How to use a flamethrower

Posted on April 4, 2009



Throughout the history of war, the flame thrower has been one of the most iconic symbols of power and destruction on the battlefield. Used in almost every war this century, the flame thrower is capable of  spreading maximum amount of carnage in a maximum amount of space from a single soldier (I have to admit, this weapon is a personal favorite of mine in many video games). However, as effective as the flame thrower is, this ‘fire breathing dragon’ is not without its risks. Used in close quarters combat or without team coordination, and it could mean deadly consequences for fellow comrads. This would no doubt be a commanding officer’s worst nightmare (unless you are playing a video game!).

There has been a lot of reaction about the topic of critics and criticism on this blog. It is evident that artist and leaders all over the world are conflicted about how to handle the negativity that others feel so freely to give. Unlike a video game, you can’t just blast critics out of your way. So what do you do?

I would like to call critics, flame throwers since they can fire an intense spread of criticism at close range. We encounter them at the worst places and at the worst times. I would propose that while flame throwers are usually destructive, they can also serve a valuable role on your team. Flame throwers just need a specific way to use their criticism skills in a constructive and productive way. Here are some ways to use flame throwers as a strategic part of your team:

  • Don’t just ask a flame thrower to be less critical. Commend them for their critical eye. Acknowledge that it’s a gift that has a greater purpose
  • Invite a flame thrower to regularly give input to events, systems, and decisions. Have them come up with a checklist, feedback forms, and other tools that can improve the experience
  • Have specific opportunity where flame throwers are asked to give the most extreme criticism to a new idea. They can help you hear the worst case scenario.
  • Ask a flame thrower how volunteers, staff, or leadership can improve their performance. They can also give feedback to ineffective meetings or organizational structures
  •  Officially call them ‘flame throwers’. “Bob, we need a flame thrower to look at this, can you give us a few minutes?” They will love that!
  • If a flame thrower is a complete stranger then it’s a great opportunity to invite them into the process. Most critics just want to be heard
  • Like anyone, invest the time to help a flame thrower understand their gifting. A creative leader guides and directs. Help them to use more encouraging words and to be more sensitive. Most flame throwers want to be well received; they just don’t know how to do it.

If you have a flame thrower on your team then consider yourself lucky. It takes a special eye to see what’s wrong and what needs to be done. When the heat is on, you want a flame thrower to have your back (or maybe your front!). From my experience, once you have emotionally converted a critic to your cause, they usually make the most committed teammates.

A flame thrower can help prepare your team, see the potential dangers, and can turn the tides of a battle. It’s worth the pain to have a flame thrower on your team even if you get a little singed on occasion. I’d rather be singed then caught in a unexpected ambush.