Stop Critiquing and Start Listening
Criticism plays a very important role at work. It helps us evaluate ideas, think though rationales, and determine our best course of action by testing assumptions, logic, and likely implications. However when we habitually criticize, we create an environment where people worry about being judged. In such a setting, people will edit themselves and their ideas; this limits the value they can add and it negatively affects your team’s work.
You’ve probably been in a brainstorm meeting where the leader says that no idea is a bad idea; judging the quality of an idea is not the goal, the goal is simply to explore. This gives participants permission to think creatively. So why should we restrict ourselves to only one arena in which judgment is suspended? Imagine what would happen if team meetings did not allow judgment—if participants were encouraged to build on ideas rather than shoot them down?
Beyond reaping the obvious morale benefits, you would increase the likelihood of coming up with creative and innovative ideas, and would probably uncover some issues you didn’t even know existed. Business teaches us to listen to our customers—imagine if we listened to our staff members as well?
As a manager, you may think you’re being paid to judge. Let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy doing it? There’s an ego reward in being able to give a thumbs up (or down) to the work of others. The trade off is that while this behavior may make us feel more important in the short run, ultimately we miss many opportunities and good ideas that would actually make us wise enough to sit in judgment.
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