Weekender: Stan Lee on Rewarding Criticism

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Welcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, an excelsior of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why an excelsior? Because it’s the weekend!

How do you respond when someone on your team critiques something you’ve done? Do you throw a temper tantrum? Passive aggressively write them off? Or pick apart their work so they can experience how you are feeling? What if you were to follow Stan Lee’s example and reward their criticism?

Stan Lee is the former president and chairman of Marvel Comics. He also created most of the characters being featured in Captain America: Civil War and every other Marvel-based movie, television show, and comic book. When he began to forge his legacy, Stan would receive countless letters from avid fans who found mistakes in his comic books. This may have been irritating at first, but Stan found the perfect way to respond:

A lot of readers would write to us and, even then, I had a lousy memory. If I forget what a character’s name was, we’d get a million letters saying, ‘Stan, don’t you know your own character’s names?’ And so we came up with the official Marvel No Prize. Anyone who found a mistake would get a ‘no prize.’ We would mail them an envelope saying, ‘Congrats you’re a lucky winner!’ And they would open up the envelope and see that, of course, it was empty. But our readers cherished those envelopes. Grown ups saved them and, even today, come up to me at conventions and ask me to sign it for them.

Stan’s dry sense of humor may be misconstrued in your workplace, but the concept remains—you need a consistent, clear way to acknowledge and respond to negative feedback from those who report to you. As the leader, you must maintain an open door and an open mind for dissent. You will not always like what they have to say, but if Stan Lee can take it, so can you. Excelsior!

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