I can remember hating performance reviews from my athletic director when I was a young coach. I didn’t want to hear his improvement suggestions. When the athletic director said, “Sherry, you’ve done a great job building intensity with the team. Now what you need to work on is learning the difference between when that intensity is necessary and when it becomes too much,” what I heard was that I sucked.

Because I couldn’t stand hearing constructive feedback, I either avoided it or ignored it. This was the long road toward becoming a better coach. I could have shortened my road to success by several years if I had only been smart enough to listen.


Learning to accept criticism is one of the most challenging lessons leaders can learn. Why? Because they think criticism means that they have failed or that they are not good enough. They believe if they admit to not knowing something, then their followers will see them as weak. Their followers might not respect them, or even worse, they might take advantage of them.

The truth is that resilient leaders understand the power of accepting criticism. It is their opportunity to show others how to learn and that they are not afraid of learning.


I have seen many leaders sink because they surround themselves with “Yes” people, people who will not question their actions nor offer constructive feedback. When leaders choose to do this, they are not expanding. In fact, their power shrinks because it remains within a small group. The people they have chosen to be their staff are not strong individuals, because they keep silent due to their fear of being put down or fired. This silence prevents growth–growth of the company and of the individuals within the company.

Courageous leaders allow others to have voices and encourage them to offer suggestions. They recognize that when they can hear the lesson that somebody else is offering and not take it personally, they can grow at twice the rate of those who fear criticism.


The ability to listen to feedback without getting angry, frustrated or feeling incompetent allows leaders to shift through information to decipher what is true or what is false. The false information can quickly be discarded, but the true information can be utilized to create positive change.


When leaders learn that feedback is essential to the growth of themselves and the growth of their team members, they are offering empowerment to themselves and to others.  They can move forward at a faster speed, getting beyond challenges, learning new methods for higher productivity, and creating enthusiasm for success.


As I grew older in the coaching profession, I searched for advice. I asked more questions. I admitted when I did not know the answer. I gave my assistants more power to provide feedback, and I also gave my players permission to question me and to offer suggestions. What I discovered was that I became a better coach in a shorter amount of time and as a plus, my staff and team members worked harder because they felt their ideas mattered. The team won far more games when I learned that I didn’t have to know everything, and that it was okay to show others that I was still growing.