How Do You Handle Criticism?

Accountability Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: being able to constructively deal with criticism is very important to your career advancement. What’s your mental model and emotional toolkit to achieve this?

I recently did one of those leadership assessments that asked me if I found criticism to be hurtful. I wanted to say “no;” real tough-minded leaders are immune to criticism. But, of course, that’s not the case. Some criticism is a just a little pinch but occasionally it can be darn painful.

Research indicates that maintaining a positive perspective helps us deal with negative feedback productively. Additionally, introspection and self-awareness enable us to more accurately and objectively assess criticism. Self-confidence, drive, openness to experience, and being conscientious about self improvement also helps. People more readily accept criticism when they feel that how they receive it is fair and well intended.

Character Move: the following are six coping strategies for managing criticism constructively (excerpted and expanded from a Forbes article by Christine M. Riordan, dean and professor of management at the Daniels College of Business).

1. Feel the emotions, and then move on. Criticism naturally stings, but successful people tend to recognize the emotions and then move forward in a positive way. They don’t dwell on the hurt.

2. Build a support network to help you calibrate. Research has confirmed the importance of non-work relationships which can offer care, acceptance, additional feedback, perspective, and consolation.

3. Be self-aware. This is fundamental to having a high emotional quotient (EQ). Data has shown that self-aware people rate themselves more accurately in performance assessments than those low in self-awareness. Research has also shown that they create a more positive organizational climate and relate better to others.

4. Serve a higher purpose. A deep belief that our intent is to serve a higher purpose, such as the good of the organization, can help us weather strong criticism. It helps when we are authentic and have our “heart in the right place.” We are not nor ever will be “perfect.”

5. Have a sense of humor. It is important to recognize that we are learning and evolving beings. As the saying goes, “you only trip when you’re moving.” It helps to add a little humor into the mix.

6. Pull out the learning and do not be defensive. Listen. Learn what the underlying message is. And, this is hard to do, if the person giving you feedback genuinely cares, there is likely very important information for your personal development. Dig deeper to understand and then allow for self reflection.

As a great American writer, Elbert Hubbard, noted:

“The final proof of greatness is being able to endure criticism without resentment.”

Criticism in the Triangle,



What CAN You Do to Manage “Haters” at Work?

Abundance Empathy Personal leadership


Key Point: with the right tactics we can still have a constructive working relationship with someone we hate working with. What are your tactics for managing working with someone you really can’t stand to be around? Try these.

There is lots of discussion about LOVE in February, even as it applies to the workplace. But, what happens when we have to work with someone we HATE. That’s a strong word but let’s face it, it happens to most of us at some time in our career. The risk is that we may end up wasting too much time and energy attempting to manage the person’s behavior and keeping our emotions under control. Working with a “hater” is a stress-inducing environment. Fortunately, with the right tactics, we can still have a productive working relationship with someone we really dislike.

Avoiding the person we don’t like is generally a successful tactic but it’s not always possible in a workplace. “Some people are there, like it or not,” points out Daniel Goleman, the co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University and author of The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights. Goleman and another expert, Stanford’s Robert Sutton (Good Boss, Bad Boss), suggest we apply the following advice. THIS ADVICE IS SO IMPORTANT AND USEFUL I have provided it directly from a recent Harvard Business Review article:

Manage Your Reaction

Your response to your dreaded co-worker may range from slight discomfort to outright hostility. Goleman says the first step is to manage it. He suggests that if there is someone who is annoying or abrasive, don’t think about how the person acts, and think about how you react. It’s far more productive to focus on your own behavior because you can control it. To handle your triggers, Goleman advises you practice a relaxation method daily. This will “enhance your ability to handle stress, which means the annoying person isn’t that annoying anymore,” he says.

Keep Your Distaste to Yourself

While working through your displeasure, avoid the temptation to gripe with other coworkers. Don’t corner someone by the water cooler and say, “There’s something about Jessica I don’t like, don’t you agree?” Sutton notes that we all have a tendency to look for confirmation of our own opinions, but we should also resist it. “Because emotions are so contagious, you can bring everyone down,” Sutton says. Besides, complaining about someone in your office can reflect negatively on you. You may garner a reputation as unprofessional or be labeled as the difficult one. If you find you have to vent, choose your support network carefully. Ideally, choose people outside the office.

