Mandatory Greatness: Criticism Is A Compliment

Mandatory Greatness: Criticism Is A Compliment
NOTE: This is a book excerpt with minor edits from Mandatory Greatness: The 12 Laws Of Driving Exceptional Performanceby J.T. O'Donnell and Dale Dauten. Criticism is a compliment. What is the absolute easiest response to an employee’s work? The one thing that they always agree with and takes the least time to prepare and the least follow-up? It’s ‘Great work.’ You say that to someone and they never disagree, never argue, never say, ‘What do you mean?’ and never make excuses or offer explanations. It’s fast and easy and that’s why it’s overdone. Add in those other things we talked about, like believing in positive reinforcement and being liked, and you have the perfect formula for happy mediocrity. On the other hand, when you take the time to criticize, THAT’S the real compliment. Why? Think of the underlying message you’re sending to the person you’re talking to:
  • I think enough of you that I’m willing to take my time to truly analyze your work and really pay attention.
  • I believe you can get better, that I see you as improving and growing in your work and career.
  • I care about you and your contribution to the team.
Those are real compliments and you know they are real because you are going to back them up with genuine thought, attention and effort. The other compliments, the ‘great work’ ones, are easy and you can’t be sure they’re true because they are unbacked, no gold in them, just words. Now, flip it, and let’s consider the underlying message from the boss who always praises everything an employee does. It either means that such a boss…
  • Doesn’t care enough to take the time and attention to help the employee improve, or
  • Is too wimpy or self-centered to offer help, or
  • Doesn’t know how to help the person improve.”
Mandatory Greatness is presented as a conversation between a high-powered business coach, Yvonne Wolfe (described as having “skirts of steel”), and a young manager who won a day of her coaching in a charity raffle. She observes him in his work, then offers a stark and startling analysis of him and his approach to his job: By imitating other managers he is making himself “a commodity product” destined for “inadvertent mediocrity.” She then teaches him to remake himself into a highly-valued teammate and a true leader using The 12 Laws of Driving Exceptional Performance.

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