Getting to the root of the problem, accountability, figuring out what went wrong…
These are all just nice ways of playing the blame game. Be careful, it can happen to you.
Yesterday an exterminator was supposed to come to my house. I called on Friday and I was surprised when they offered to come at 11:00 on Sunday, but with our busy household, it felt amazing--until they didn’t show up.
About 2:00, I called to let them know that we hadn’t see a technician. They promptly answered the phone and then the blame game began. “You weren’t on my list today,” the first guy said. “Let me find out what happened and I’ll call you back.”
“Ok” I said.
Five minutes later he called back. “I have spoken to the owner. He is going to look on the computer and see if you are scheduled today and he will get back to you. It might have been one of the other technicians that was working today.”
“Ok” I said.
“We are going to get to the bottom of this” he said.
“I don’t really need to know what happened, I just need someone to reschedule me” I said.
“The owner will call you in a little bit. If you don’t hear from him, please call me back.”
“Ok” I said, wondering what good that would do if calling him the first time didn’t work.
Five minutes later the owner called.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “You aren’t on our schedule at all.”
“Ok” I said.
“Are you sure we are the company you called?” Now I am an active participant in the blame game.
“I think so” I say, “In fact, I am pretty sure since you were a referral and I was on your website….also, if it wasn’t you, then it would have been another company that just didn’t show up--I’m pretty sure it was your company. I am 95% sure you are the company I called.” Now I am feeling uneasy. For a minute, the blame game makes me feel unsure--have I screwed up?
“Who did you talk to when you called?”
“A woman. Do you have a woman who answers your phone usually?” I ask.
“We have two but every company would have women answering their phone so that could be any company.” I am starting to be really, really annoyed by the blame game.
“I really don’t care whose fault this is, can we just get me on your schedule?” I quip.
“We can come tomorrow. I will make sure someone is there at a time that works for you. What works?” He returns to the top level customer service that this company usually provides and I am slightly mollified.
I schedule for 9am but leave perturbed. His service was ok but the blame game was so annoying. I didn’t want to play that game, and yet I somehow got sucked in. That is what the blame game is all about.
I am guessing when I called the first time something went wrong with the appointment booking--who knows…. It could be an online system that was down for a minute and the person neglected to go back. It could have been a distraction that had her fail to complete the booking. There could have had a fire drill. Somehow, my appointment didn’t get recorded. Any of those things might be worth looking at internally to try to avoid them in the future. The mistake is in exploring those things with me--the customer. I had a problem that needed a quick solution. I didn’t need to play the blame game and sucking me into the blame game almost lost them a customer.
Also, leaders need to be careful of creating rules to solve one-time problems. I imagine I was a one-time problem. Something happened to my booking but if you play the blame game, then you need to create a policy to make sure the problem never happens again. Everyone seemed so surprised by my problem that I imagine it was an anomaly. Good leaders need to avoid solving one-time problems with rules and policies. Try to understand and let it go. The blame game takes away from the work of the organization.
Avoid the Blame Game and figure out how to deliver value to your customers.
Scientists don’t get mad when their experiments fail. They don’t get mad when things don’t turn out the way they hypothesized. They don’t blame someone else for things not working. They analyze the data, see if there are any reportable findings, revise and move on.
We do experiments all the time in business. We hypothesize that a new policy, procedure or software tool will help us move forward and do our work better. But in business, people get annoyed when their experiment doesn’t work as planned.
In my work, I see experiments happening every day in organizations. But instead of seeing them as experiments, we see them as solutions. This is a mistake. When we see these as solutions, we don’t test our hypotheses and we don’t collect data to see how our experiment is working. We need a safe to fail culture so we can iterate often enough to succeed.
Since leaders assume the original hypothesis was correct, and they know the solution isn’t working, they assume it must be a human error that is keeping it from working. If people would just work harder or smarter, then it would work. This is the seed of blame and criticism.
How do we become like scientists?
Idea 1: Start approaching all change like it’s an experiment. Change the way you think about change.
Idea 2: Allow yourself to not know the outcome. Try to set up good experiments so the data you collect is useful. Single variable experiments work best. This means don’t change 10 things at once because if it works, you won’t know which variable led to the favorable result.
Idea 3: Check your emotions at the door. Go into your experiment with a neutral perspective. Don’t get mad, get data!
#GoExperiment #experimentalleader #LEADERSHIP #CIO
DISC is a personality profiling system that takes its name from four personality attributes: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. DISC can be used in development and training, to elevate communication, to raise self-awareness and increase team cohesiveness.
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a company whose product requires considerable collaboration with clients. The product is beautiful, and it really fills a niche. Unfortunately, the company also has a problem. Clients are repeatedly unhappy with the customer service they receive. Essentially, clients have a low perceived value for the product they are purchasing because their experience of the process is not optimal.
I worked with the production team to really hear what was happening and suggested we use the DISC system to bring clarity to the situation. I chose DISC in this case because the team seemed to be aligned and functioning well; it was their interaction with the customer that was problematic. Each team member filled out a DISC profile. We followed this with some training about the tool and then the profiles were shared with fellow team members. We discovered the person with the lowest natural aptitude for connecting with people (lowest on the ‘I’, or ‘influence’, scale) was the client’s primary client contact—the project coordinator. This explained the clients’ perception of poor customer service.
After taking some time to digest and understand each others’ profiles, this team rolled up their sleeves and came up with some solutions. Their solutions seemed to fit two categories:
1. Coach the coordinator on some of the behaviors that create higher connection with the client and 2. Have the other team members who had more customer service-oriented profiles (high ‘I’ profiles) connect more directly with the client.
This team was able to address a serious issue with no blaming or finger-pointing. They were able to find solutions that were both specific and comprehensive and they were able to begin implementing the solutions immediately because there was universal buy-in from the team. The coordinator didn’t have to be defensive; he was a valued part of the team and was a part of the solution.
For this team, DISC helped illuminate a challenge and make sense of it in a new way.
#GoExperiment #experimentalleader #LEADERSHIP #CIO
The Loneliness of Leadership
One of the dirty little secrets about leadership is the loneliness. I hear stories from my clients every day. It isn’t the responsibility that gets to them, or even the long hours or the stress, it’s the sense of being alone. There is a disconnect from peers, as people move up the proverbial ladder in organizations and they begin to feel the weight of making decisions alone without enough input from their colleagues.
As leaders, we all know we have to maintain boundaries with staff. It is hard to socialize with the team on Friday night and then call them out to do better work on Monday morning. This makes sense and yet those boundaries can create isolation that is difficult for leaders to navigate.
Here’s a few strategies to help to combat the loneliness of leadership:
1. Actively create a mentor relationship. Reach out to someone you see as a mentor or would like to see as a mentor. Talk openly about wanting a mentor and how you think of him/her in that way. Ask if you can get together a few times a year for a mentor conversation. Then schedule the first meeting right then. