If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace;
if you accept correction, you will be honored.
Proverbs 13:18 (NLT)
It is frustrating to have the desire and ability to help another person succeed, to offer your assistance, only to have your offer shunned. In my job as a consultant and business coach, I face this situation all the time. I’m always saddened when others’ insecurities and pride lead to their own unnecessary troubles.
I was called into a meeting with a young businessman and department head. Intelligent and gifted in certain areas, he had risen to a position of some prominence for a person his age. Like all leaders, like all human beings, his growing job description and sphere of authority placed him in new roles for which he was not as innately gifted. Even his superiors knew he needed some guidance and assistance to work on and shore up skill sets in which he was lacking.
Sitting across the desk from me, the young man flatly rejected the notion that he needed guidance or assistance of any kind. Slamming the desk with his hand, he made it clear that the perception he needed to improve in certain areas was completely wrong. When I tried to express that I was only offering some constructive criticism, he explained that he didn’t believe criticism of any kind was constructive. Criticism, he went on to say, is inherently negative and he would not tolerate it.
It became quickly apparent to me that I was wasting my breath and my time. I have observed from a distance as the young leader has struggled. His department and his company are struggling as a result.
I contrast this experience with another leader in the same company. Wildly successful, this gentleman unexpectedly called and asked me to meet with him. “You have knowledge and experience I don’t have,” he explained to me over a cup of coffee. “You’re my guy. I want to learn from you.” I soon came to learn that this leader had several “guys” who were experts in different life disciplines. Recognizing and accepting his own shortcomings, he became a sponge soaking up all of the wisdom and information he could gather from others who were gifted in areas he was not. “How am I doing?” he asks me regularly when he sees me. “What can I do to improve?”
I could not help but think of these contrasting leaders as I read the proverb above in today’s chapter. God, help me be honest and humble enough to accept my shortcomings, to accept criticism and to continually improve the areas I am lacking.