For Day #1 of our Leadership Challenge, look for some time today to practice leadership principle number one, “Avoid Criticizing and Complaining“. We encourage you to apply each of the 28 daily leadership principles in this series by focusing on just a single principle every single day of the four-week challenge. The first seven principles are designed to help you build trust and rapport with your team, and this is the first of the seven principles that we will cover this week.
Daily Leadership Principle #1
Avoid Criticizing and Complaining
“People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be,
not what you nag them to be.” –- S. N. Parker
My college football team had an offensive coordinator who was arguably one of the most brilliant minds in the game. However, he used fear and criticism to motivate his players. If someone missed a block, he’d yell and curse. If a player dropped a pass, he’d shout profanities and ridicule the player. Consequently, the players were focusing on their mistakes rather than their successes. The coach eventually moved on, and after he left, morale improved dramatically. The very next year, the team won their first bowl game in years and went on to eight straight bowl games in the following years. The practices were the same. The fan support was the same. The only thing that changed was the atmosphere on the field during the practices and the games.
Think about some of the greatest leaders you’ve known. Are they people who quibble and complain about irrelevant issues? Do they point out every mistake? Probably not. In fact, they probably do just the opposite. They’re probably masters at keeping others focused on the relevant and pointing out every improvement. Any jerk can complain or criticize – and most do. But real leaders are the people who build others up, not tear them down.
Typically, when we point out mistakes that others are making, we are doing so in order to create a behavior change in the person. However, when we point out mistakes that others make, the automatic human reaction is to get defensive or shift blame elsewhere. People rarely make a change in their behavior as a result of criticism. In week three, we’ll cover seven ways to create behavior change in others without raising resentment. Each of these tips will work much better than constructive criticism.
The next time you feel like you need to complain or to criticize someone, think about the outcome you want. Do you want that person to change his behavior? If so, by criticizing, you will cause the person to want to defend himself. This series is full of principles that you can use to build trust with and ultimately influence others. The next time you want to criticize or complain, try silence as an option.