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Take a ‘criticism holiday’

A “criticism holiday” is a trip that should last more than two weeks. It should also be a holiday where you can’t be contacted … by the past.

A few things on criticism:

  • We all give it.
  • We all get it.
  • It sucks. 

Even though the usual intention behind giving criticism is to improve something, it doesn’t feel that way to the recipient. Also, often it denigrates culture and doesn’t work to the degree you’d like. So what else is there?

Criticism is a form of feedback. I say we bring in “feedforward.” Let me explain:

Imagine one of the hotel gods came down to earth and stated, “We are doing away with criticism. However, we need excellence in every aspect of the operations here on earth.”

What would you do? How would you go about getting things done the “right” way” if you couldn’t criticize the “wrong” way? What if you no longer fell back on negativity to get the results you want?

Let’s say a room attendant scores less than 100% in room presentation. In my experience, a supervisor enters the room, sighs and focuses only on what the attendant didn’t do. It may be true, but you could sabotage what you want to elevate in your culture — high esteem. Some other ideas:   

  • Start with appreciation of something that was done well. Honor their spirit. 
  • Let the values drive the bus — not the error. Talk about what you are committed to as a leader in terms of your values and standards. 
  • Involve the associate in what, in their view, the obstacles may be to achieving excellence.
  • Brainstorm together about how to move beyond obstacles. (Create leadership.)
  • Agree that if an obstacle shows up, they will call someone rather than leave the “issue” for someone else to sort out (like the guest).
  • Ask them to recommit to being great.
  • Keep esteem up while driving excellence.

Criticism “feels” personal and often puts another on the defensive, which typically translates into anger, loss of productivity, gossip and passive/aggressive behavior. To take a “criticism holiday” is to get the job done while maintaining people’s self esteem. It is also a way to dig deeper into ways to re-engineer practices that could be inhibiting productivity and excellence.

Vision statements call people to what matters. They should be meaningful and crystal clear so a fly on the wall could tell it was happening. One great hotel I worked with defined its vision as “magical moments since 1897.” Then we defined what magic looked like and felt like so everyone understood it. When coaching team, asking them to determine if their actions were consistent with the vision is a far cry from “You didn’t leave clean towels again.”

They end up coaching themselves. That’s nice. 

Oh, and we should begin this practice by taking ourselves on a “criticism holiday.” Forget internal criticism of what we should or should not have done in the past. Be clear about the vision you have for the days ahead and just get back on the road to what you are committed to. Detours are just that — you get off, you get on … you get there.

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