies.
Little white marketing lies are common misconceptions that many well-meaning business owners claim to be true, but which usually aren't.
In fact, these little white marketing lies might even be standing between your business and success.
The new book, Little White Marketing Lies will help you put these and other little white marketing lies to the test, enabling you to identify the true strengths and weaknesses of your business and put your business in the best position to succeed in the future.