1. Think of a better (realistic not idealistic) alternative.
2. Assume the person you’re about to criticise has already thought of that alternative.
3. Assume that the person has some really good reason (or info that you don’t have) to have chosen against that option.
4. Ask them what that reason(s) is.
Then, please, please DO criticise!!
Most critics don’t even do the first. Some do come up with alternatives, but they assume you couldn’t have thought if it. Very few are gracious enough to ask why you’ve made the decisions you have.
I love those people ;)
When it’s clear someone has a concern, the longer it takes to get the concern out of them, the more likely there is that there’s other concerns still sitting behind that one.
Once you’ve started digging, and they’re opening up about the issue they have with you, or church, or whatever… squeeze the pus. Keep creating space to let them get it all out. Keep thanking them for their opinion, thanking them for having the guts to come and talk to you, keep asking if there’s anything else.
It might even be worth getting to a certain point and writing it down; “So you’ve raised a few issues… first it was X, then you raised A, B and C. I’m really glad I got to hear those. Is there anything else?”
He asks you over to the side of the room for a quite chat. With grave concerns in his eyes, he tells you that “some people” (or worse, “lots of people”) have expressed some discontent about something you’ve said or done. How should you respond?
First, in your heart, remember that you can’t please everyone… not even yourself. And you’ll always make mistakes. So whether for good reasons or bad, some people will always be unhappy. You might have something else to repent of, or you might not. So don’t get too worried.
Next, respond with a simple question, void of anger, bitterness, or fear… “Who?” or “Which people?”
If he doesn’t tell you WHO, ask him, “Exactly how many? Count them.”
I’ve never heard a complaint from “lot’s of people” that’s ended up with any more than 5 individuals… including the person who raised it. That’s their version of “a lot”.
So, simply end the conversation with a pleasant and unemotional voice. “Bob, there’s a good chance those people have already come and chatted to me, in which case they shouldn’t now be talking to you. Encourage them to come back and talk to me. If they haven’t talked to me about something I’ve done, be a good servant of Christ and discourage them from talking to you, and encourage them to come and raise it with me. But Bob, you need to understand, I’m not going to listen to 2nd hand complaints – especially from people who won’t tell me their name.”
As we train and equip young leaders, we want them to grow in the skill of self-criticism. That’s a pretty tough skill to learn – cause you have to have a go, make mistakes, grow the “eyes” to see the mistakes, and have the humility to own the mistakes and create new ways to deal with it.
So as you get your developing leaders or MTSers to do that, don’t forget to model it yourself.
In 1:1s, in staff meeting, have the guts and the humility to do your own self-criticism. take them through your thing; be it an event or a sermon and let them watch you tear it apart yourself.
And if you want to go one step further, ask them to get in on the action.
If something happens to you that might be seen in a bad light, escalate it.
If someone raises a concern with you, especially with your behaviour, escalate it.
If you find out someone has some issue with you, escalate it.
If you’re about to do something risky, escalate it.
Why? Because if things go bad, they can go really bad if no-one else knows. It will look really bad if someone goes to your boss and says “He did this” and your boss says, “I had no idea!?!”
A much better scenario is your boss says, “Yes, I know all about it. He and I have spoken, and there’s more going on than you know.”