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 the 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 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 on 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 cowards.
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.
Seven reasons your team desperately needs your public support:
1. Public praise builds respect.
Very few things will earn someone else’s respect for 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.