Random Acts of Criticism

The fact of the matter is, there is more content to read and interpret now than ever before in the course of human history.

Due to the ubiquity and persistence of Google in particular, and the internet in general, more people have more to read that ever before.

The problem is not that audiences have suddenly become alliterate, illiterate, or even semi-literate. The problem is not that there is an abundance of writing: good, bad, ugly and indifferent. The problems isn’t even in the declining power of the critic to influence and push a set of ideas.

The problem is that the act of criticism has always inherently been based upon an assumption of scarcity: both in content and in opinion.

Gatekeepers of all kinds exist to inform audiences about that which is “good” and about that which is “bad.”

But in a world where everyone can ignore the critic (or choose to revoke the critic’s power through denying them permission to influence a choice), the act of criticism has to shift from one of determining and enforcing a regime of quality to the act of educating, advocating and taking a position.

And defending it.

Of course, the critic should read, watch, listen or otherwise take in the content that they are seeking to critique. But if they don’t, then the audience owes them little in the way of attention and credibility.

Otherwise, the critic is no different than a member of the audience—albeit one with more reach, but not more impact.

[Strategy] You Are Doing Great Things, I Know It…

Performance evaluations, feedback, criticism and “suggestions for improvement” in people’s performance all serve as ways to separate leaders from followers.


We had a conversation this week about caring (see here) and we keep coming back to the idea when we think about how leaders should encourage their followers’ hearts. Most of the time, people analyze what we do—as either leaders or followers—and then make judgments about our performance. Often this judgment is then equated with a person’s character, wisdom or ethics.

But organizations and institutions can’t—and don’t—care. Only people do. And in order to encourage people to continue to follow, leaders must care about the people that they are leading, enough to guide them through the necessary risks to execute the mission.

Performance evaluations, feedback, “suggestions for improvement,” criticism, and many other forms of feedback are often used as a cover for the vulnerability that really caring about followers requires.

“But what do you do if people aren’t doing the ‘right’ thing and screwing up the process?”

This question is a corporate variation on “How do you tell the truth in grace to someone?” and it’s an excellent one. Here are three ideas:

  • Know what you care about as a leader and why—Some leaders care about process more than people. If that’s the case, recognize and praise the process, rather than attempting to recognize and praise the person.
  • Be genuine with yourself as a leader—Some leaders struggle with self-awareness. But feedback, criticism and other forms of “improvement” lectures don’t work, and can often be seen as blameing and excuse making. Being genuine with yourself means care about what your role is before caring about your followers’ roles.
  • Seek to understand first—Some leaders are self-absorbed, narcissistic and vainglorious. Harsh sounding words, yes, but in a world where genuine recognition of others is the only way to effectively encourage a heartful followership, a leader must seek to understand their followers’ hearts—and care about them.

In the short run, caring about people and building relationships is the only way to go for a leader. Celebration and rituals, combined with the importance of symbols, done with authenticity and heartfelt pride in ones followers, can do more to cement long term growth than any amount of money, service development or process change.

Encouraging the heart requires caring about people and creating long term, value based relationships.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

The Self-Determination of Experts

What is self-determination?


It is an individual and personal equation, involving a combination of autonomy, intrinsic motivation, understanding of cause and effect and the intellect and character to make empathetic choices.

Preserving client self-determination in conflict resolution is the purview of ‘the experts”: People who are more educated than the client in specific areas, whose burden it is to take on the responsibility and ethic of care for the ignorant, inexperienced client.

The unstated message behind the label of “expert” indicates elite-based judgment that creates an atmosphere of superiority, cloistered protection from criticism, a thin skin and an outsized ego.

In an economic world of industrialization, expertise is perceived as the coin of the realm; but, when the world of industrialization fractures (as it is right now) the real power lays not with expertise but with openness.

The field of conflict resolution, based in a foundation of social justice, has developed an affinity for expertise, at the expense of client self-determination.

But, how much information does clients in conflict need before they are informed enough to be “self-determined”?

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: hsconsultingandtraining@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/
HSCT’s website: http://www.hsconsultingandtraining.com