Monday, November 14, 2011

Succeed With Your Critics!

Photo by Yusmar Yahaya
Why Can't They...?

It's happening again.

You have a great're trying to get a new project're proposing a change that's better for everyone.

And that person starts asking questions:
  • Have you thought about what will happen when...?
  • Do you look at the data behind this?
  • Did you consider this explanation?
  • What if the problem is really caused by...?
  • How will we resource this?
When confronted by a regular skeptic, many new leaders and managers groan (hopefully internally, but I've seen it happen aloud). These frustrated visionaries ask, "Why can't they just support an idea for once??"

The Faithful Critic

Allowing this frustration to get the better of you will deprive you of one of your best friends.

Effective leaders and managers learn to value faithful critics who challenge their ideas and help them sort out exuberance from real life.

You want your idea to succeed, right?

So try developing your ideas with folks who will do their best to make sure it's an effective solution with a strong foundation. Learn to anticipate their concerns and refine your plans in ways that address their relevant criteria. Every team can benefit from one faithful critic who is willing to ask tough questions.

The hard truth is that if your exciting plan can't survive a little scrutiny from those closest to it, then the plan probably isn't ready for implementation.


I've been using the term "faithful critic" - that skeptic who wants to be sure things have been thought through and requires some evidence to make a decision. These are valuable team members.

In contrast, there are faultfinders - people who've never met an idea they liked, are critical by nature, and there is nothing you'll be able to do to win their support.

How to tell the difference? Generally, one question can help you tease out whether you have a faithful critic or a faultfinder: "What would it require for you to support this idea?"

A faithful critic talks about exploring options or looking at resources, data, and outcomes - things that strengthen the concept.

No matter what idea you discuss, a faultfinder denies there is a problem or refuses to give support under any terms.

Next Steps

Spend time with your faithful critics. Keep them close. Build ideas with them.

Educate faultfinders to the nature of the problems involved. Try to help them understand. If they remain faultfinders, don't spend extra energy on them and help them find teams / work where they will be happier.

Take care,

David M. Dye

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Twitter: @davidmdye
David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

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