Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Let's play the blame game!!!

Ever notice how folks choose between WE and THEY when referring to their favorite sports team based on their performance? Usually, what you'll hear is "We won!" and "They lost." Folks just have a natural tendency to want to associate with a winner and run far away from a loser. This is also covered by the old saying that "Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan."

As interesting and unimportant as this is when talking about sports teams, the whole concept needs to be considered differently when thinking about how we come across in our business or family environments. Careful choosing of ME, YOU, and WE can go a long way to letting folks know what kind of person you are, how they are viewed in your eyes, what kind of responsibility you take, and generally what kind of leader you are.

Let's start with something "good" to talk about... like a successful decision (in hindsight). You're talking with the group about that past decision. Maybe it was clearly made by the team as a whole, and saying something like, "That was a great decision we made" flows naturally. But what if it was really YOU that made it, and everyone knows it? Now is the perfect time for, "WE really made the right decision back then."

Look, you know you made it, they know you made it. But what's important... taking the credit or making the team feel successful? Isn't it also possible that SOMETHING from part of the team helped you make that call? If so, they were involved anyway. The point is, you live and die by your team, and sharing the credit for anything with them makes them feel good, increases morale, and will generate more successes in the future. ESPECIALLY if you're in some kind of situation where the big boss is around too, using the WE word is going to go a LONG LONG way. Again, ultimately, the big boss knows who was leading things and you'll get your just reward (at some companies).

So, if WE is good, why wouldn't YOU be even better? I mean like saying, "That was a great decision YOU [ALL] made." Well, you need to see if that's appropriate. If the team clearly went in a different direction from what you had originally wanted, maybe it is. But even so, you probably let them have their way, and you get some of the credit for recognizing that maybe you don't know everything in the world ALL the freaking time. In general, WE will work for most instances.

And, as you might expect, when things go "bad", shifting in the other direction is the mark of a good leader. "I really blew that one guys," or "That one's on me." Yeah, maybe the whole team can share the blame, but take blow. As bad as it is not to include the team on the good stuff, pointing the finger towards one or more of them for the bad stuff totally sucks.

By the way, these rules don't apply to only the times when you're with your team. If you're in a management meeting, use HE, WE, and THEY in recognizing successes of your team, and use I, MY, and ME when talking about the bad stuff. Again, folks kinda know who was responsible for what anyway... or your boss will certainly find out. But acting this way in a meeting shows the other managers that your team is more important to you than you are. Set a good example and maybe other folks will follow and improve morale on a wider basis.

When your team knows you're trying to include them in the successes and not blame them for the failures, they'll appreciate it and be much more likely to go to the mat for you next time.

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