Invaluable Criticism That Makes Leadership Feel Angry


shutterstock_100738810Those who are in a leadership role within their organization and those entrepreneurs that lead themselves, should surround themselves with those who aren’t afraid to tell you what you don’t want to hear. Many times those very items save your company. The higher the climb up the ladder the more difficult it is to find that kind of candor. The more we advance in age doesn’t help either, as many of us close our minds.

There isn’t any shortage of advice in today’s world of over 450 million blogs, let alone your employees and relatives. No, I’m not here to debate how many blogs exist, because then we would need to define the word exist. Oh, that last sentence may qualify somebody as being difficult to offer advice to. I’m talking about relevant and business game changing advise that impacts the greater good of your career, start-up and employees.

Take the days when we were young and near virgins in our career path, when we are pelted with negative and often harsh criticism of our efforts and quality of work – mostly due to inexperience frankly. I mean, like the kind I had when I started life in the workforce full-time at the age of 17, while finishing high school without my parents or immediate family, that first boss didn’t show any empathy and I’m better off for it. Real leadership needs that kind of voice on it’s shoulder!

My favorite Muppet characters were the old codgers who sat in the balcony poking fun at performances as if they were above anyone who graced the stage. There is a lot of us in so many Muppet characters, and it’s way too fun to watch them in that context. That isn’t the type of critic, opinion or advice I’m talking about either.

The adviser we all need is the one who shocks you with facts unfilled with bias. I’m saying the type of advice we need is the one that makes us shake our head, feel embarrassed, uncomfortable and inept to our core. Opinions and advice you have difficulty hearing are invaluable to you as a business founder, owner or key executive. The one that makes you wonder where you’ve been, why you didn’t see that or wonder why you weren’t told that before. Fill a room full of co-workers, acquaintances and in-laws, when your socks don’t match and you will quickly find the kind I’m talking about!

Today you sit in the thrown of control and power or self guidance. That very seat is also what isolates many from critical opinions. It’s well known that as we rise in responsibility we decrease our awareness of the quality changes at many levels. When this happens, it is critical that you make it well known you are open to receiving criticism. Time and time again you need to be touched by the words of those we are talking about here.

Take heed of this advice. If you are not in tune with such a candid adviser, you have a serious problem. If you don’t have a few of these, you are in trouble or not performing at your best.

To jump into this life enhancing venture, you start by telling everyone you are open to even what will make you angry. Go beyond that stage and make certain no retribution comes of it, no matter how angry you get. No matter how boring the opinion, no matter how irrelevant it is, no matter how inappropriate or lacking in impact – listen to the opinion. Let it be known they won’t be tossed aside. Let it be known the opinion is valued. Sounds easy – it isn’t!

Taking over a thousand opinions, means listening to every single one. Keep them coming and keep not only your ears hearing the spoken word, but actually listening and preparing to apply the pain. I’ve seen a single opinion from such a critic save a company, from a source the owner often wrongly labeled.

To be open to what you may not want to hear often is the biggest asset you can have.


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About Thomas von Ahn

With more than 30 years of experience in B2B sales across various industries, Thomas has unique insight into both the offline and online sales sphere. It was during his time in the trenches that Thomas noticed a recurring theme: Though business owners are knowledgeable about their craft or trade, they often struggle to market and sell to their prospects. This realization is what prompted Thomas and his now business partner, Christine, to bring Viral Solutions to life. Since starting the company, Thomas has been able to assist countless business owners in developing a solid marketing plan based upon sound marketing strategy, then assigning the marketing tactics to a team of talented employees, and, finally, watching those actions unfold—his true passion.

Though Viral Solutions is on Thomas’ mind 24/7, he does occasionally take a break to cheer on the Green Bay Packers and enjoy his adopted home of Wisconsin. Much of his family also works at Viral Solutions, and this closeness with family and employees is the cornerstone of the Viral Solutions culture.