Transforming CRITICS to ALLIES

Last week I was at an industry conference.  It was my first for the company I had joined a few months earlier.  I was relatively new to the company, so was not truly aware of a lot of things except for those which I was directly involved in.  We were exhibiting at the conference.  Like everybody else, I went to the conference with a belief and confidence of creating a good impression for my company and its services.

First half of Day 1, of the 2 days long conference, brought with it some hard lessons for me which in some ways rattled me and pushed me into a hole.  There were some folks who had very strong negative feedback and criticism…and I was at the receiving end.  I stood there; thinking to myself for a few seconds; why am I receiving it – why me – I wasn’t even there in the company when all this happened; but soon I learnt a very useful and a key lesson.    I had a choice to make…either go back to the hole or come out positive and face it – even though I may not know everything about what had happened or why they had the impression about the company which they had.  I chose to do the latter.  I now had a task on my hands to now convert these critics to possible believers in the company, that of converting their criticism to constructive feedback and showing those people a whole new way of seeing things with us as a partner helping them realise it.

In the second half of Day 1, I went out and met with all those who had strong things to share with me and I was listening very carefully, noting down every single point they made and shared with me, asked questions to understand them and their perspective better and sought their views on why they built the impression they had about us. 

The day ended well and I went back to the hotel feeling quite positive about how some of those critics were converted to possible believers in our company.  Today [around 6 days after the conference] I spoke to one of those ‘critics’ and if I were to draw from my 15 minute chat with him, he seemed to have changed his impression about us – I succeeded with the choice I had made and what I believed I could achieve at the conference.

I know all of us tend to face criticism for some or the other thing in our lives at or outside of work.  For me, personally, what I had faced at the conference was hard…but it taught me how to handle it well and build allies out of critics – how to face criticism and convert it into a positive discussion, focused on sharing constructive feedback aimed at improving something.

How to do it though?  Well, I am not an expert but below is what I did [and have done in the past] which has – in most cases – helped me convert the critics into allies.  I hope it helps you too…

[1] When you know you may face criticism or receive a strong feedback, do not ever back out…always show up and be present.  By doing this you demonstrate that you are not afraid and you let them see the leader you are by being accountable and thus turning up to receive the feedback.

[2] Always be open and transparent about the details, and also about the feedback or criticism you receive. 

[3] Always show your willingness to engage with those who disagree with you.

TIP: Try to videotape or record the feedback or criticism received.  I have not done this myself but every time I have seen this done it has made the critic be at their best behaviours since they are being taped.

[4] Always be cool, calm and composed…control your emotions , being calm-composed will make you appear stronger.

[5] Never raise your voice even when the person criticising has, it will make him/her lower their voice.

[6] Always receive and honestly acknowledge your shortcomings.  Express through right choice of words and with passion that you did what you could do best given the circumstances.  It will make them appreciate you and instead of criticising, it will make them explain their standpoint.

[7] Never be defensive and always accept your mistakes with sincerity and confidence.  No one respects a leader who doesn’t believe in his deeds – right or wrong.

[8] If you need to share a counter feedback then always do it gently – always remember that while the spotlight is on you, the heat is also on them…so you can always give as good as you get but with appropriate diplomacy.

[9] Smile frequently and show that you are not stressed and that you are in control but smile only when appropriate.  Never smirk.

[10] Always know when to close the discussion and to take things offlineAlways leave them wanting for more.

[11] Always remember that if nothing bad is ever said then nothing good will ever get done…so strong feedback and criticism is as important to you as is good positive feedback.

The above is what I have learned through my experience facing criticism or seeing someone else face and handle it.  I must admit I had failed many a times but when I have been confident, tried some of the above pointers; I have more often than not ended up making it a constructive discussion and transformed my critics into my allies.

Try it and share with us how it worked for you…let us all learn together.  If there is any other pointer you think can be added to the list above then please share with your comments.

Explore posts in the same categories: Leadership, Personal Effectiveness

5 Comments on “Transforming CRITICS to ALLIES”

  1. Kunal Wete Says:

    Nice one Nimit!!!!

  2. Koshy Says:

    Good one 🙂

  3. Thanks Kunal, Koshy!

  4. karunashree Says:

    fantastic analysis . good one ..

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