When the advice or feedback isn’t asked for, and it comes AFTER a decision was made, from someone who has never led a team in a similar situation, that’s when I ignore leadership advice. It’s not even really advice – it’s unsolicited feedback, and it often sounds like, “You should have done x,” or, “You did that poorly,” or, “Here’s what I would have done.” It’s even worse if it comes from someone who could have spoken up beforehand – who knew you were making a hard decision – but then waits until after the fact to tell you their thoughts.
To be clear, I’m not talking about times when you’re seeking out the feedback and advice. If you ask another leader to look at a decision you made and help you figure out the mistakes you made and how to navigate it better next time, that’s different. But those Monday Morning Quarterbacks, or backseat drivers, those are the opinions to ignore.
This problem usually shows up when there is a group of leaders or managers making a decision, but the final decision ultimately lies with you. Often times, the people in the group will, during the decision-making process, turn to you and say things like, “I’ll support whatever you decide to do here,” or, “This is a tough decision and I know it won’t be easy for you to make.” They may offer some insights, but they ultimately don’t take on responsibility and accountability for the decision.
It can show up in other ways, too, but that’s been my experience. And when that after-the-decision criticism shows up, here’s what I suggest you do:
- If they had no part in the discussions for the decision, thank them, take what you can from their feedback (if anything), and then move on.
- If the person offering that criticism was involved with the decision-making process, ask them why they didn’t bring that up before the decision was made.
- Either they will say they didn’t know how it would play out – well guess what, neither did you. No one can predict the future.
- Or, they will say they didn’t think it was relevant, which means they were looking for an “I told you so” opportunity. If that’s the case, maybe they shouldn’t be in those types of meetings because they withheld information that could have helped you make a better decision.
- Going forward with this individual, make sure to ask them their opinion in meetings about future decisions. If they say they don’t have one, remind them of this scenario.