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The Trap of “What You Should Do”

Constructive criticism, suggestions and feedback of all types are necessary for growth. This holds true both personally and professionally. We must all strive to improve continually and never cease learning, as a business that disregards feedback will inevitably become antiquated. However, when offering suggestions, there’s a nuanced etiquette to consider. Avoid dictating what others “should do” in their own business, particularly in owner-operated or smaller enterprises. While input and constructive criticism are valuable when articulated well, the framing and tone are of utmost importance. 

It’s likely that every business owner reading this will relate. There are well-intentioned patrons, as well as less genuinely helpful individuals, who constantly bombard you with “what you should do.” Whether you’re a manager, owner, or employee, you often find yourself in conversations ranging from frustrating to belittling. 

It may seem like a simple concept not to rush into telling others how to do their job, especially when the criticizer lacks qualification to do so. So, what should team members of a business do? Naturally, you want to avoid crossing the fine line of being disingenuous to your customers while still being open to invaluable suggestions. The best approach is to recognize that the vast majority of people genuinely want to help. While there are those who offer unwarranted and sophomoric critiques, being in business entails numerous challenges, especially in a consumer-facing venture. 

At Anthem’s consumer-facing properties, we cultivate a culture of understanding and train every person to seek out and welcome suggestions and feedback, while also teaching them how to handle imprudent individuals. The ability to interact with and derive value from difficult situations is the hallmark of a business sincerely committed to providing excellent service and continuously evolving. Personally, I’ve built strong relationships and friendships from initially confrontational conversations. The key lies in listening and recognizing that most (though not all) people want to help and be heard, while looking beyond charged words to discern the core message. Train yourself, train your managers and train your entire team. Emphasize listening and disarming, if necessary. Sometimes, the “lesson” from someone telling you how to run your show needs to be disregarded. However, if you become defensive immediately, you might miss the opportunity to learn and establish rapport! If you find yourself on the giving end of feedback, remember how it can feel. Consider whether it’s helpful, necessary and approach the situation without arrogance. 

By Chris Sinclair
Founder, The Anthem Group