“When you keep criticising your kids, they don’t stop loving you, they stop loving themselves”. Instagram wisdom that hit home. The privileged of being a parent and the responsibility of “helping” my son grow up to be the man he is becoming is paved with many moments where my well-meaning criticism has done no good.
I wish I had realised this sooner, but better late than never I tell myself. His driving lessons this summer were critique free. I only offered encouragement proactive, presence to be supportive, and a discussion when he opened up a topic. A few scratches on the car can be touched up with a coat of paint, scratches on the soul last a lifetime.
The same principle applies in the workplace. A young team member made a mistake. This was caught and pointed out by a senior colleague. The team had to be taken to task and the first instinct I had was to criticise. “How could you be so careless?” “How could you allow something like this to happen?” “This is unacceptable…”. I have heard the script a hundred times over the years.
What if there could be another way? Criticism free but enabled by genuine curiosity to understand what were the circumstances and contributing factors that allowed this incident to happen. Then find a way to share this with wider teams and use an opportunity like this to create a learning moment that lasts a lifetime.
Do whatever it takes to help a person find the confidence to say, “I will become an ambassador of change” and together we will do better. Mistakes we learn from make us better and stronger. I keep reminding myself to use the phrase “yes and…” instead of “yes but…” It is just one word and it makes a world of a difference. By embracing the and, I am adding value, building on the idea or helping the person see that there could be more ways than the one they had proposed.
Choices follow awareness, and the various options that the “yes and…” opens up is powerful and positive. There is a saying “where you focus, energy flows”. If the focus is on the criticism and pointing out what is wrong, then attention and energy goes there. On the other hand, if it’s a “Yes and…” moment where the focus is on the options, then choices emerge and energy flows towards the best one. Building the confidence of others enables them to become their best selves.
Don’t miss an opportunity to take a miss step and turn it into a stairway to growth and self-development. Catch that criticism before it escapes and turn a moment of misery into a moment of magic. An emotionally bruised team member is not in the right headspace to take on board the feedback and work on improvements. No amount of yelling or screaming is going to help improve the situation. Give criticism a break and break the chain.
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