Tackling Armchair Quarterbacks
Receiving criticism indicates you’re doing something. Get used to it.
Armchair quarterbacks carry the burden of knowing what should have been done.
Armchair quarterbacks know what you should have done and how you should have done it. Furthermore, they are glad to share their wisdom and insights with sympathetic listeners but they won’t share the burden of actually throwing the ball. They strut and posture from the side-lines.
In some cases, you invited their criticism by excluding them. You didn’t invite their input or participation. Worse yet, they felt ignored when they spoke.
The only power disenfranchised
people own is disruption.
In other cases, you invited their input but they rejected the direction you’re leading.
In all cases, armchair quarterbacks wrongly believe they have deep insights. They:
- Know more about you than you.
- Understand you better than you understand yourself.
- Know why you are doing what you are doing. They suggest you are wrong, stupid, weak, evil, selfish, or all five.
- Know what you should do.
- Know how you should do it.
What to do:
- Stop believing you always know what’s best. If you’re the smartest person in your organization, your organization is in peril.
- Realize all collisions are rooted in conflicting values. Find alignment where possible.
- Make tough choices kindly.
- Fully and unselfishly align yourself with what’s best for the organization, without reserve or hesitation.
- Maintain optimism. It beats the alternative.
- Never lie, lash out, envy, slander, or put on a façade, ever. Move on.
- Humbly submit to noble values. Arrogance offends.
- Clarify vision.
- Serve. Belligerence and dominance always offend.
- Build strong alliances.
- Maintain openness regarding methods. It doesn’t have to be your way or the highway.
- Never blame. Blame is the temptation of cowards.
What do you do when you feel criticized, judged, or misunderstood?
A hard pill to swallow sometimes…but thank you for this post, I know it’s true…
Thank you Diana.
Great points! At first I thought maybe you were going down the path of ‘ignore them’ – which is so tempting but not usually helpful to your cause. Great advice – thanks for a good start to a day on the field!
Thank you Mary Jo.
You’re right. It can be tempting to ignore armchair quarterbacks. Burying our heads in the sand only works when it’s break time. 🙂 I feel the temptation too. My biggest temptation is being defensive and blaming.
Very timely piece. I find the What To Do section wonderfully helpful in reminding me how the actions of the leader may spur this type of behavior. What’s missing(maybe) is the part about what to do when an employee develops their own negative behavioral pathology or parallel universe of self importance at work, is that where #3 enters the picture…???
Thank you Philip.
I didn’t deal with issues like termination in this post, if that’s what you are hinting at. That is an option when negative behaviors negatively impact mission, vision, forward movement, and productivity sufficiently to warrant action.
Yes, #3 does apply here.
If correction or rebuke are in order, #3 definitely applies. IMHO
Never blame. Blame is the temptation of cowards. I agree to your powerful statement. It is true that people who habitually and consistently blame are weak people. They perceive that by blaming others they can cover their weaknesses, but by doing so, they weaken themselves even more. The simple and perhaps best way to overcome this is to accept the weakness. It looks easy but hard to accept. It is painful when someone criticize or judge me negatively. It is hard to believe it. But I accept and work upon it. However, I find out the source first than to just accept anything. I take it positively when source is trustworthy and reliable.
I think armchair quarterbacks is the style of making judgment about others. It might be true that these kind of people know the gesture of others. They might also suggest some measure to improve, But I feel such philosophy to evaluate other could be more based on perception and less on reality. So, if one wants to judge someone, he or she should collect proper and full information before giving advice.
So again, I think what I’m reacting to in this post/topic is the concept of disruption. As a “leader” I am open to and welcome input. advice, constructive criticism. I am always open to plan, do review, and change. That being said, at the end of all my “openness”, I am the boss(note the small b). Having allowed for staff input and fostered buy-in, if I still have an outlier employee thats makes a decision to become disruptive, I must act as part of being leader is recognizing that all other members of my team see this disruptive behavior and look to me to correct it. Although, some staff will properly begin a peer to peer containment if they feel comfortable doing so.
Thank you Ajay.
One of your insights I enjoyed the most is perhaps the best way to overcome weaknesses is to accept them. Love it!
I know you don’t mean we should accept and not try to improve…but before we make progress we must accept things as they are not as we wish they would be.
Am working with a school leadership team. Our goal is to provide training and subsequent coaching on an interest-based problem-solving model. There is low trust within the group. The challenge is to balance respect for all voices while honoring time and staying on topic. We frequently use the “bin”. Are there better ways to frame this goal considering the circumstances?
Thank you Mary.
I’m not sure what you mean by using the “bin”… do you mean the garbage can?
It sounds like learning how to trust each other might take you farthest. Best wishes for success.
Thanks. Great practical insight. As an Activities Director at a High School we get more than a few armchair quarterbacks.
Thank you Todd,
I bet you have your fair share of armchair quarterbacks. It can be disheartening when you are doing your best to make the world better. Cheers!
Great post Dan,
these can be tough – or even the toughest of times. I take Action 4. as the most relevant for me. What is best for the organisation (and how am i abetting or hindering that)? It provokes some uncomfortable answers but it should stop you indulging in petty or childish responses. I love that clip – the only power disenfranchised people have is disruption – so very true.
Thank you Richard.
I think…#4 Fully and unselfishly align yourself with what’s best for the organization, without reserve or hesitation, is a great way to keep moving forward with confidence even as others are second guessing past decisions.
Listen, reflect, internalize, let go, not always in that order.
Thank you Doc.
I hear you on “not always in that order”… sometimes let go might be at the beginning and the end and maybe in the middle too.
A fantastic post. One of your best Dan! While the whole post makes a lot of sense, the hidden gem in the post:
If you’re the smartest person in your organization, your organization is in peril.
Great article! I think most people follow vision, so #8 hits home with me. I also think repetition is the mother of all learning, so sharing the vision with leaders often can have long-term value.
Dan, this one was the best… If you are the smartest person in your organization, your organization is in peril….and one more… your way or the highway… Armchair quarerbacks was wonderful read..
“If you’re the smartest person in your organization, your organization is in peril.”
Is this always true? Does that mean people are all of equal intelligence for an organization to be successful? Yes, this may be possible in small, well-picked teams. However, there are often outliers when it comes to large organizations. Is there an implication/corollary that the smartest person should not lead?
I once had a co-worker whose IQ was ~170 (I believe him). He made more sense than many of the “leaders”, but he was content making his point and then aligning even when others disagreed. Yes, the point is true that the company was heading downward, but the organization was still delivering value.
Smartest people would do well to align, but should others assume that no one can be smarter than them or come up with contrarian ideas and lead?
Thank you Jatin.
I think it depend on the context. Some might be better at marketing others at finance. The idea is no one is great at everything…if you are better/smarter than everyone you’re pretty limited. Mostly I’m pushing at the idea that successful leaders have all the answers and know all the best things to do.
Thanks for the reply Dan. Need to clarify: in your last sentence, are you saying that successful leaders *have* all the answers, etc. or not? This is such a gray area (for me) and a great topic to discuss.
Respectfully, one little word can make all the difference to how the sentence reads: Dan says that he is “pushing AT the idea that successful leaders have all the answers…”. That means he thinks that successful leaders don’t have all the answers or know all the best things to do.
Hope that helps!