Why Criticism Will Be The Death Of Your Business.

Written by EO Executives on Jul 10, 2015

You know who you are...

You are the MD whose approach to your team is built on your experience of watching Gordon Ramsey bark in the TV show Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  The one that feels that the lady in The Devil Wears Prada “had it right” in terms of employee engagement.

You have invested your time and money into building a business you are proud of and it has grown to the point whereby you have now hired other leaders and need to let go.  You are not a sociopath and generally care about your team so why do you find yourself criticising so much and acting like one?

It has to stop before your culture is irrecoverably damaged and your growth stunted.  And you need to understand and confront and accept the following 8 brutal facts:

  1. Humans have a fundamental need to feel free from overbearing control
  2. Your team are not as emotionally or financially invested in your company as you are (and that is okay)
  3. Mistakes happen – criticism won’t make it better
  4. When you criticise you display a fatal lack of trust
  5. Criticism stops others bringing issues to your table earlier
  6. People of less intelligence/earnings than you deserve the same respect
  7. Criticism can extrapolate into chronic broader cultural issues
  8. What you believe becomes your reality and so over-critical thinking and negativity will ultimately lead to below par performance

So what can you do instead to drive quality outcomes and react when things go wrong without negatively affecting the culture of your business?

  1. Keep your eyes on the prize – Whatever the issue you are observing or finding frustrating it is all just a part of the journey to the bigger prize so be pragmatic not dogmatic
  2. Take a helicopter view – Rather than trying to react to the minutiae, work out whether the small mistakes are actually indicative of a larger problem that needs your expertise.  In the words of Henry Ford “seek remedy not blame”
  3. Over-incentivise the right behaviour – have a reward scheme that is tailored to what you value most and be generous with it
  4. Use problems as a training exercise – Train people through problems. Google have a “Fail Board” as they understand screwing up to be part of the journey and embrace it.
  5. Be consistently approachable – Make it clear that when people come to you they get coached not roasted.
  6. Have strong process and governance – Implemented in the right way processes can be liberating and as a business owner be reassuring - this helps you sleep at night.
  7. Drive Loyalty – Investing in people when they are struggling and reacting appropriately to mistakes will mean that you foster loyalty and a feeling of reciprocity in the team.  The best MDs and Company Owners that I have met have teams who desperately want them as a person to be successful.
  8. Reflect and let some things go – I worked for a strong MD once who used to write every frustration he had down in a book rather than tackle them in the moment.  If when he came in the next day he was still stressed about certain things he would address them but often upon reflection he was able to always heavily reduce the list and focus on a few key issues to address.

Now I am not some hedonistic hippy who doesn’t understand the stresses and strains of running a modern business and I accept that sometimes when the rubber hits the road (and failure is not an option) that a directive, no-nonsense style is required.  However, understand that criticism is a cancer that eats away at your business from within and start reducing your negative input tomorrow to achieve maximum success and reduced stress for all.

What Next?

How you behave with your team both in good times and bad has a lasting effect on morale, motivation and ultimately success. Every business needs great people to drive it forwards, and an unsupportive environment can lead to your top talent having their heads turned by your competitors. Learn how to retain and get the most out of your best employees by downloading our ebook ‘Hiring and Holding Onto Your Superstars’.

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