Friday, February 26, 2016

Biashara Coach: 8 tips to help you open up to Constructive Criticism

By Virginia Mburu

Someone is displeased..... by your action or inaction.....

And so is another person who is displeased with Mwakazi the Passionate Entrepreneur and owner of Makao Interior Designers.

Mwakazi is also displeased by the approach the person used to express the dissatisfaction.  Whereas Mwakazi had erred, this person was rude and truly lacked tact! Moreover the person criticizing him happened to be his junior! 

In one of the meetings with his mentor, he brought up the criticism issue. He gathered that as much as we do not like criticism, we get to identify our weakness and areas of improvement. 

We need people who are honest with us to assist us identify these weaknesses. There are times we are not aware that we have erred. At other times we know we are wrong but we are so blinded by our egos that we cannot accept the correction! 

Most of those who correct us care and desire the best for us otherwise they would  keep quiet as they watch us  crumble. 

Never mind the few who want to attack our self-esteem! You can always know them for they  will attack your person not the behavior, action or inaction!

Either way Mwakazi realizes that he needs some tips on how to respond to correction.  He is not handling this area as he would wish! 

The mentor advised him to review the story of King David, Uriah the diligent soldier, Bathsheba his wife and Nathan the prophet. This story is found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. 

After a brainstorming session, Mwakazi comes up with 8 tips he now shares with us;

Tip 1.....Change your attitude towards correction.

We need people who care enough to be honest. If you live with people who do not offer constructive criticism, you are missing out on a major learning process. 

But then, what is our reaction when confronted?  Is it to protect our bloated ego? Is it to take offense, feel rejected, kick off a pity-party? Do you get defensive and shoot the messenger?  Do you declare the  person criticizing you an enemy, attack them  and remind them of their many shortcomings?

Do you dismiss them as having been sent by “enemies of development"? Do you stop talking to them, malign them or even declare them “persona non grata’ in your circles? Do you cut them off from your relationships? Do you swear that you cannot attend common meetings or events?

Make a commitment to respond, not react!  Especially if you........

Tip 2.....Understand the benefits of correction

Whenever someone expresses his/her displeasure over a certain issue, know that you have just been handed a golden opportunity to improve your skills, performance, product, service, relationships etc. 

You are just about to learn what your significant others (customers, employees, suppliers, colleagues, mentors, spouses, friends, neighbours, etc.) believe you need to improve. You are just about to progress to the next level of your success journey! Grab this opportunity and..........

Tip 3.....Be available for correction

By anyone, a co-worker, a peer, a senior, a junior, a mentor, a coach, a spouse, a friend a child anyone- even those who have similar weaknesses! 

In 2 Samuel 11, King David had committed adultery with one Bathsheba who he saw bathing when he missed going out to lead his army in a battle.  Everything that can go wrong did and Bathsheba (did you note the name has a bath in it) conceives and our clever king devises a plan to trap Uriah the faithful soldier into believing he is the father. 

However being the ever loyal soldier, he   does not break the Army’s code of conduct as did King David.  Now the one trapped is the king and he came up with a shrewd plan that is certain to work- order the army commander to place Uriah where the battle is hottest and certainly he is killed!  

King David was now free to take Bathsheba as his wife and live happily ever after or so he thought! However 2 Samuel 12: 26 continuing to chapter 12 verse 1 records that “....But the thing David had done displeased the Lord. The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said....”

Please not that King David did.......

Tip 4.....Listen to understand the issue

Yes- listen carefully even if the person is directing the attack to your person and not the alleged deed or misdeed. You will probably pick something from they ramble!  Master your body and facial language so that you do not discourage the other person from expressing their displeasure. You do not have to talk to convey your reaction. 

Listen to understand. You can paraphrase what you heard the person say so that it is clear to both of you. Remember, they are also nervous (they also do not enjoy having to critique you unless they have a narcissistic personality disorder) and may not be able to express himself or herself clearly.

Once you have understood the issues at hand, thank the person for raising them even though you may not be in agreement.  Appreciate they cared enough to raise the issue!

Between verse 7-12, King David listened to what Prophet Nathan had to say about his transgression and the horrific consequences thereof. Not once did he interrupt!

Whereas King David  knew  exactly what his error was and did not need  further probing, you can.....

Tip 5.....Probe to get to the root of the matter

Ask questions to clarify the issues raised. Get specific examples to illustrate the offense. You can also present your perspective but let it not be a tug of war. Establish whether this is a one off incidence or a trend. 

King David knew the gravity of the matter at hand and thus he moved to......

 Tip 6.....Quickly and sincerely admit the error

Verse 13-14 “Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.  But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

When we come face to face with our weaknesses or areas of improvement, a quick admission serves us better than denial. It means we can start correcting it faster and continue with our success journey...even though the consequences hurt to the core. 

Who knows – when you quickly and  sincerely admit your error, you may even get some reprieve like King David.  The law was very clear as how to deal with a murderer- He was to be killed! He may have missed that punishment on himself but an innocent soul suffered and died- the son born from the adulterous union!

Be open to counsel. Be a willing learner-   Let the person tell you how they think you can correct the situation. What do they think are possible solutions? Wow... what a lesson... Now you can close conversation by sincerely thanking them for the feedback.

Pat yourself on the back too. You have held your cool. You can  now.....

Tip 7.....Formulate an action plan to correct issue raised and deal with the subsequent  consequences arising from the error/weakness

You now design an action plan on what you will do to correct the weakness. You may also need a reporting plan depending on the issue at hand and the personalities involved- a customer, a  senior, a partner, a shareholder etc.   

The consequences of the deed or misdeed   may be immediate or long term. King David  faced an immediate consequence- the death of the son born of the adulterous union. 

As if that is not enough, a future calamity awaited him as recorded  in   verse  11-12-  “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

No wonder we see King David pleading his case as recorded in Psalms 51 verse 1-3--Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me”.

Tip 8.....What about taking charge?

Rather than waiting for someone to correct us, what if we are the ones who went to them and asked for that feedback?  By doing so, we are in a position to protect our fragile egos as we are the ones  who asked not told! What can we do to improve our products, services, performance, reports, contributions, behaviours, etc. 

Over to you Passionate Entrepreneur;

  • How do you respond to criticism and correction?
  • What other tips can you share with the Passionate Entrepreneur Network?
Share with your experiences, suggestions or questions in the comments section below and help another Passionate Entrepreneur.

Whatever you do, make sure it results in less work, more money and positive impact.


Virginia Mburu

Passionate Entrepreneurs Coach

Virginia empowers and motivates Passionate Entrepreneurs to realize their purpose and pursue it. She then assists the entrepreneurs to clarify, prioritise and focus on management and marketing strategies and action plans that will get them to work less, make more money and positively impact within one year. Access some of her gifts- absolutely free lessons on

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