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E.I. Part 10 - The Artful Critique

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Melburn McBroom was a domineering boss, with a temper that intimidated those who worked with him. That fact might have passed unremarked had McBroom worked in an office or factory. But McBroom was an airline pilot.

One day in 1978 McBroom's plane was approaching Portland, Oregon when he noticed a problem with the landing gear. So McBroom went into a holding pattern, circling the field at a high altitude while he fiddled with the mechanism.

As McBroom obsessed about the landing gear, the plane's fuel gauges steadily approached the empty level. But his copilots were so fearful of McBroom's wrath that they said nothing, even as disaster loomed. The plane crashed, killing ten people.

Today the story of that crash is told as a cautionary tale in the safety training of airline pilots. In 80% of airline crashes, pilots make mistakes that could have been prevented, particularly if the crew worked together more harmoniously. Teamwork, open lines of communication, cooperation, listening, and speaking one's mind—rudiments of social intelligence—are now emphasized in training pilots, along with technical prowess.

(This was taken from the beginning of Chapter 10 of Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence.)

Guiding Question: Have you ever played for a coach or a teammate like that? Did it help or hurt your performance? Did it help or hurt your mental health?

Key Takeway(s): Great leaders are great at giving feedback and criticism. They do so with emotional intelligence and awareness of how the recipient will receive the message and respond. Feedback and criticism should be given with empathy, with the hope that positive changes can be made, and should point to a way to fix the problem.

Leadership is not domination, but the art of persuading people to work toward a common goal.

Providing real and meaningful feedback and criticism is one of the most important parts of leadership, but how we give them can make or break the relationships you have with the people you lead.

Feedback is the lifeblood of the team - it lets everyone know how they are doing, what is working, and what isn’t. When you don’t give clear, immediate feedback, people are left in the dark about their performance, and without it, people won’t know how well or poorly they are doing, they don’t know how their boss or the people they teach, coach, and lead feel about them, and without feedback, problems only get worse.


There is an art to giving feedback. Inept criticism that is a personal attack can lead to mistrust, anger, or stonewalling. It can cause people to fight, shut down, or quit on you.

But you can’t hold onto criticism or feedback. When you don’t communicate when something is bothering you, it builds up like Coke being shaken in a bottle until it explodes on everyone and everything around you.

When given immediately, most people can hear and learn from constructive criticism, and the longer you hold onto it, the bigger and deeper your feelings can get, and the worse your performance becomes.


Daniel Goleman writes in chapter 10 of his book Emotional Intelligence, “An artful critique focuses on what a person has done and can do rather than attacking their character. A character attack immediately puts them on the defensive so they are no longer receptive to what you have to tell them.”

Optimism is believing that you have the ability to grow and change over time for the better, and when we experience setbacks or failures, they are due to circumstances that we have the power and ability to do something about.

Pessimism comes when we believe that our mistakes or failures are due to something we can’t change about ourselves, so we lose hope and stop trying.

The goal of feedback and criticism is to correct others with optimism that something good can happen to and through them with change that they have the ability to make.

The artful critique sends a message of hope of doing better and suggests the beginning of a plan for doing so instead of creating helplessness, anger, and rebellion.


When you did X, it made me feel Y, and I’d rather you did Z instead.

1 - Be Specific (xyz). When you did this (x) _________, this (y) happened, __________. Instead, try this (z) __________.

2 - Offer a solution. Feedback and critique should point to a way to fix the problem; otherwise, it leaves the recipient frustrated, demoralized, or demotivated.

3 - Be Present. Critiques and praise are both most effective face-to-face and in private because doing it at a distance makes it too impersonal and robs the person of an opportunity for a response or clarification.

4 - Be Sensitive. Have empathy and be attuned to the impact of what you say, how you say it, and how it will be received.


1 - See the Value. See feedback and criticism as valuable information about how you can improve, not as a personal attack.

2 - Take Responsibility. Instead of getting defensive, take responsibility for your part.

3 - Take a Break. If it gets too personal or intense, ask for a break

4 - See the Opportunity. Feedback and criticism are an opportunities to work with a critic and create a teammate to solve a problem.


1 - How do you like to receive criticism?

2 - How do you NOT like to receive criticism? 3 - How do you provide criticism to others? 4 - How do you know if that criticism is effective or harmful to future performance or behavior?

Much of this information was taken from the introduction of Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence. You can find more about the book here: Emotional Intelligence

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