Invite the criticism... and then "lean into it"!

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

You know those times when someone just has something to say?

A couple of days ago I found myself in a "professional discussion" where someone felt it was very important to offer me a perspective regarding what I was doing - He didn't understand or see the utility of LinkedIn (or beBee), didn't see any reason for all of my blogging, questioned my range of topics and ability to have much to say, and finally questioned how I could "monetize" my efforts. In the end, he said he was "sorry to offer all this contrary perspective"; all with a slight air of conviction that he was right and I was wrong I might add.

To that I said, "I really appreciate the discussion; it's important". And I truly meant it! 

"I'm arrogant enough to think I know everything and smart enough to know I don't" is a self-reflective reminder I came up with a long time ago to ensure I, "shut up, listen and consider that maybe I'll learn something". It has served me well over the years but if truth be told, I sometimes forget. I didn't forget a couple of nights ago though; instead I listened, considered, thoughtfully engaged, and appreciated every word.  

"I agree with myself 99 out of 100 times" is another self-reflection that reminds me it's important to get feedback, council, advice, criticism and even the "odd hater"(for good measure). It's a recognition I am not always right, and I need to get other perspectives, thoughts and insights that differ from my own. I Invite the criticism and the differing opinion; I want to hear something I have not heard before to help support better decision making.

"Lean into the criticism" is the most recent self-reflective reminder that I've adopted and probably should have adopted a while back but hey, I'm still a work in progress. As I look at it, "Lean into the criticism" is an important reminder in the following ways:

  1. Criticism, although by definition is considered negative, needs to be stripped of any emotion. It needs to be looked at intellectually and not considered irrelevant just because you "don't like it" - Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's wrong.
  2. Meet criticism head on - Don't evade criticism, don't shy away from it and don't diminish its value. Criticism will let you pressure test your thinking, validate your conviction, and will ensure a better chance of success. If what you are doing can't stand up to a little criticism, how can you expend it to succeed in the "BIG, BAD WORLD"
  3. It allows you to validate the critic's credibility for next time - In the end, you are inviting the critics, not the haters.

Any and all critics welcome... and the odd hater for good measure.




Facing challenges, problems or "everything" for that matter...

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

I was saying to myself a while back that as much as I know the name Napoleon Bonaparte, that he lost at Waterloo and was somewhat vertically challenged, I really didn't know anything about him.

 Lo and behold, on Christmas day under the tree was a gift from Santa - The book NAPOLEON (Soldier of Destiny) by Michael Broers. That Santa Claus is brilliant; year after year, always getting me what I want.

As I finished the book's introduction there were four insights regarding Napoleon that immediately resonated with me; if truth be told, they have humbly given me further perspective when I am facing challenges, problems or "everything" for that matter.

Insight one: Napoleon lived during the French Revolution, notorious for being one of the bloodiest periods in modern civilization where no one was spared the gory violence; where at any moment your friend could turn you in as a counter - revolutionary and where the steady thud of the guillotine blade meeting flesh and bone became a white noise.* Every day was literally a life and death proposition.

  • There are some very harsh realities that can come your way... count yourself lucky if you aren't dealing with them. In the end though, you still have to work through whatever you are dealing with.

Insight two: In 1793, having to flee Corsica for their very lives as a result of "La Vendetta"**, the Bonaparte family literally found themselves washed up on the shores of France, alone and without a penny to their name. Napoleon, although not involved in that desperate flight off the island, was at that time the head of the family and very much part of his family's fate.

  • Circumstance, sometimes outside your control, can take everything away from you. It is important in the most literal sense to still be standing so you can continue on.

Insight three: Following the destruction of the family wealth, status and home, it took Napoleon Bonaparte six years to become the ruler of France in 1799.

  • Where you are now, and where you want to be, are mutually exclusive... sometimes getting there can happen much faster than you think. 

Insight four: Napoleon Bonaparte wrote his own history - He knew what he wanted and was bold enough to take it. Granted, there were times he elected to "re-write" some of his history, but in fairness, he did rule France.

  • Know what you want and be bold enough to go after it!

All of this and I've just read the book's introduction.

Before I get back to my book, there is one last insight - It's worth taking the time to search out people's stories, their lives, their challenges and triumphs... each and everyone a window into the strength and wonder of the human condition. You never know, it may lead you to where one day people are reading about you.


* Mallary A. Silva-Grondin & Contributors "How the French Revolution Worked" 27 February 2008.

** A feud between two families that arises from "slight, injury or killing of the member of one family" by a member of the other family, leading to long-lasting animosity and retaliatory acts of blood revenge... "If you offend him, he will kill you by a gun or by a stab..."



A letter to the CEO has never been easier...

