Overcoming self-criticism to become more effective with your team

It’s easy to think back to what we could have done differently when things go awry or when we shift blame outside our own actions. But blame and shame do nothing to improve or correct future situations. In this article, leadership facilitator and Honorary Lecturer at the University of Sydney, Dr. Ehssan Sakhaee, offers an effective solution to address failure and feelings of shame and blame and become empowered to make changes that facilitate future success.

2652 views

Jun 28, 2022

10

4 mins read

Many project managers and engineers I have worked with communicate that one of the most significant challenges they face is being overwhelmed with self-criticism and self-blame. When it comes to the individual, one project manager might tell me that he is so focused on a task that he neglects to take care of other tasks, while another speaks of being scattered and not being focused enough on one. In either case, the feeling of guilt or shame lingers on. Although many of them take responsibility for their actions, they can’t seem to get past the self-blame, shame and self-criticism. In this article, I reveal why acknowledging and owning our mistakes and failures, coupled with forgiveness and commitment, enables us to move beyond being stuck in a state of shame, blame and guilt to become empowered and, therefore, more effective.

Are you stuck in blame and shame?

Have you ever spent hours, days, weeks or even months rethinking a project you led that ultimately failed? If so, you’re not alone. Many project managers and team leaders spend far too much time recycling thoughts about the time when things went awry and feelings of regret over something that happened in the past. This type of rumination does nothing to help them get past a lack of effectiveness. All it does is consume time, energy, and wellbeing and prevent them from being empowered to focus on future possibilities and positive change.

Speculations of this nature typically occur when people accept responsibility for something that has gone wrong, whether or not it was their fault, but don’t follow up with forgiveness and compassion. Lack of forgiveness may minimise empowerment towards a commitment to avoid or minimise similar mistakes in the future.

For example, let’s say a project manager has mismanaged a team member and caused a communication breakdown that led to the team member making a mistake due to inaccurate instructions. This could lead to project failure. There are generally two scenarios that could occur in this situation:

  1. Blaming the other person (or outside forces) and not taking responsibility, or
  2. Blaming oneself and taking responsibility.

The former can lead to resentment, anger and defensiveness from the other party, the latter to shame and guilt. Being stuck in blame and shame can cause us to close down and shut off from the rest of the team, depriving us of the opportunity to take proactive, positive action. There is, however, a more effective strategy to move forward.

Acknowledge failure, then forgive and focus on solutions

We already know that being stuck in shame and blame is disempowering. For starters, recognise these emotions as merely indicating what is important to you personally, then rise above them towards empowerment and positive change. It’s important not to ignore these negative feelings and give them space to be while also rising above them. It may seem contradictory, but acknowledging and not resisting shame, guilt, and other negative thoughts and feelings is critical. Those emotions are telling you what is important to you.

The next step is forgiveness – particularly self-forgiveness – for a mistake made in the past. Most people resist forgiveness as they may feel they are being too soft on themselves. They believe non-forgiveness serves as a way of ‘self-punishment’ to discourage repeating the mistake. However, non-forgiveness is counterproductive as it results in lingering feelings of guilt and shame, which commonly lead to self-criticism and decreased effectiveness in tackling the real issue. Dr. Richard Davidson, the founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says, “Self-criticism can take a toll on our minds and bodies…It can lead to ruminative thoughts that interfere with our productivity, and it can impact our bodies by stimulating inflammatory mechanisms that lead to chronic illness and accelerate aging.”

When we couple responsibility with forgiveness – including self-forgiveness – and self-compassion, we move towards solutions that minimise or eliminate future mistakes while fostering personal health and wellbeing. In the case of the project manager, they would exercise self-forgiveness and self-compassion. They would then take action to improve the current situation – such as asking for forgiveness from the other party – and mitigate the risk of it happening again. For instance, they might implement a communication strategy to ensure clear and verified instructions before taking action on any future project. 

The steps towards effectively becoming aware, acknowledging mistakes and moving towards effective action can be summarised in three points:

  1. Accept and acknowledge mistakes rather than making excuses or denying your part in them.
  2. Forgive mistakes and failures, yours and others.
  3. Commit to processes and steps to avoid or minimise future mistakes and failures.

We become more effective when we acknowledge our mistakes, take responsibility for them and their consequences, forgive ourselves and others and commit to implementing risk mitigation strategies to prevent them from happening again. Next time you make a mistake, instead of getting stuck in blame and shame, I encourage you to acknowledge and own it fully, then forgive yourself for it. Finally, feel empowered to develop strategies to minimise and avoid making the same mistake again. Repeat this cycle indefinitely for greater effectiveness across all team projects.

EffectivenessTrustVulnerabilityResponsibilityTechleadership

Ehssan Sakhaee

About The Author

Dr. Ehssan Sakhaee is a leadership facilitator, lecturer, author, speaker and engineer. He has taught, mentored and coached thousands of engineers and project managers over the past decade to cultivate higher levels of wellbeing, leadership and effectiveness. He holds a PhD in Engineering and was a lecturer at University of Sydney and UCLA Extension in the field of personal development and leadership for project managers and engineers.

View Profile

Get notified with Ehssan's latest articles and updates.


Comments

No Comments

You Might Like This

Article byCraig Duncan

Nov 29, 2022

4 min read

3 likes

234 views

Nov 27, 2022

5 min read

5 likes

318 views

Nov 22, 2022

5 min read

3 likes

441 views

Article byJohn Williams

Nov 20, 2022

7 min read

4 likes

599 views

Article byWayne Stickel

Nov 15, 2022

7 min read

2 likes

724 views

Nov 13, 2022

6 min read

1 likes

990 views

Article byJeanette Mundy

Nov 8, 2022

6 min read

3 likes

1003 views

Article byGreg Aldridge

Nov 6, 2022

5 min read

2 likes

953 views

Article byCraig Duncan

Nov 1, 2022

5 min read

4 likes

1194 views

Oct 30, 2022

6 min read

2 likes

1217 views

Article byJohn Williams

Oct 25, 2022

7 min read

5 likes

1545 views

Oct 22, 2022

5 min read

2 likes

1386 views

Show More
Engenesis Platform - Personal growth, self development and human transformation.

Navigation

HomeArticlesProgramsTerms and ConditionsPrivacy Policy

Need help?

+612 9188 0844

Follow Us

Copyright © Engenesis Platform 2022