Archives For Inner Circle

Turning Criticism into a Game Plan

May 18, 2010

One of the most difficult things I have learned is how to take and process criticism.  Nobody likes to be criticized, but if you are a leader – criticism will come.  Part of the leadership identity is determining who to take criticism from and what to do with it. Those of us with a job, receive feedback from our direct manager/supervisor. It is hard to get a poor performance review, but it is necessary criticism when not meeting expectations. Every person should have an inner circle of friends and mentors to filter criticism through.

What to do when you receive criticism:

Proverbs 1:5 [Amplified Bible]

The wise also will hear and increase in learning, and the person of understanding will acquire skill and attain to sound counsel [so that he may be able to steer his course rightly]

Step 1: Hear

Receive the criticism. Do not defend yourself even if you feel justified. Your emotions are kicking in at the time of receiving criticism.  It is not the time to react. Take time to process what you’ve heard. Talk to your inner circle. This is a wise thing to do.

Step 2: Increase in Learning

There was a period in early my career where “tacky” repeatedly showed on my performance review or I heard it from co-workers.  I resisted the criticism because I felt I was a “sista that just kept it real and folks just can’t handle my blackness!” I finally got REAL tired of hearing that criticism not just at work but from friends.  I increased my learning in the area of people skills. I didn’t see the value of changing myself in order to succeed.  Become a lifelong learner of human dynamics if you consistently receive criticism in the area people skills or personality flaws.

Step 3: Acquire Skill

If the criticism is a weakness in skill to do the job, then take the initiative to fix the weakness.  Job shadow someone who’s performing similar work or the job itself. Find mentors, take classes, come up with a plan and talk to your manager. Your company may pay the bill for classes.  Above all, when you come up with your plan talk to your manager; this shows initiative, maturity in handling fierce conversations.  In other words, this earns you cool points.

Step 4: Attain Sound Council

A phenomenon I see in church I also see in Corporate America: negative people find each other, cling together and swap their stories of hardships and pain.  They hang out in packs never attaining anything but a emotional fix of someone agreeing with them. Sound council comes from people who care enough to tell you the truth. They tell you what you need to hear not what you want to hear.  I live and die by my inner circle. I don’t make decisions in a vacuum. This does not mean throw the responsibility of the decision on someone else. I hear the council and still make my own decision going in knowing what dangers may be out there and the repercussions of the decisions. Don’t listen to people who will tell you what you want to hear. That will get you nowhere fast!

Step 5: Steer your course

If you do steps 1-4, you can rest assured YOU are steering your course right!

How do you handle criticism?

On Accountability

September 14, 2009

I wrote a post on the importance of having and how to choose people for your inner circle.  Accountability is a benefit of having an inner circle.  What is accountability? There’s personal accountability which is accepting responsibility for your life and decisions you make. Michael Hyatt wrote an excellent post on Leadership and Accountability in regards to this topic.

Then there’s living a life of accountability, where others are holding you responsible for your actions. At work, it is your manager.  You will have different circles of accountability partners. Your golf partners may not be able to hold you accountable for goals you have in your career. But they can hold you accountable to goals you’ve set with your golf game.

Why do we need accountability? There are 3 reasons for accountability:

  1. Accountability motivates you – knowing someone will be checking up on you will force you to follow through.
  2. Accountability makes you better – since results will be checked by another person, you want to show your best side.
  3. Accountability challenges you to grow – another person critiquing your work gives you a different perspective. Another set of eyes on areas in your life allows you to fill in your blind spots.

There are 3 people in my life that I hold my entire life accountable to.  Then with different goals I have, I have another set of accountability partners. It’s great when you find accountability partners in areas you are trying to grow. Remember the relationship is reciprocal; be willing to hold someone else accountable.

Choosing Your Inner Circle

July 21, 2009

Yesterday Michael Hyatt posted “One Stupid Decision Away” concerning Steve McNair and the choices we make. It was a thoughtful post and I highly encourage you to read it. One point Michael makes is about the need to “build a support system of family and friends who will care enough to challenge us when we veer off course.” Those words brought an overwhelming sense of gratefulness to the people I have befriended throughout the years. Accountability is the best friend anybody can have and yet most people resist it as if they lose their freedom in doing of friends

I’ve kept an inner circle – people whom I maintain a high level of transparency and vulnerability with. The inner circle is small. These are the people I allow to speak into every area of my life and I heed their words seriously. I hold my life accountable to them. I don’t always do what they say, but they may make me slow down and think before acting. These are relationships I bring all of me to the table not just parts of me. They care about me and I care about them.

An inner circle relationship is different than a mentoring relationship. Mentors are temporary and usually involve a specific area in life: work, marriage, hobby or activity. You can go to them for advice, but it’s not necessarily reciprocated. These relationships you only bring parts of you to the table. You may have people at work you can go to for work advice, or a friend who’s a great golfer to help with your back swing. But you wouldn’t necessarily go to them if you were having personal issues. If your mentor decides to walk away, you can go find another one. An inner circle member walking away causes a loss that is felt deeply felt.

Here are some guidelines in choosing an inner circle:

  • Choose people bound by the same moral code you operate from. Know who you are and make sure you aren’t compromising your integrity.
  • Recognize the proper ‘space’ in your relationships. Some relationships are like planetary orbits; certain times of your lives you may be closer, other times further apart. It’s ok!
  • Choose people with different interests than you. I’m an engineer by trade, but I have no other engineers in my inner circle. My friends are diverse backgrounds, and I’m not speaking in terms of race but education, interests, sex, age and marital status. There is always something in common because I or they have been open to learn new things.
  • Don’t grandfather your family into your inner circle just because they are family. I have too often seen a person’s life devastated by the wishes and desires of overbearing relatives. (This does not apply to your spouse.)
  • Look for people who have vision and purpose in their lives. They may not have every detail mapped out but they are aiming at a dream.

Maintaining the inner circle is a post for another day. But always show gratitude to those in your inner circle.