Why I Rarely Criticize

First, I do criticize. Sometimes I criticize publicly. Please realize my public criticism follows a series of events that has involved private criticism.

In Business

Some criticism in business is comparison. Other criticism is competition.

I recently learned about “negative SEO.” I must admit, my reaction was part horror and part nausea. “Why would anyone engage in such destructive tactics??” I wondered. If I learned a company was using negative SEO, I would question their ethics and sense of fair play and be concerned what else they may consider under the guise of “all’s fair…”.

Delivering Value

I choose to compete by delivering value. So far, delivering value has worked well for me. I’ve noticed delivering value works well for other consultants and trainers, too. I think delivering value is a better way to go because criticism – especially unfair criticism, is risky. I can hear some of you thinking…

“How is Unfair Criticism Risky, Andy?”

That’s an excellent question. I’m glad you asked!

Consider Person A who criticizes Person B. Person C hears the criticism and believes it to be true and accurate. But then, something happens. Person C hears Person B present at a conference, or Person B responds to a plea for help from Person C in a forum or social media, or Person B is recommended to Person C to help solve some technical issue, or some such.

All of a sudden, Person B helps Person C.

The odds of such help occurring are greater in our networked world than most imagine – especially in a relatively small network. The secret sauce is time.

Time and the Long Tail

The “long tail” is time in action. The things we write online never go away, thanks to services such as The Wayback Machine. Granted, not everyone monitors the Wayback Machine, but not everyone remembers to delete their criticisms after they are proven to be less-than-accurate.

Using criticism or, God forbid, negative SEO, as a mechanism for competition may return to the originator in unexpected negative ways. The risk I described earlier is but one way this may happen.

The Unpredictable Value of Good Will

I describe good will (and bad will) in a post I wrote years ago titled Goodwill, Negative and Positive. Based solely on anecdotal evidence (my experience and the experience of a few close friends), I’ve observed good will in action; and it tends to work out very much better than taking an approach best defined by the phrase, “It’s business, not personal.” Based on similar (anecdotal) observations, I’ve witnessed those who practice the mantra, “It’s business, not personal,” suffer in other areas of their lives.

My working hypothesis is “It’s business, not personal” thinking leaks into other arenas of life. It is a selfish perspective – one that always fights to win instead  of fighting well.

What’s the Difference Between Fighting to Win and Fighting Well?

  • The goal of fighting well is to propose and stand for a point, or to defend a point.
  • The goal of fighting to win is, well, to win.

Fighting to win values the opinion of an individual – usually the same person, over and over – winning the argument and achieving their way, regardless of the outcome for other team members or the company or clients.

Fighting well values the best outcome for other team members or the company or clients higher than the outcome for the individual. Fighting really well means everyone wins – other team members and the company and clients.

I am not a fan of building teams with people who “play well with others.”
I am a fan of building teams with people who fight well.


Go forth and fight well.


Andy Leonard


Christian, husband, dad, grandpa, Data Philosopher, Data Engineer, Azure Data Factory, SSIS, and Biml guy. I was cloud before cloud was cool. :{>


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