“Hey Noah, how do I maintain calm in the face of criticism from those in positions of power?”
The key is to take the criticism seriously, but not personally.
Delivering feedback – whether framed as outright criticism or the more politically correct “opportunities for improvement” – is an art form. And, it’s an art form few business leaders have perfected. If you want to get ahead in your career, you’ll find learning to accept criticism in a way that helps you grow without making you feel like a piece of crap to be a valuable skill.
Train yourself to say “thank you” when you really want to say “screw you.”
Focus on the content of the message, not the tone. Look for what might make your performance better next time. Ignore the rest. Fear of criticism stops most people from getting ahead in life. They’d rather keep their head down and not be noticed than face negative feedback. But you show me someone great, and I’ll show you someone who knows how to accept or ignore harsh criticism. You name the president, and I’ll name their powerful critics. You name the CEO, and I’ll find you hundreds of articles aimed to expose that CEO’s flaws.
When your boss criticizes you, take a deep breath before you react. Don’t get defensive. This isn’t time to justify your existence; it’s time to consider whether there is anything in what your boss just said that you can use to make your work better. Here are a few quotes from my library for you as well. Print them out, hang them up, and read them from time to time when you’re feeling like you’ve got a target on your back.
From Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “The Man in the Arena” speech:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I hung this quote from Jeff Bezos (of Amazon.com) in one of our conference rooms:
“If you never want to be criticized, don’t do anything new.”
And, perhaps, the most memorable:
“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard
The bottom line is this: whether you choose to ignore your critics or hug your haters, don’t ever give in and don’t ever give up. Do what’s right and what’s best for your business, your customers, and yourself.