It’s more important than you think! When I work with senior executives, and we’re one-on-one, they tend to be defensive around critique and accountability in general. But when I’m with them, and they need to be critiqued in front of their executive teams (Note: in a session designed for critique and evaluation. I normally provide feedback one-on-one after a meeting, not in public), their response is almost always defensive–and that’s not good news.
Why? Because what signal does that send to employees?
Senior executives like to critique and evaluate employee performance. And when I’m with them, they’re almost always critical of the performance of any number of their people (which is fine). But then they wonder why their people don’t listen or make changes in response to the feedback that they (the senior exec) have given them (the employee). Hello!
It’s always been true. People do what people see.
If you want your people to be open to critique, then you need to be the most open to critique of anyone in your organization. If you want your people to make changes in response to critique, then you need to be the fastest change agent in your organization. And if you don’t want your people to be excuse makers, then you need to avoid excuse making like the plague.
One of my favorite professors used to say, “If you want your people to bleed, then you need to hemorrhage.”
In other words, one of the costs of leadership is that we not only have to go first, we have to go farther. Why? Because people do what people see.
Forget what you say. Your people are watching you every day and they’re watching your non-verbals first.
- Do you get defensive with your physical posture?
- Do you look disengaged or angry?
- Do you lean in like you’re going to attack them?
- Do you have that, “Don’t mess with me!” vibe?
- Or do you have an open, pleasant and receptive look?
Then they look at your verbals.
- Do you respond harshly?
- Do you go on the attack?
- Do you make excuses?
- Or, do you ask questions, “Can you help me understand that?” and then say, “Thank you!”
Bottom line, if you want your people to be more open to critique and make changes, then you’ll want to make sure you’re the most open to critique person on your team. It really does matter more than you think!
To your accelerated success!