What to Do about the Real Problem
The problem is in here, not out there.
The core difference between remarkable leaders and lousy leaders is responsibility.
The real problem:
The real problem isn’t unmotivated team members. The real problem is what are YOU doing to engage and energize team members.
Blaming isn’t leading. Stop complaining and try something.
“The manager is either an engagement-creating coach or an engagement-destroying boss, but both relationships affect employee behavior.” Gallup
You might think the problem is lack of funds. The real problem is what are you doing with the funds you currently have.
When the problem is “out there”, others are responsible. Anything you do is a gift.
The real problem isn’t lack of time. The real problem is how are you using your time.
When the problem seems out of your control, you release yourself from responsibility.
- Turn your phone off and concentrate on one thing for 45 minutes.
- Ask, “How much does this really matter,” before taking on new tasks.
- Take something out of your bucket before putting something in.
The real problem isn’t lack of talent. The real problem is how are you developing people.
You feel superior when other people are the problem.
The danger of superiority:
Placing the problem “out there” allows leaders to feel superior to others.
- Allows you to stand aloof and disconnect.
- Encourages you to judge and look down on “problem people”.
- Releases you from responsibility to care and serve.
- Gives you permission to NOT listen.
- Is permission to be passive.
The ultimate question:
The ultimate question is what are YOU going to do about the problems you see?
Lilly Tomlin said, “Somebody should do something about that. Then I realized I am somebody.”
What’s at the heart of blaming?
How might leaders practice responsibility in an imperfect world?
Why Taking Responsibility is Always the Best Choice (Conant Leadership)
Why Good Leaders Pass the Credit and Take the Blame (HBR)
How Real Leaders Demonstrate Accountability (Michael Hyatt)
Wow, Dan, Thanks. I needed this today. At this moment. I’m looking at a very dicey situation in my church. The temptation is to simply view it as someone else’s problem. But everyone in the community sees it, feels it, knows it. So this is a good reminder to re-engage.
Thanks Peter. The message of this post is a bit of a kick in the pants. It feels good that someone else found it useful. I know I need it.
This is humbling. Thank you.
Thanks H. So true. Disengagement and distance fuel arrogance. But everything good in leadership begins with humility.
Blaming is a form of denial,
a self defense to preserve a worldview, a faith.
Whenever your faith is confronted,
the appropriate question is some form of,
“How did I/we contribute to this?”
Taking responsibility means being accountable,
And being accountable means measuring consequence of both act and fact.
Denial won’t get you there.
Engage, Sulu … make it so.
Thanks Rurbane. “How did I/we contribute to this?” Now that’s a leaderly question.
I’m a fan of the original star trek. 🙂
The opposite of,
“Thou doth protest too much, methinks.”
Wow, Thanks! I needed this reminder.
I like that “take something out of your bucket before putting something else in” Ok but others have access to my bucket… did I just blame someone? Yep working on it, and I am “someone” so I can fix whatever I want “someone” to fix. Good points Dan.
Thanks Walt. Wouldn’t it be great if the people who had the authority to put things in our bucket asked what’s in our bucket already?
Wouldn’t it be great if a boss was concerned about our workload and satisfaction?
Yes it would be nice if they would and its not like they cant see my outlook task list. I love it when everyone thinks “their” task is always my #1. Yep love it.
Leadership and management should know how to resolve problems within their organization. In the past, I have worked under leaders and managers who were in denial about problems that existed. Or they flat-out refused to address the problem at all. As a result the problem snowballed out-of-control to the point someone had to address the issue.
Also, it all depends on the nature of the problem and who will be affected. If it’s a Fortune 500 company and the shareholders/stakeholders will be negatively impacted by a business decision then by all means will the problem be resolved immediately. A sales associate at Walmart or McDonald’s may have a problem and need it resolved. No one in a leadership or management position will have a sense of urgency to address the concerns of those low-level employees. Low-level employees are vital to an organizations success. Every employee of an organization, no matter their position on the hierarchical ladder, should be heard and taken seriously.
Susan Krauss Whitbourne (2015) writes, “Blame is an excellent defense mechanism. Whether you call it projection, denial, or displacement, blame helps you preserve your sense of self-esteem by avoiding awareness of your own flaws or failings” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201509/5-reasons-we-play-the-blame-game). Projection of insecurities are at the heart of blaming. An insecure person desperately looks for affirmation of self while rarely being able to find it. Often, he or she must resort to creating their own situation in which they feel superior…even if for only a moment. That is where the act of blaming another person presents itself as the perfect capitalization. In most cases I don’t think this happens virulently, but it does happen. We are all insecure to some extent; we are all guilty of playing the blame game a time or two. I think what makes a remarkable leader is to recognize those moments of lapse and fix them accordingly.
Thanks Gary. Love your insight and compassion. The challenge to notice when we slip into blaming behaviors is important. Perhaps a we can give a friend permission to call out our lapses. I find that growing WITH is more efficient than growing alone.
Appreciate your candor in approaching the real problem with employee engagement head on!
Leaders and managers have so much potential to transform the experience in our workplaces into something positive but, as you said, it is far too easy to associate the problem as belonging to someone else. Leadership is tough, we all need reminders to keep us on track.
It’s great to see you challenging leaders to take another look and instead of blaming, own the problem and take action steps to make improvements. I agree that leaders do need to take responsibility for engaging their teams. You might enjoy a recent post I wrote about the same topic but with a different approach: You might enjoy a recent post I wrote about the same topic but with a different approach: https://theleadershipreformation.com/how-to-engage-employees/
The Gallup study showed us data that I think makes us all a little uncomfortable. We know we need improvements but the hard numbers paint a reality many would rather not acknowledge. I do think the passion for developing leaders is spreading and more managers are becoming self-aware enough to look for ways to grow, but it’s a slow process. Keep fighting the good fight! One day Gallup will bring back research that flips those numbers on their head. ‘Til then…
We must never lose the spirit to fight for our success and bright future.
That’s what I needed thank you.
I also wish to share such message to the nation.
A thought that has been knocking on my heart lately is to live with purpose. Taking that responsibility of my life and stop letting others plan my course. I mean, sure I’ve been there all the way, but too much influence has been overcoming my self-preservation. It’s easy to blame someone else and let them take the fall, but that is poor leadership. I also have to learn to get and keep folks engaged. That portion of my leadership development is still under construction.