I do know how to make my wife laugh…even at my expense. I have been fascinated with ballroom dancing since last year. It was something I reluctantly embraced after being taken kicking and screaming to the dance floor. Several weeks ago I thought it would be nice to practice my dance moves so that I would perform them better. My wife was out of town at the time. I got a notice about a dance with a live band on Saturday. I thought it would be cool.
However, I should have read the fine print. When I got to the event, it was packed full of energy and enthusiasm. What I failed to learn was that the dance was at a senior citizen center. That meant I would be dancing with my mother and grandmother at the event. Secretly, I pledged to myself that I would not ask anyone to dance and gracefully exit from this event. The average age of the attendees was over 80 years old. I was but a puppy at 40 + years old.
However, my exit strategy did not work. I invited myself to sit (of course, I did not know anyone and just dashed to the nearest unoccupied sit) with a well-to-do couple who was visiting in the area. They were well educated, financially secure, and very mobile; they had winter and summer homes. Having a questioning nature, I asked about how they perceived life and what the general attitude of these folks was in general since they were all part of the Greatest Generation. I was pretty shocked at the responses.
They noted that many of them did not care about any past accomplishments, titles, wealth, or status symbols. Most folks were mostly concerned with their health, quality of life, and having enough money to live. Kids and grandkids were rarely mentioned (many had been abandoned by them). With them approaching the end of their golden years, the focus was on current relationships and values. In fact, there was an evolution by many of them in their thinking: “There was no shame in their game.”
Many couples had forgone the taboos of living together (aka ‘shacking up) because these people did not want to lose their Social Security checks or other financial means. In a nutshell, they did not care about what others thought about them. It was something that I could relate to in ballroom dancing.
My male friends give me a hard time about ballroom dancing. However, at the same time, they cannot dance, garnish the attention of others by doing something others could not do, or inject into their character fresh confidence in learning how to do something new and different. Many people do not progress in life for fear of being criticized.
No one wants to be criticized. Dr. William Watley, Senior Pastor of the St. Phillip African Methodist Episcopal Church observed, “Criticism’s certainly something that you can’t be delivered from…From the womb to the tomb, you can’t escape it.” Criticism can be defined as ‘the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.’
No one can avoid criticism if they are active in an organization or serve in a leader’s capacity. Yet, individuals can also be criticized because of lack of action. Dr. Watley argues that criticism is all that some people know how to do, which indicates to him that ”these people need to get a life.” Perhaps, actress Ava Gardner summed it up best about critics: “Hell, I suppose if you stick around long enough, they have to say something nice about you.”
On the contrary, a Constructive Critic points out things that will assist in the personal or professional development of a person. A Petty Fault Finder can always locate some short coming in an individual that is not helpful and a fault that he or she does not have a problem with. In fact, no matter how hard you attempt to correct a problem noted by a Petty Fault Finder, he or she will not be satisfied; a Petty Fault Finder will seek to only locate another problem in this individual’s life.
Great leaders know how to use criticism in a way that can transform an organization. Most people are unwilling to change even when it is out of necessity or survival. Richard Daft, renowned author of Management, notes that change can be problematic for organizational growth.
Employees and managers often resist change. Dr. Daft explains, “Yet most changes will encounter some degree of resistance. Idea champions often discover that other employees are unenthusiastic about their new ideas….People typically resist a change they believe conflicts with their self-interest.” Most managers understand how to control and oversee their organizations.
Few managers have the innate ability to inspire their employees from mediocre to extraordinary performance. That position description requires a leader, not a status quo manager. All great leaders, from President George Washington to Albert Einstein, had their own share of criticism and a merry band of Petty Fault Finders.
Sadly, some individuals never are effective in their positions because they can never seem to manage because of fear of negative criticism. Gareth Jones and Jennifer George, authors of Contemporary Management, explained how bad leadership damages an organization: “When leaders are ineffective, chances are good that their subordinates do not perform to their capabilities, are demotivated, and may be dissatisfied as well.” Consequently, it is important that leaders develop strategies for managing criticism effectively in order to move their organizations to exemplary performance.
Please discuss how to cope with negative criticism in a professional work environment.
© 2013 by Daryl D. Green