Embrace Your Critics – or Fail

Bud Tunt, one smart exec with whom I worked at Fortune 15 McKesson, told me that the savviest thing you could do in business was to take away all the excuses.

Bud was on to something.

There are three camps; people who care and support you or your ideas, people who care and have criticism about you or your ideas, and people who don’t care or support you and sit on their hands.

The first two groups are the important ones; the others are checked out.

Absent contrived silliness – John Boehner and the Tea Party on the one hand or the looney tunes of Dennis Kucinich on the other side of the spectrum come to mind – your best friends are your critics.

Critics are the people who will let you know what you’ve missed, and if you ask nicely, will tell you what you’ve hit on that’s right.

If you want to win over your critics, though, you need to listen to them. And when you’ve listened – absent some compelling reason – do what they’ve asked.

While the research shows that diverse viewpoints (and diverse people) produce better mid-term and long-term result, most people don’t want to put up with dissenting voices. (I know one of one change initiative – inclusion and diversity nonetheless –  that avoids outside dissent. They appear to welcome diverse viewpoints as long as they’re the viewpoints with which they agree.)

People who pick your arguments apart are helpful on two counts; they’ve saved the trouble of finding the flaws yourself and they’re engaged about a subject which is important to you both.

Most people, frankly, don’t care. If you encounter people who are engaged such as your critics, consider yourself fortunate.

If you want good, durable outcomes, then learn to embrace those critics.

It’s a tough move; but it’s a winning one.

Author J. Mike Smith is a executive, career, and leadership team coach, helping individuals, start-ups, teams and groups perform significantly better. Over the past 25 years as a senior business executive, J. Mike has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Genentech, AT&T, and Visa. You can learn more about J. Mike at Life Back West.

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