Years ago, I worked at an organization where I stepped into a situation that was not in my favor. I was following a leader who had been there for years and was dearly loved by his team. It was my responsibility to take over for him, not mess up the wonderful results that he had achieved, and take the team to the next level. I wasn’t a new leader and I was confident in my ability to achieve results. I was excited for the opportunity and ready to get to work.
Then, I met the team.
This team was loyal to my predecessor. Almost to a fault. Many of them could not envision liking or even following another leader in the same way as him. Couple that with my quiet demeanor and reserved personality, and I was faced with an uphill battle.
In particular, there was one person on the team who was the vocal leader and a person that everyone followed. It was clear that in the time period between my predecessor and me, this woman had taken the reigns of leadership and had begun to influence people in a bigger way than she had prior to the leadership change.
And she was NOT my biggest fan. In fact, she was my biggest critic. She didn’t like me and she did not keep it a secret. She was openly skeptical of me and my leadership and told others that I wouldn’t last. As you can imagine, this was concerning to me and figuring this out would be key to my success.
And I did figure it out. In a matter of a few months, she began to make the transition from my biggest critic to my biggest fan. It was a beautiful transition and this outspoken opponent became my biggest cheerleader. Because of the effort I put in, this transformation helped me lead the team in ways that I never would have imagined initially. So, here are the ways that I turned this critic into a fan:
- I found ways to complement her work. She was a great employee and a great leader. So, in recognizing that I needed to “win her over,” I found ways to complement the job she was doing. In doing this, I showed her that I was on her team.
- I found ways to support her. I gave her tools and resources that she never had before. Because I cared about her success, it was easy for me to resource her and to support the ideas and initiatives that she put in place.
- I included her. She was a part of my inner circle. I met with her regularly and asked for her input in major decisions. I never made her feel like an outsider.
- I didn’t give her reasons to criticize me. I didn’t give in to any opportunities that existed to battle her or to stoop to her level of criticism. I never got personal and kept my head straight when addressing her shortcomings and failures.
- I stayed consistent and true to myself. Faced with this adversity, I did not change the way I led. I was me. I led in the very same way I would have even if this dynamic didn’t exist.
- I achieved results. At the end of the day, my ability to be successful translated in her inability to be critical of me. Once I was able to show her that I knew what I was talking about and that I had the skills and expertise to take the team to the next level, she was left with nothing negative to say.
She and I no longer work together, but we remain friends. She is still, in many ways, my cheerleader and fan. She is someone that I genuinely call my friend. But, it is because of these intentional steps that I took that I am able to say that today.
Have you ever worked for or led someone who was a critic of yours? How did you react? Comment below and let me know!