I’m definitely not a jerk, or at least I’m not on a regular basis, but it’s easy to see why some people perceive those of with with this gift as: “complainers” or “critical.” We have lots of opinions and thoughts on how things should and shouldn’t be done, and we don’t always feed those through the appropriate filter. Be careful, because without proper care it’s easy to become exactly what they’re labeling us as.
If I asked you to create a list of the top 5 character traits successful leaders have, I think our lists would pretty much look the same. They might include things like: Integrity, Communication Skills, Sets Goals and Timelines, but I guarantee “Commitment to Excellence” would be on every list...Every. Single. Time.
The most successful companies I’ve worked for in the past 20 years all have one thing in common: they highly value excellence. It’s in their company values and purpose statements, and even in their email signatures. But they aren’t successful because they have a slick slogan or mention excellence in their email signature. These Companies partner their commitment to excellence with: 1. An Evaluation Plan, which allows them to quickly gather information and provide necessary feedback. 2. Planning out necessary changes and quickly implementing them. They don’t sit back and wait - they make the necessary changes based on the feedback.
The ability (or lack thereof) to give and receive feedback (criticism) directly affects our success as leaders. If all we ever do is simply gather intel, develop an opinion on what needs to change, but never communicate it to our people then we’re stunting their potential growth. On the opposite side, if all we do is criticize and pick apart what they do then we’re probably going to frustrate them, which will destroy their trust in and commitment to the organization.
So, how do we give feedback without acting like a jerk?
Check yo’self - What are your motives in this current situation? Are you more concerned with the product or strength of the organization than you are with the wellbeing of the people you’re leading? If so, you’re feedback won’t be as effective. We need to balance our ability to think critically and desire to give feedback with our desire to love and lead people. People that feel loved by you are willing to receive tough things from you.
Before you give feedback ask the following questions:
- Do I have the right? Just because you have an opinion, or you’ve identified a potential change doesn’t mean you have the right or responsibility to share it. Are you even the leader that’s responsible to address the situation? If not then you just might need to keep it to yourself.
- Do I have the right person? Just because you don’t have the right doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give the feedback. You might need to find someone else if they’re not the right person.
- Is it the right time? Have you ever had someone address a concern with you right in the middle of crunch time? They just want to resolve a problem (could be big or small), and all you want to do is get your job done. What may be a problem and priority to you may not be to someone else. Figure out if now is the right time to address things.
- Will it help or will it hurt? If you’ve determined that you have the right and know that it will help - then it’s a no brainer - give the feedback. If it will hurt, or has the potential to hurt ask this question: Is it necessary? If it’s not then keep it to yourself. If it is then refer back to question #3.
Remember, our passion for critical thinking isn’t about scrutinizing a person’s performance - it must be driven by a desire to help people. I want to see things improve and be better; maybe even better than anyone ever thought they could be. I want to figure out how to make a process easier for people and figure out ways to save everyone some time. It really comes down to a desire to see people succeed.
Success will only happen if you’re willing to grow. If you’re willing to grow then you you have to be willing to change. And if you’re willing to change then you need to learn how to evaluate the current status and give/receive feedback.
Al Dancy is the Guest Services lead at NLC Worcester. He is passionate about connecting people to God and each other. He and his wife Erica have lived and served in Worcester for 10 years. They also have 4 amazing kids and 2 adorable dogs.