Monthly Archives September 2013


Remember Goofus and Gallant?

The town I live in is best known as a fine place to begin a Revolutionary War – 240 years ago. These days we maintain our national profile with our first-in-the-US ban on selling single-serve plastic water bottles, and failed attempts to get a leash law for cats enacted.

Two weeks ago, we again made the news owing to a screw-up at our high school. On 9/11 of all days, there was neither a public recital of the Pledge of Allegiance nor a moment of silence. There was, however, a poem about Muslim and American cultural understanding and tolerance read over the school intercom. It was not, as reported in some national publications, a depraved act trading off the poem for the Pledge. It was plain and simple, an operational screw-up and arguably poor judgment for reading that poem on 9/11, but nothing more.

The Principal, although not directly involved in either the omission or commission, promptly took responsibility and publicly apologized, repeatedly. As the hysterics – probably more from outside the town – continued unabated, a public meeting was convened to enable dialogue and explanation.

At around the same time, and admittedly far less serious, our high school football team played their first game of the season. Two years ago our team won the state championship for its division, so we’re pretty good. But this time, our opponent dominated the first half and was leading 22-0, before our boys kicked it into gear and staged a great comeback to win.

Both events were reported in our weekly town newspaper, and from the different articles two quotes stood out.

“I would like to apologize for the poor judgment shown by [our HS Principal] and his administrative team during this year’s remembrance of 9/11…” (School Superintendent, aka “Goofus”)

“We came out in a fog in the first half. That was my fault for not getting them ready.” (Head Coach, aka “Gallant”)

Which leader do you think is more likely to inspire loyalty and best efforts from others?

As a boss, exactly when is publicly throwing an employee under the bus a good idea? (Not the first time the Superintendent has done this.)

Personally, I’m still stunned and freakin’ nuts (at least more so) about the Superintendent’s comment, and consider that conscious act far more heinous than the errors leading to it.

The point here is obvious. In any organization, business or otherwise, great results come from people who feel engaged, appreciated, directed, and supported. Leaders who play the blame game (click here for a past article on this topic) set an awful example, put others on the defensive, and create an environment of fear and loathing. In other words, those “leaders” are making sure the folks around them are distracted and demotivated – focusing less on doing their best and more on how they’ll be judged.

I’m not religious, but the quote that leaps to mind is, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone….”

Casting stones and/or acting like Goofus aren’t going to produce great results. Go Gallant!

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