Did you hear about David Lee Roth, former singer for Van Halen, who didn´t like what he heard about his radio hosting talents? His bosses have labeled his performance as uneven, which could mean a lot of things, but mostly it indicates that he needs some practice. Here´s a quote from today´s Chicago Tribune: "During one recent on-air tirade, Roth complained about getting four letters about his show´s content from management in five days and said his program could be gone by May."
Welcome to the real world, Mr. Roth. Sometimes you get criticized. And occasionally you get canned. What´s an employee to do? Well, first of all, did anyone warn this guy that listeners might get upset about his shows? Did anyone prepare him for what that entails? Part of developing employees (and that includes former rock stars) is preparing them for constructive criticism.
This week I´ve been telling you a little bit about a book called The Truth About Managing Your Career . . . and Nothing But the Truth by Karen Otazo. I think what´s so appealing about this book is its honest approach. That sounds sort of obvious, doesn´t it? But in addition to the material itself I like the direction she points me toward as a reader. Leafing through the table of contents, I´m forced to think about areas of my own career that may or may not be going the way I like. Also, she forces us to be accountable for our own careers. Is David Lee Roth accountable for his behavior on the radio? He should be. Otherwise he might not be in this mess. Look, aging rockers who act like entitled children inspire pity not admiration.
Can you teach someone how to respond to criticism? I think so and I think it´s really imperative and should be part of any employee development program. It´s not easy to listen to people put you down, especially you´re not particularly fond of them. Yet we can learn so much from others if only we can step away from the anxiety and stress that often accompany the criticism. Sometimes the criticism is helpful. Sometimes not. Otazo has one section titled "The Truth About Dealing with Enemies and Antibodies" in which she presents a few sobering facts about the workplace. In one chapter, "A Teflon Temperament Is the Best Armor," she shows readers how to shield oneself from the negativity that can overcome the work environment. Some of the same strategies she sets forth can be applied to managing criticism. Stepping back from the situation (this seems fairly obvious, but it´s a little like the fitness instructor reminding us to breathe in the midst of rigorous exercise) and setting aside short breaks in the workday are a couple tips she offers.
As you wring your hands over unfortunate situation that Mr. Roth has gotten into, consider how you might help your people accept and use to their advantage constructive criticism. It´s not easy, but doing so can lead to tremendous personal growth. It takes time to master, but eventually people get it. Have faith.