MidMarketMaven posted Matt Marsh‘s notes from Stephen Covey’s recent speech at the University of Utah:
“Finally, [Covey] asked how many people in the room had created a culture in their lives that at least permitted, if not encouraged, those around you to kick back against what you say, to which very few responded yes.”
I can’t believe that anyone in their right mind wouldn’t do everything in their power to get as much constructive criticism as possible. Still, there are employers who basically pay their employees to agree with them. It’s a weird mentality that pitches personal vanity against personal success. I for one would take success every time, but you gotta let people love themselves to their own detriment. :)
Inviting an Unbiased Critique
When seeking an opinion on a developing idea, don’t say, “Here’s my idea! Don’t you love it?!” Instead, get meaningful feedback by inviting criticism: “Here’s my idea! Will you shred it to pieces it so I can make it better!” Smart people realize that they will get smarter by testing their ideas against those of others. They take notes on any areas that need fixed or clarified. They evaluate suggestions, make necessary changes, then try again. This refining process of acting on valuable criticism can make a bad idea good, and a good idea great. Thus criticism is a crucial ingredient of continuing improvement.
Criticism Prevents Problems
Of course, in the business world, this revision process hopefully happens well before a proposed product or service hits the market. Critiquing a product early on prevents potential losses and gives the company the benefit of resolving problems in the quiet of the boardroom rather than the echo chambers of an unforgiving market. Great leaders allow their ideas to be subject to the criticism of employees and coworkers so that they can fix potential problems before they solidify. Inviting criticism allows you to get it right the first time, often saving time, money, and reputation.
At the very least, valuable criticism from coworkers, employees, and trusted friends will give insight into doubts that may arise from potential investors and customers. Even if the criticisms are baseless, they may help you determine where clarity might be added to your message to avoid confusion and increase deal flow.
Constructive Criticism Builds Buy-In
Employees and coworkers who are encouraged to critique an idea take pride in the idea as it is modified to reflect their own input. Even if some recommendations are not taken, employees benefit as their concerns are calmly and logically addressed. Either way, a consensus develops, and team members become more likely to take a personal stake in their work.
Inviting criticism makes employees feel that their input is valued and important. This leads to intrinsic motivation, higher productivity, lower turnover rates, and the comfort of knowing that you can be effective without being a jerk. :)
Investors, partners, and customers also feel a degree of ownership in ideas that they have helped develop. Take your more polished ideas to them and ask for their criticism. Are there better ways of accomplishing your common goal? Can your investors, partners, and customers recommend or even co-develop other, better strategies? As people become more involved, each becomes a confidant and a trusted partner in your success. Having furnished their ideas (much more than mere money) they become contributers and allies, dedicated to making the idea succeed.
Yes-Men Breeders Prefer to Stay Stupid
In all your business dealings (especially if you have “subordinates”) watch out for yes-men. People who flatter you instead of voicing their dissenting options do you a great disservice by letting you remain in your own stupid ignorance and self-deception. Friends don’t let friends be stupid.
If you find yourself surrounded by the “overly-reserved”, note that their unwillingness to voice concerns it is very likely your fault. If there is something about you that makes them reluctant to question your ideas, change your behavior. Create a culture where you can benefit from others’ insight.
Learn to respect, trust, and openly reward people who are willing to stick their neck out to set you straight. Publicly acknowledge your weaknesses so people feel like they can offer advice and help without offending. Be approachable! Otherwise, your ideas will never be as successful as they could be with a little help, and you will struggle to make them work one hard-knock at a time. Save yourself the trouble by inviting and responding to criticism up front.
“Critical” Take Aways
You should proactively invite criticism. Ask for it! The people you deal with have concerns, and you can’t resolve them if you don’t know what they are.
Invite criticism in the planning phase to refine your product and presentation and avoid major marketplace mistakes. Use trusted criticism to refine your ideas until they become winners.
Invite and respond to criticism to achieve crucial buy-in from stakeholders.
Get over yourself! People can’t help you and your ideas improve if you don’t create a culture of constructive criticism.
Lastly, be wary of ideas that seem too good to be true; they probably are! Bounce them off of smart people who will do you the favor of telling you you’re wrong. Review, refine, then try again.