How you and your team handle criticism can make or break the success of your team on current and future projects. When your team is focused on collaborating rather than criticizing, you work through disruptive behavior as smoothly as you maintain the flow of a project.
Here are 4 hacks to help you move forward together, confidently and collaboratively.
Team Criticism Hack 1 – Who is your biggest critic? Sometimes You are your own biggest critic. You doubt your critical thinking capabilities and professional competence. You sway back and forth between contributing positively and productively to team meetings. You continuously second-guess yourself due to fluctuating professional self-confidence. As a result, team members find your behavior disruptive and, much worse, undependable.
My advice: The first step in overcoming self-doubt is recognizing that it exists. Identify the types of scenarios that make you second-guess your own judgement. Collaborate with other team members, prior to meetings. Address project areas which cause you concern, before the scenario presents itself. Increase your ability to collaborate and help others make decisions.
Team Criticism Hack 2 – Are you talking about ideas, things or people? Let’s face it. Not all teams are examples of perfection. Team criticism unfolds when there are too many mixed agendas and personalities from the start. Over time, factions form as team members criticize each other. As a result, your team’s collective input-throughput-output suffers.
My advice: You can’t have each other’s backs if you are at each other’s throats. Collaborate on a process for handling team criticism, before the project starts. When the team creates a document (an object, a thing) to point to instead of a person to point fingers at, you collectively: 1) acknowledge that the team lacks harmony; and 2) are committed to derailing disruption before it becomes an ingrained habit. A team criticism protocol provides a Big Idea, high-level framework of behavior and, most importantly, diagnostic questions to frame the conversation.
Team Criticism Hack 3 – Handling Internal Management Criticism. Building teams is like building a house. You cannot build a gorgeous home without having a solid structural foundation. The best collaborative teams are built from the ground up. Their members are self-aware about their own competencies. Team members have a go-to framework to refer to when disruption rears its ugly head from time to time. The team works together to solve problems – even when management is engaged in team criticism.
My advice: At times a team can become so internally-immersed in project complexities that you collectively develop team tunnel vision and become territorial and protective about a project. Determine which individual(s) is best suited to liaise with management throughout a project. Identify team decisions which may cause management heartburn; determine the root cause 5-whys. Make sure you continuously connect your project’s relevance and business value to management strategy.
Team Criticism Hack 4 – Dealing with External Client Criticism. By now, you are collaborating more effectively when dealing with team criticism by yourself, team members and internal management. Every team must be able to do the same when handing off their output to the client side. Client criticism should not be a surprise if your team is actively involved in continuously communicating with that client and their management as well.
My advice: Focus your team on creating line of business value. Is your team too insular and self-focused? Are team hand-offs linear and disconnected from management strategy? More is involved than publishing notes on a collaborative IT platform and hoping someone reads them. Identify designs and decisions which the client feels are risky: has the team become defensive and territorial? You know the drill by now. Develop a go-to protocol and series of evaluative questions to frame these difficult conversations.
Team innovation happens when teams are focused on creating value: for each other and for their clients. Inevitably, issues will arise which involve team criticism. Maintain your collective focus on ideas rather than on things and people. Keep the conversation constructive and collaborative. Move forward together.
Babette Ten Haken is a management consultant, strategist and coach. She is the Founder and President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC. Babette has one of the most distinctive voices in today’s workforce, professional development and customer success communities. She traverses the interface between human capital strategy for hiring and developing collaborative technical and non-technical employees. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.
Image author: Corina Rosu. Image source: Fotolia