The way you speak about your team publicly will set the stage for how you are able to lead privately. Whether “publicly” for you means from stage, in conversations, in emails, or in feigned heart-wrenching prayer requests, public criticism is more important than you might think. George Washington knew this.
Washington was a man of exceptional, almost excessive self-command, rarely permitting himself any show of discouragement or despair, but in the privacy of his correspondence with Joseph Reed, he began now to reveal how very low and bitter he felt, if the truth were known. Never had he seen “such a dearth of public spirit and want of virtue” as among the Yankee soldiers, he confided in a letter to Reed of November 28. “These people” were still beyond his comprehension. A “dirty, mercenary spirit pervades the whole,” he wrote. (from David McCullough’s 1776)
Washington had a clear, accurate view of the people he was leading. But he chose not to rake them over the coals publicly, and in this showed incredible self-restraint and wisdom. It would’ve been easy for him to slough off the fact that he and the rebels were losing the battle against the British onto the people. To paint the colonists as a bunch of sloppy, ill-fitted, cowardly bunch. But he chose the honorable route of honoring them publicly.
You’re probably not the commanding general of the US Army, but this restraint is wise in relationships like
- Pastor –> associate pastor
- Small group leader –> small group member
- Husband –> wife
- Boss –> co-worker
- church staff member –> church staff member
- deacon –> pastor
- volunteer –> executive director
- student –> teacher
When someone speaks negatively of your team, it’s often easier to just shake your head in flaccid approval. Or join in, making you look better and them look worse. Whether you’re a leader in your church, in your community, or in your home, public support is vital.
7 reasons your team desperately needs your public support
1. Public praise builds respect.
Very few things will earn someone else’s respect of you more than them knowing you have their back no matter what. Even when you don’t fully agree with the decision they’ve made, and would’ve yourself made a different decision.
With public criticism, you rip others apart and cause them to disrespect you.
2. Public praise nips negative attitudes in the bud.
When you don’t give critics the satisfaction of dragging your team through the mud, you paint a vivid picture of a united team.
Public criticism breeds public and private criticism.
3. Public praise promotes creativity.
Instead of spiraling downwards into backbiting and complaining, public praise keeps the focus on what’s good, and where improvement and innovation can happen.
Public criticism squelches creativity because it causes you to lose focus on the problem, and spiral into negativity.
4. Public praise gives you a real chance for influence.
If you publicly criticize others, you have no chance of leading them behind closed doors. They won’t give you a chance, because you’ve ripped their confidence and trust.
Public criticism closes the door for private leadership.
5. Public praise for someone else brings public praise on you, too.
What goes around comes around, both positively and negatively. If someone is criticizing one of your team members now, they’ll criticize you later. Mark my words.
Private criticism permeates a team culture.
6. Public praise builds team.
Public praise helps show others that you are on a team, and that you are all headed in the same direction. It builds the confidence of those you are leading as they see they are being served by a team, not just one person out to criticize everyone else.
Public criticism deteriorates the health of a team.
7. Public praise shifts your heart to love.
Love hopes all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7) Your heart shifts towards love when you act lovingly, even when your feelings aren’t there yet. Try hoping the best for the people you serve with, even when you’re not 100% sure of the motives. Because that’s what love does.
With public criticism, your heart can grow cold to those you are serving with.
There is a time and a place for critically evaluating ideas, decisions, and character issues. But those hard questions are better asked in private than waved publicly for others to join in the gossip and negativity.
Next time someone tries to throw a fellow team member under the bus, yank them out before they get run over. It’ll be better for you, your team, and the hater you’re talking with.
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. – Paul, Ephesians 4:2-3