Consider Whether It’s You, Not Them

Once you have your reactions in check, think about what it is you don’t like about the person. Is there something specific that sets you off? Is it that she’s just different than you? Does he remind you of your father? Do you wish you had her job? Jealousy and other negative emotions can cause us to wrongly assess and mistreat others. “When someone is doing better than us, we tend to scorn them,” Sutton says. Differences can make us biased. “Our favorite person in the world is ourselves. The more different someone is from us, the more likely we are to have a negative reaction to them,” he says. Focus on the behaviors, not the traits, that irk you; this will help you discern stereotypes from true dislike. “Start with the hypothesis that the person is doing things you don’t like but is a good person,” says Sutton. By better understanding what is bothering you, you may also be able to see your role in it. “It’s reasonable to assume you’re part of the problem,” says Sutton. Be honest with yourself about your share of the issue. And be on the lookout for patterns. “If everywhere you go there’s someone you hate, it’s a bad sign,” Sutton warns.

Spend More Time with Them

“One of the best ways to get to like someone you don’t like is to work on a project that requires coordination,” says Sutton. This may seem counterintuitive since you likely want to run from the room screaming whenever the person is there. But by working together, you can understand him better and perhaps even develop some empathy. “You might feel compassion instead of irritation,” says Goleman. You may discover there are reasons for his actions: stress at home, pressure from his boss, or maybe he’s tried to do what you’re asking for and failed. Spending more time with your foe will also grant you the opportunity to have more positive experiences. But before you sign up to lead the next task force with someone you don’t like, remember that there is one exception: “If it’s someone who violates your sense of what’s moral, getting away isn’t a bad strategy,” says Sutton.

Consider Providing Feedback

If none of the above has worked, you may want to consider giving your colleague some feedback. It may be that what bothers you is something that regularly gets in her way as a professional. “Don’t assume the person knows how they are coming across,” says Sutton. Of course, you shouldn’t launch into a diatribe about everything she does to annoy you. Focus on behaviors that she can control and describe how they impact you and your work together. If shared carefully, you may help her develop greater self-awareness and increase her effectiveness.

But proceed cautiously. Goleman says whether you give feedback “depends on how artful you are as a communicator and how receptive they are as a person.” If you feel he might be open and you can have a civilized conversation focused on work issues, then go ahead and tread lightly. But if this is a person you suspect will be vindictive or mad, or will turn it into a personal conflict, don’t risk it. “The landmine when giving emotional feedback is that they take it personally and it escalates,” says Goleman. You also need to be open to hearing feedback yourself. If you don’t like him, the chances are good he isn’t very fond of you either.

Adopt a Don’t-Care Attitude

In situations where you are truly stuck and can’t provide feedback Suttons recommends you “practice the fine art of emotional detachment or not giving a shit.” By ignoring the irritating behaviors, you neutralize the affect on you. “If he’s being a pain but you don’t feel the pain, then there’s no problem,” explains Goleman. This type of cognitive reframing can be effective in situations where you have little to no control.”

Character Move:


  • Manage your own reaction to the behavior first.
  • Practice emotional detachment so the person’s behaviors don’t bother you.
  • Spend time trying to get to know the person and better understand what motivates him.


  • Assume that it is all about the other person — you likely play some part.
  • Commiserate with others who could be unfairly influenced by your negativity or may judge you for your complaints.
  • Give feedback unless you can focus on work issues and can avoid a personal conflict.


No Haters in the Triangle,



Leadership Excellence

Abundance Books Organizational leadership


Key Point: there are great leadership resources out in the digital and analogue worlds, but there is a lot of noise too. Certainly one of the most respected is Warren Bennis’ Leadership Excellence magazine. There are over 175,000 paid subscribers. Why? Because, the content has huge value.

Character Move: Enjoy learning from the best by reading the January 2012 edition on me. And, by the way, I’m proud to be included on page 17. 🙂 I do have permission to share this issue with my followers (and I apologize for not making it available last month, but the material is still timely and very relevant). Seriously consider subscribing – this magazine is worth it.

