Critics, detractors and naysayers

Every organization, from grassroots nonprofits to Fortune 500 corporations, has faced a critic, a detractor or a naysayer — or perhaps all three. At Fervor, the heart of our strategy is a focus on your Ideal Advocates™, your best clients. But sometimes it’s equally valuable to talk about who you shouldn’t listen to. Critics, naysayers and detractors don’t belong in your organization. Here’s how to spot them.

Critics, Detractors & Naysayers


These are the folks who are willing and able to tell you everything that’s wrong with all the great ideas you have. Unless they’ve been consulted, they’ll rarely support an idea — and when they are consulted, they’re quick to tell you what’s wrong with it. To be sure, a critic is very different than someone who offers a critique. Healthy, constructive criticism can take our ideas to new heights. But the critic looks only for what’s wrong.

Seth Godin says it this way: don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. The critic will not let anything less than perfect out the door. Perfection can often feel elusive. But for the critic, it’s never good enough and that quest for perfection keeps great strategies from ever taking off.  


You know the one who’s always wagging a cautionary finger in your face? Meet the naysayer. This person may have some of the auspices of an advocate. The naysayer may even contribute value on occasion. But when it’s time to do big things and make great impact, the naysayer is the one cowering in the corner.

When you see that finger wagging — and we don’t mean the middle one, by the way — what you see is a dangerous lack of courage. The naysayer invests far too much time articulating what might go wrong instead of what will likely go well.


Detractors are the most dangerous of the bunch because they’re wolves in sheep’s clothing. To your face, they’re singing your organization’s praises. But to outsiders, it’s a different ballgame. Because detractors are unwilling to be honest to your face, they detract from the overall cause and mission.

If you hear what they really think, you’ll hear it through the rumor mill. Detractors are unwilling to be honest to your face. When they disagree with you, they’ll tell everyone — everyone, that is, except you.

Healthy debate and wise critique are necessary for growth. But critics, naysayers and detractors distract you from reaching those you’re truly called to serve. These folks have no place in your organization, as employees or clients. The healthiest way for a leader to proceed is to invite them for a come-to-Jesus, where they’re welcome to become an Ideal Advocate or find a different organization they can truly get behind. Now turn your attention away from these three, and get back to your true advocates.


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