Be Constructive In Your Criticism

Keith Olbermann is a television journalist.  He is a brilliant writer and broadcaster who works at ESPN, but you may have seen him on other networks like CNN or MSNBC.

 I heard him interviewed recently.  He was asked about his reputation as “being difficult to work with”.  He responded to the question by acknowledging that in his early days that he was hyper-critical of others, letting them know of his disdain and it frequently made it difficult for him to stay on a team.  But, he said that he was changed.

 The interviewer, Charlie Rose, asked what made the difference.

 Olbermann said that things changed when he got a dog. He recounted that he would take his dog on a walk every day and was impressed with the dog’s joy.  “Every person, every dog and every plastic wrapper on the street offered him a new chance for exploration.  There was nothing he didn’t look forward to.  We walked the same way every day.  Seemed like thousands of times.  The dog was always happy.”

Olbermann said it caused him to think about the way he approached things.   For instance, rather than criticize the lighting in a studio I could start with: “This is a really great studio.  Do you think it would be better if we added a little more light?”

 Criticism is necessary to lean operations.  Candor is important when identifying shortcomings and initiating change efforts.  The question is always whether you leave scars as you criticize or state the opportunities for change. 

 Olbermann’s advice is to act more like a dog. Be joyful as you go.