Truth be told I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t prefer to be praised rather than criticized. Receiving praise and recognition from anyone always makes us feel better. Even when we’re almost certain the person giving the praise is blowing smoke up our you know what, that fake praise still feels better than well needed criticism.
Praise and recognition can be very useful for building our self-confidence and self-esteem. It reaffirms that we are on the right track and we should do more of whatever it was we’ve been doing. Plus, it just downright feels good.
Some criticism is the so called “constructive” kind. Other criticism is meant to hurt and demean people. We can’t control the intent of other people’s criticism towards us but we have complete control over how we receive it.
I personally try to accept all criticism as constructive criticism. I’ll listen to it and then think on it for a while. I’ll look at it from different angles, I’ll share it with a mentor to get their take on it. Then I decide what to do with it. I’ll either decide the criticism was indeed intended to harm me in some way and I’ll quickly discard it. Or, I’ll decide that even though it was perhaps intended to demotivate me, there was a kernel of truth in it and I’ll try to take whatever corrective action I can.
When I determine the criticism was meant to be constructive I’ll thank the person. I may even ask for their help in improving in whatever area they saw a weakness.
But here’s the thing about both praise and criticism. Never accept either one without attaching a personal expiration date to them. Neither of them are forever. Assuming that your actions of today will continue to make you successful in the future is very limited thinking. You need to continually ask yourself how you can get better. No matter how good you may have been yesterday, or how good you are today, if you’re not better tomorrow then you’re losing ground to someone who is.
Accept the praise, enjoy it a while but don’t forget, if you’re still trying to live off of last week’s praise next week you’ll likely be getting kind of stinky to the people around you. Greatness doesn’t come from doing something well once, it comes from doing something very well, again and again.
Likewise, criticism needs a relatively short expiration date. Ponder it for a time, learn from it what you can. If there is a lesson for you in the criticism then accept it. Learn from it, act upon it and ask yourself how you can prevent yourself from slipping back into that poor performance. Then toss the criticism into the trash heap of ancient history. Never dwell on criticism.
Praise and criticism both have the place in the toolbox of leadership. Just as a leader must keep their praise and criticisms fresh, the people on the receiving end of those tools must realize that neither was intended to last forever.