Have an open heart to accept criticism

Jan 17, 2016 | Ideas for Organisation

These Shape the World Thoughts have guided business leaders and workplaces since 2012 to help create a culture of purpose-driven creativity. You may use them for personal reflection or for group sharing. If you like, do share your experiences on our LinkedIn or facebook pages

Have you ever stopped to look at the floral arrangements in the lobbies of hotels or shopping malls? Every arrangement is unique and lends character to a place, helping to define the experience of all who enter. No two arrangements are the same because of the variety of flowers and styles. It all begins with the purpose of the arrangement: is it for a joyous or sombre occasion? Then, it is a constant process of tweaking, snipping, adjustments, resetting to get the right arrangement. Similarly, our lives are all unique flower arrangements that can take a lifetime to become perfect.

Have an open heart to accept criticism

In that time, our lives will be enhanced by the people who care enough to come along and prune us. They do this by giving us advice, insights and new perspectives – all with the intention of making us better. If we believe in shaping the world, we cannot be passive in seeking feedback. We must be pro-active in finding out how our peers, friends and family think about what we are doing. For that to occur, we have to develop a posture that demonstrates that we are open to criticism.

Have an open heart to accept criticism

An example of the adoption of such a posture was born in the early days of Consulus. We understood the importance of having a corporate practice that encourages individuals to accept criticism as part our growth. That is why we began the practice of BONSAI.

This is what happens during such a session: we begin by highlighting where the person has to improve. That is followed by affirming where the person has done well. We used to draw lots, but now the first one to get critiqued is usually the most senior member of the company. When receiving feedback, the person has to remain silent and listen to the feedback of the rest without giving a response or rebuttal. This is to encourage everyone to keep an open heart to accept criticism.

Bonsai allows us to see if our company is matured enough to take criticism in its stride and build upwards. Nowadays, it is increasingly easier for people to share their thoughts and concerns with one another. This enhanced collaboration and reduced office politics.

Have an open heart to accept criticism

You do not need a formal process like Bonsai to remain open to criticism, but it is important to understand your reaction whenever people give you their feedback. The following points may be useful:

  1. Do I close up the moment someone offers a criticism of my work or my style of working?
  2. Do I over-react by raising my voice when others are commenting on my work?

There will be occasions where you receive criticism that you feel may be unwarranted. In these moments, you will get disappointed and upset. At that point, you should make an effort to overcome your pride to profit from the experience by seeking to understand their point of view.

How can you live this thought?

The challenge for most of us is to find ways to keep ourselves from clamming up whenever we receive criticism. This is especially so for those of us who serve in more senior positions. The tendency to be detached from the ground increases as we go up the hierarchy. And you cannot profit from what you do not know. Thus, it is important when you are in a senior position to be proactive about showing others that you are open to receiving feedback.

This is not easy to do as it requires constant practice. A good exercise is to think positively. You should believe that the person cares enough to offer their frank feedback instead of badmouthing you behind your back. When people see that you are open, they will be more inclined to share ideas with you. By being increasingly open to criticism, you will ultimately learn more, grow even faster and be a wiser individual at the end of the day.

An Experience to illustrate this

This thought hit home for me as I was working on an article for The Columnist (A monthly e-newsletter by Consulus). I initially had struggles accepting criticism on my article’s structure and flow, as I thought that it should be based on what I am comfortable with. Upon reflection, I realised that everyone was working toward making it a standard that best reflects our company. I had to empty my judgement to allow others in to make this piece of work great. By being open and accepting to criticism, the end product was an article that was ultimately picked up by a global website featuring ideas to help marketing professionals around the world.

A Senior Strategy Consultant at Consulus

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