Don’t Do This When People Make Mistakes

We all screw up sometime.  Maybe a careless moment or a poor evaluation of the circumstance.  There are consequences when mistakes are made.  I have been “blessed” many times with being clean-up crew when there is a big mess that needs to be cleaned up.

The fact is mistakes are how we learn.  I have really come to realize this as I have gotten older and gained more experience. There are so many times I get that “deja vu” feeling because I am in a similar circumstance I’ve been before and I remember the proper way to navigate out of it.  Experience is huge and you can’t always make up for it.

I have watched mistakes happen and I have watched how various leaders handle the problem.  There is one thing that I have learned that never seems to work in fixing a mess.  This is using blame.

When you are in the midst of fixing a bad situation the worst thing you can do is to immediately go to blame.  There is a time and a place to analyze and discuss the failures that led to the problem, but going to blame will only magnify the issue.

You will likely isolate the person who messed up.

They will feel that it was all their fault.

They will feel attacked.

They will not be in an effective position to help you fight your way out of the mess.

When one of your reports messes up its for a reason, in the vast majority of cases, the person responsible for the screw up is the person you see in the mirror.  They were not trained properly.  They were overwhelmed and you should have provided help. They weren’t ready for the assignment.  They didn’t have the proper resources.  It’s not them- it’s you!

So why are we quick to blame?  It’s our own ego and pride response.  We blame to protect ourselves.  Protect our perfect standing.  It couldn’t be me?  I did everything right!

After the dust settles and emotions die down, then you can take a look at the mistakes that were made.  The only way for learning is to confront the mistakes that were made and make changes so they don’t happen again.  This is the learning experience.  This is life.  The best lessons are learned out of pain.  It’s not fun- but it’s true.  When you have a mess, concentrate on clean up.  Jump in and help make it right.  Then, after things are fixed, take a good look at what happened and fix the problem.  Time to heal allows for objectivity and reflection.

Stay away from blame.  When you feel like you need to play the blame card- STOP AND THINK- about your role in the problem and understand what you are really doing when you blame.  A great leader will accept responsibility.  They understand that they are not perfect.  They are emotionally mature enough to know that they can make mistakes sometimes and they accept the failures of their reports.

Jump in and fix the problem.  Keep your mouth shut.  Talk about what happened later.

So what do you think?  Have you worked with a “blamer” before?  Do you see the connection between blame and pride?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

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The Dangers of Meddling

“I can do whatever I want- I’m the boss!”

Have you heard this before?  This is a true statement for the most part.  If you are the boss you can do whatever you want.  But is it healthy?  Is it the right thing to do?  Will it do more harm than good?

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Meddle: 1. to become involved in the activities and concerns of other people when your involvement is not wanted.  

               2.  to change or handle something in a way that is unwanted or harmful

When you think of meddling you probably think of a mother-in-law giving advice on child rearing or your father lecturing you about your personal finances.  Meddling is not a typical way to describe a management and leadership problem, but I believe that meddling is much more common in business than you might think.  And- I believe that it can be very damaging.

When I typically visit one of our construction sites I will call ahead and talk to the Project Superintendent and give him a heads up that I am on my way to the site.  This is a call out of courtesy and respect.  I am not really obligated to call them- I out rank them.  Others like to show up unannounced to do a “stealth” visit.  I really fail to see a good reason to come unannounced.

The reason I call is that I believe that I am going out on their project site.  Yes- I outrank them, but we have put them in charge of the site.  It’s their domain.  Their responsibility.  Even though I am a company executive, out of respect and to align with responsibilities, I feel that I need to notify them and ask to be out on “their site”.

I believe this theory holds true with most areas of management.  If you put someone in charge of a particular area, then you need to respect their authority and stay out of the day-to-day operation.  You hired this person for a reason and you have given them specific duties.  There is a chain of command for a reason.  If you fail to respect the responsibilities and you drift in and out of issues as the wind blows it can be very damaging.  Here are a few of the problems that can develop:

  1. Undermining Authority: By getting involved in the day-to-day activities, you are blurring the lines of authority.  This adds a layer of confusion to who is really in charge.  The employee will be able to take the path of least resistance.  If you are trying to discipline an employee or work out a particular strategy, your efforts can be completely destroyed by a meddler.
  2. Mixed Messages: By getting involved, you will invariably be sending a different message to the employee.  It is extremely unlikely that your message will be identical to the manager who is their direct report.  If you follow the chain of command, the employee will hear only one voice and this will eliminate confusion.
  3. If Dad Says No- Go Ask Mom: We all know this tactic used by children to get what they want.  This also occurs in management.  If you meddle, you are setting yourself or your manager up to be manipulated.  By getting involved, you have added an additional person to the equation and you may be used to wiggle out of a responsibility.
  4. Nice Guy: If you are the big boss and you want everyone to like you, it will be very difficult for your manager to keep the employee focused on areas of improvement.
  5. Turns Down The Volume: If you are meddling and constantly giving direction instead of following the chain of command then the voice of the manager becomes secondary.  Due to your position, the meddler’s message will always drown out the voice of the manager.  Their voice becomes secondary.
  6. Mr/Ms Everything: You have now set yourself up to be involved in everything.  You will now field questions and problems that you really don’t want to deal with.  You can’t get away.  You can’t take a vacation without anxiety.  You loose your trust in your managers.

These are just a few examples of the damage that can occur when you neglect to follow the lines of authority.

You believe that you are better.

You just can’t stay out of things.

You can’t trust anyone to get it right.

You have to get involved in everything.

You want everyone to rely on you.

You have no real confidence in your managers.

Your opinion is the only one that really counts.

You may be telling yourself that you are just “helping out”.  Well, if that’s the case, then ask them if they really want your help.  Remember, if you truly want to help and be productive, then you need to take complete control of the issue and follow it through to the end.  You can’t have one foot in and one foot out.  You can’t bail out when it’s not fun anymore.

Be very careful.  Being a meddler is addictive. When you are involved in everything and you drift in and out of things responsibility suffers.  Who really has the ball?  Should you really carry everything?  Push everything back through the chain of command.  It’s there for a reason.

Empower your managers.  Support them.  And, most importantly, stay out of their business!

So what do you think?  Have you witnessed this behavior before?  Do you believe that you are entitled to do whatever you want when you are the boss?  Click on “Leave A Comment” and tell me what you think!