How to Lead Your Team Members – and Learn to Give and Get Criticism

Want to be a great leader? Want to accomplish great things quickly and efficiently?

Of course you do. Well, it all starts with your team.

The better you know them, the easier it will be to motivate them. And the more motivated they are, the more they’ll accomplish.

It all starts with paying attention: What kind of people are they? What motivates them? What doesn’t? What are they oversensitive about?

Having clear goals and milestones

Knowing this will save you a huge amount of time and energy.

Next, you need to set clear goals and milestones and get buy-in from everyone. Good leaders stay organized and always know what’s going on, where, and who’s working on it. Then, every chance they get, they give the people on their team proper credit.

You need to do the same. You’d be amazed at how many people don’t give other credit — and then wonder why they can’t get their team motivated.

Good leaders also have open-door policies and go out of their way to make their team members feel comfortable working with them. They make their team members feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

It’s up to you to make sure your team members know about the company’s goals and agenda and to show your team how the projects they’re working on affect the whole company.

Making tough conversations easy

So far we’ve talked about a lot of different ways to communicate with the people you work with, and how being an effective communicator is a very in-demand leadership skill.

But there are two more aspects of communication that we need to cover: How do you deal with conflict (between you and someone else as well as between two other people)? And how do you deal with criticism (receiving and giving)?

No one wants to deal with unpleasant situations, and people who can handle tough communication challenges are a rare breed. If you learn how, you’ll definitely set yourself apart from your peers and position yourself as a true leader.

Accept criticism …

When people give you feedback, you have to be willing to hear it without having it ruin your day or give you a bad attitude. Being able to handle criticism shows that you’re interested in improving yourself and that you want to be part of the team.

As devastating as criticism is, and for quite a few people it can be, try not to let it get the best of you. I know it’s easy to get defensive when someone says something negative about you — especially if the criticism is unwarranted or less than constructive. But before you take a mental swipe at the person who critiqued you, consider whether there might be a grain of truth in there somewhere.

If you need to, you can get a second opinion from someone you trust.

… and learn from criticism

If there is a grain (or a ton) of truth in the criticism you receive (and there almost always is), think about how you can learn from it.

Honestly, what could you have done or said differently? If you suddenly found yourself in the same situation again, would you do the same thing?

Being able to learn from criticism is not an easy thing. But it’s something that will definitely get you noticed by your manager and others.

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And, learn to criticize

As you move your way up through an organization it’s inevitable that you’ll have to do some critiquing.

Some people love to jump down other people’s throats. They actually look forward to being able to knock people down a peg or two and aren’t above reducing someone to tears.

They’re insensitive jerks. Don’t be one of them. Find a way to get your message across in a way that doesn’t do any harm and that actually makes the person you’re speaking to want to improve.

The best way to do this is to start the conversation on a pleasant note: find something to compliment the person on, something she does especially well. Then move on to the main event and return to something positive before finishing up the discussion.

Excerpted from Promote YourselfThe New Rules For Career Success, by Dan Schawbel. Copyright 2014 by Dan Schawbel and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC. 

Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the founder of WorkplaceTrends.com, a research and advisory membership service for forward-thinking HR professionals. As a career and workplace expert, Schawbel is the New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself and Me 2.0. He has worked with numerous companies including American Express, IBM, Time Warner, Ericsson, CitiGroup, McGraw-Hill, and Siemens.