Leadership Excellence in the Triangle,



What Am I Entitled To?

Accountability Contribution Purpose


Key Point:  you and I are not entitled to a darn thing that we don’t go out and earn. It really doesn’t matter much what we did before, how hard we worked, what we deserve, or what is fair. I read a great quote the other day; “the reward of merit is not life’s purpose.”

Entitlement: (n.) the belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.

Aldous Huxley wrote, “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”

I’ve been the CEO of a company for the last eight years. The company I was leading was acquired and now I’m thinking about what I want to do next. What I know for certain is that my past merit entitles me to nothing. No one in my network, which is pretty extensive, is waking up in the morning wondering what they are going to do for me. Sitting in front of the mirror and meditating over my life’s purpose, while perhaps useful, is not going to bring me anything either. I do believe we attract people to us based on our mind set. But I do not believe a Ferrari is going to show up because I pin a picture of it on my monitor.

Here’s what I have to do. There are problems out there in the world. I need to go find one or two and provide a way to fix the heck out of them. Many people are told to pursue happiness and joy. However, I tend to agree with David Brooks, the well known author and New York Times columnist, who wrote the following recently:

“But, of course, when you read a biography of someone you admire, it’s rarely the things that made them happy that compel your admiration. It’s the things they did to court unhappiness — the things they did that were arduous and miserable… It’s excellence, not happiness, that we admire most, and we discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It is to lose yourself.”

Character Move:

  1. You are entitled to what you earn, nothing more. Accept it.
  2. Go find problems and lose yourself in solving them with excellence.
  3. Making ourselves, others, and situations better is the purpose and reward of life.
  4. Accept that the reward of merit is not life’s purpose.

No entitlement in The Triangle,



It Is How You Make Them Feel …It Really Is!

Communication Empathy Respect


Key Point: don’t underestimate the importance of the way you make people feel; this is a message is worth repeating.

A friend and colleague founded a very successful company, and for the last 25 years has been the CEO. He told me that he has watched this video numerous times since I published it in my February 18, 2011 blog, and has passed it on to others. That’s a heck of an endorsement. Have you viewed it yet? It is worth watching again.

Character Move:

  1. Take 90 seconds to watch this video.
  2. Do a “how do you make them feel” evaluation of your interactions with the key people in your life and on the job.
  3. It takes courage, but get the feedback directly (use an online survey like Survey Monkey if you want confidential feedback).
  4. Act on the feedback.

Feeling it in The Triangle,



Tackle the Tough Things First

Accountability Personal leadership Productivity


Key Point: Tackle the tough problems first thing in the morning and you will build a habit of being more self accountable.

I was the worst procrastinator for avoiding the tougher issues until I absolutely had to. After working for a couple of superb leaders who showed me the benefit of taking on difficult problems immediately, I became much more effective, and less stressed out because of it. Like many things, the gnarly problems were often worse in my mind than in reality.

Throughout the day, we exercise our self-control and make decisions, which slowly depletes our willpower. There is an advantage in tackling our most important tasks as soon as we can, and especially in the morning, when our energy level is high and our ability to exercise willpower is at its best. In keeping with this theme experts suggest that when taking a test, do the hardest problems first, and save the easy ones for later. They also suggest we forget that notion about not going to bed angry with your partner —nighttime is the worst time for arguments, when our willpower is low and our capacity for self control is weakened. And as a man who has been married for 40 years, I can strongly attest to this as being right on! It is absolutely amazing what a good night’s sleep will do—problems that felt all-consuming the night before will seem much less important when you get out of bed and have a good breakfast. My wife and I have always found a way to get things going in the right direction in the morning. If I try and force a discussion late at night I usually make things worse.

Character Move:

  1. Commit to taking on the gnarliest problems first thing in the morning.
  2. Have a thoughtful plan but do it earlier rather than later. Don’t let email and the easy, less valuable stuff distract you.
  3. Make the tough things first a habit, and part of your personal management system.

Tough things first in The Triangle,