If you send a letter to a CEO, he or she will answer you... a Google search and some simple detective work you can have their email address rather quickly - Letter sent and letter received... it has never been easier. Keep in mind there are some caveats, but that is true with most things.

Why would you send a letter to a CEO? One major reason is they are great problem solvers, or have access to a whole organization of people that are. This can be very effective for solving a problem you're having with an organization, particularly if the CEO is at the helm. Other reasons could be to seek advice from a domain expert, networking or even presenting an idea that you think they may be interested in.

Why would a CEO want to hear from you? As a customer, you are critical to a company's success; they will want to hear what you have to say - If things are going "right" or if they're going "wrong"... and if things are going wrong, they will want to have it fixed to ensure good business governance - Good business governance is definitely high on the list for a CEO. As an employee or customer, they want to hear your thoughts, ideas and concerns as it is all about "engagement", something else high on a CEO's list.

Recently, I sent the following letter to solve a customer service issue I was having with a bank... I have edited it slightly and removed the bank's name as my problem has been solved and I appreciated the solution. I want to illustrate that CEOs get things done, not specifically the issue with the "Bank".

Subject: Why is dealing with your bank always so onerous?

Hello Mr CEO,

I have been an account holder with the "Bank" to one degree or another since I opened my very first account back in the early 70’s. Today’s interaction with the "Bank" continues to re-enforce how difficult it can to work with your organization and why over the years I have moved a majority of my daily banking elsewhere. I currently have a safety deposit box, a component of my daughter’'s trust, and a small line of credit with one of your branches. 

Today'’s issue arose attempting to add my daughter to my safety deposit box so she would have access to important documentation in case of emergency. As part of this process we needed to set up an account for my daughter before she could be given access to my safety deposit box; after all of the identification was shared and validated we were asked for a “bill to prove my daughter’s address”, as her current address is different than mine. We could not move forward until some sort of 3rd party correspondence was submitted. As you can appreciate this information was not readily available at the time, we were told that nothing could proceed due to “policy” and had to come back with the information.

I appreciate that need to validate against fraud and such, but I think there was a complete lack of context on your branch’'s part, and in the end did nothing but inconvenience me.

  • As the father, and in fact sponsor of my daughter to get access to my safety deposit box, I do not understand why a "3rd party bill with an address "confirming her driver’'s licence address" is needed.
  • I was told that if my daughter’s address had been the same as mine I could vouch for her, but since it is different I could not. I do not understand the logic and why my credibility changes?
  • The trust account that is currently with you is in fact my daughter’s, so again I do not understand why such validation is needed.
  • At one time my daughter had an account with the branch, but that didn'’t seem to be relevant.
  • My daughter already has the second safety deposit box key, so in a practical sense all you are doing is standing in the way of using it. This is particularly inconvenient if an emergency happens in the near future, as there are papers that would need to be accessed. 
  •  In the end, the position of your bank was to stand behind a policy that wasn'’t even explained clearly, and put all the burden on us to track down a 3rd party bill for my daughter who is 20 years old, in school, mobile by definition and has not established herself yet with the 3rd party confirmations your “policy” says is needed.

I should make it clear I do not see this as an issue for my daughter but for me - a long time "Bank" account holder who has had mortgages and a sizeable line of credit with you. All I wanted to do was add my daughter to my safety deposit box, but in the end has been a onerous activity, a waste of my time, and re-enforces why my primary banking isn'’t with the "Bank".

As you know, Safety Deposit Boxes are a rare commodity, so I have no intensions with “tub thumping” how I will stop dealing with the "Bank". What I will say though," I have little interest in doing business with you except when absolutely necessary". I hope you can appreciate my perspective and the intentions of this note.


As a customer, I was pleased with the response and how my problem was dealt with. I hope they appreciated me bringing the situation to their attention, instead of me just quietly disappearing into the night. More importantly, my daughter was pleased with how they responded, and being a Gen Y, she represents the future they need to deal with..

I should point out that there are some caveats that come with writing the CEO and being effective... these come to mind.

  • If you are a customer addressing a problem - Constructively and factually outline the situation, your concerns and the impact... there is an aspect of credibility that needs to be established. There is no value with emotional criticism, insults or unrealistic threats. It dilutes what you are trying to say.
  • Before you write a CEO, ensure you have taken the time to investigate other avenues of resolution. Most companies have problem resolution mechanisms, but ultimately it is your decision when you escalate.
  • Be prepared for a response, and with that, an expectation you want to work to a resolution; a cathartic tirade letter to a CEO is a waste of time, and there is a lack of credibility that falls back on the author.
  • If you are an employee writing your CEO (and I encourage it), ensure you are bringing solutions to your discussions, not just problems and observations... they get enough of those from customers.

The letter is by no means dead... just evolving. It's faster, easier to deliver and has an increased chance of creating a dialogue... ideal for problem solving. Ask any CEO.