In the past, I’ve been too critical of my team, colleagues or customers. And this is hard to admit, but sometimes I brought my critical spirit home to my family as well. Too often I was the father or spouse that was never pleased with anything.
It didn’t take long before my influence started to decline, both at work and at home. I didn’t get invited to planning or brainstorming sessions at work. My team adopted an “easier to get forgiveness than permission” mindset. My kids started taking the path of least resistance and talking with my wife instead of coming to me.
I was left to wonder, “Why doesn’t anyone listen to me? Why am I always the last to know something?”
Four steps that helped me
First, I took my wife’s advice to “pick my battles.” Some things are worth fighting about. Most are not. This motto helped me think through my critical feedback before I acted on it.
Second, I worked to develop more empathy for others. I started asking them to explain their ideas, instead of dismissing them. I tried to listen more than I spoke. When I heard a new idea, I trained myself to think, “Oh, that’s interesting. I’m curious about that.”
Third, I committed to not reacting as soon as I heard something. Instead, I simply listened and then took a few minutes by myself to think about the idea. If I needed to raise a concern, I could decide what to say and how to say it. It took a bit of courage not to object right away, but have the confidence to know I could still object later on.
Fourth, I realized that a leader’s criticism holds more weight with the listener. Whether a Tech Lead, Software Manager or Dad, my position means criticism has more teeth than someone below me. As someone at Netflix once told me, “Managers shouldn’t punch downwards.” Well put.
Are you in critical condition?
Are others taking the “easy” route by not including you? If so, that could be a sign you’re too critical