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The blessing of a negative debrief

This blog belongs with my earlielr series on debriefs. 18 years ago after a really difficult and mistake-filled mission project that I led, one of the participants came to my office and gave me an ear-full of criticism. She had about three pages of things we’d done wrong…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

This blog belongs with my earlielr series on debriefs.

18 years ago after a really difficult and mistake-filled
mission project that I led, one of the participants came to my office and gave
me an ear-full of criticism. She had
about three pages of things we’d done wrong and was intent on reading them to
me. I found her approach patronizing and
cut her off. It was not a good
exchange. In retrospect, I see that I
should have listened. Was my ego such a
fragile thing that I couldn’t take what she was dishing out? Was my time so precious that I had to
interrupt?

There is a difference between a critic and an enemy. While an enemy may be out to destroy you, a
critic often just wants to see things improved.
It’s not personal for the critic.
He actually may have pure motives, and he’s taking a risk that you’ll reject him or respond defensively when he shares his insight with you.

Feedback from those who are invested is always good. Your
self-worth mustn’t depend on another person’s opinion. The point is that God uses tough people to help us grow. And
if they will give us their honest opinion, then that is a gift.

To be a good
leader is to appreciate feedback, period. Thin-skinned people make poor leaders
because people feel like they have to walk on egg shells around them and can’t
tell them the truth. I can’t tell you the number of thin-skinned people I’ve seen hit the “Peter Principle” – they never go to the next level.
They stop growing and people just never give them the information they need.

The only proper way for a leader to deal with someone who may have a critical
perspective is to defuse their criticism by giving them the opportunity to
voice it. Clint Bokelman is excellent at this – he actually loves to talk to
youth leaders like that. He’s made many friends where there was the potential
for a youth leader to go off and bad mouth us.

If I give you feedback, the only appropriate response would be for you to say,
“Thank you for your assessment.” And then pray about it. The Lord
will reveal if it’s just my stupidity.

Many of you are leaders who have grown a lot over the years, and you’ve been beat up along the way. That’s what
happens to leaders. They get beat up. It’s the price of leadership. But over time, they become more confident in
how God made them and it’s easier to just let criticism that is unjustified
roll off their backs.

Welcome your critics; always smile and thank them for being willing to take a risk to help you grow.

Comments (2)

  • I had an ‘aha’ moment on my Kenya Real-Life Trip last summer that looked something like this:

    I was having an insecure moment in a decision I had made – worried the students wouldn’t be pleased, though I knew I had made the right decision for the hosts and our team collectively. My ‘A’ leader looked at me and said, “Why are you always so worried about what the students think of you?” That was it.

    That night, I was doing my own ‘quiet time’ at 1am and the Lord spoke, “Kristen, I put you here. I made you into the leader for this team. I’ve appointed you. And I’ve annointed you as their leader. Let Me be the one who defines you.” Literally the next day things changed.

    I trusted my own instincts as they reflected the Lord, and my concern was not to be liked by my ‘kids’ but to please God and continue to keep the students in ministry and safe.

    In the end…they (the students) liked me a whole lot more for it! Go figure…

    great post Seth
    k

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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