Thank you for listening to the Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! In today’s episode of Hanch’s How-To’s, I’m addressing two of the most common concerns young leaders have: how to handle critics and develop mental toughness. If you’ve been a leader for any length of time, I know you’re going to resonate with these concerns and be able to apply this advice immediately to your unique situation.
1. How to Handle Critics
Leaders often ask me how to avoid being criticized, and my answer is always the same. Just don’t do anything significant! If you are doing something that will change the world, you will have people speak against what you’re doing. Sometimes their criticism will be valid, and sometimes it won’t. Your job is to know how to navigate the conversation.
1. Don’t respond right away.
After you receive a critical email, comment, or phone call, take a moment to reflect before you respond. The best time to respond is when you are feeling clear-headed. Usually, this happens after you have talked about the situation with your spouse or a mentor. Having an honest conversation can help you process the situation after your emotional response has dissipated.
2. Look for the hidden truth.
Even if the critique is ridiculous, ask yourself if there is any truth in what they said. You can learn from your critics if you are willing to put your ego aside. You may find a nugget of truth in what they said, which may prompt you to change the way you act as a person and as a leader.
3. Value the relationship
Just because their response was emotional, public, or mean-spirited does not mean yours should be as well. Make an effort to reply in a way that is more relational than the way they did. Doing so will highlight your composure and commitment to resolution and de-escalate the conflict.
Q: Why do you think critics make people feel uncomfortable? Have you ever had a critique lead to a positive change? Describe your situation. How did your feelings toward the critic change over time?
2. Building Mental Toughness
Your potential relies on your ability to be resilient and strong in the face of challenges. Unfortunately, you cannot just decide to be more mentally strong. Instead, you need to develop habits that will build your confidence.
1. Master the art of self-talk. The words you speak to yourself are the most powerful messages you receive. Self-talk, whether positive or negative, can highly affect your mindset and performance. Becoming more aware of the stories you tell yourself will help you shift your mindset.
2. Embrace setbacks. Learn to view all setbacks as an opportunity to learn rather than a source of frustration. Reframe your setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow instead of viewing them as a threat to your security. As you become more willing to embrace setbacks as opportunities, you will become more creative and skilled at coming up with new ideas and solutions. When you come through a challenge, ask yourself these questions to make the most of the experience: What went well? What do I need to improve? What do I need to stop doing?
Q: Describe a time when you persevered in a difficult time. How did you feel afterward? What setbacks did you have to overcome?
Q: What is the tone inside your mind? Do you feel like you control your thoughts or do your thoughts control you? Why is that? How could you change your thoughts to paint a more positive picture of yourself?
One of the best ways to become self-aware is to take a personality assessment such as the strengthsfinder assessment. The goal of these tests is not to pigeonhole yourself into a certain type or create excuses for why you are the way you are. Instead, use the results to pinpoint some of your natural strengths and weaknesses. Then you can become more aware of the areas you need to work on and recognize when those weaknesses show up in your professional life. If your workplace offers an assessment, take the one they recommend! If not, consider choosing an assessment for you and your team so that you can increase everyone’s awareness of their strengths and weaknesses.
You can improve your mental toughness by developing your confidence in conflict resolution. This is one of the areas I feel many leaders dread, but having a strong, well-planned approach can help remove some of the anxiety from difficult conversations and increase your mental toughness overall. To get started, check out the podcasts I did on navigating difficult conversations HERE.
Another way to develop mental toughness is to practice taking risks! If you’re nervous about taking risks, start by taking controlled risks. Depending upon your level of comfort, you could start with something as simple as ordering something different at a restaurant, engaging in conversation with a stranger, or trying a new activity.