Monthly Archives March 2012


It’s Your Fault. Don’t Do That.

As I’ve grown older and oh-so-much wiser, I’ve learned that assigning blame is a spectacularly destructive and unproductive act. And a real turn-off.

Where’s the benefit in making someone feel bad? How does that help advance the cause?

I blame you. It’s your fault. You screwed up. You prevented something good from happening. It’s not my fault. I didn’t do anything wrong, or at least not as bad as you did. I really am tall, handsome, erudite, charming, and always right.

Not helpful. Not appealing. Don’t do that.

When considering the question, “why didn’t this situation turn out as hoped?” each of us must focus inward. Jim Collins writes in Good to Great, “[Great] leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well (and if they cannot find a specific person or event to give credit to, they credit good luck). At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly.”

We all want great results, and we all know that the road to success is rarely smooth and straight. Bringing blame into play is to make someone else feel bad, takes our eyes off the prize, and wastes time. You’re not moving closer to a solution. It’s being emotional when the situation calls for rational.

To be clear: it’s central to our jobs as leaders to help the folks around us to raise their game and reach their potential. Doing so includes giving both praise and critical perspectives (hopefully at about a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio). Critical comments must be phrased in a way colleagues can hear, which probably isn’t all that different from how you’d like to be told.

If you like your life and work simpler, happier, and more productive, then define the result you’d like to achieve and accept that the path to success has all manner of twists and turns. Don’t get caught up in shoulda’s, just stay positive and focused on delivering the goal. Keep asking, “What do we do now? Where are we relative to our goal, and what are the best next steps?”

The job of leadership, at all levels, is to make good things happen. Stay focused, positive, determined, and enjoy the challenge. Treat those around you the way you’d have them treat you. (Kind of a golden rule, don’t you think?)

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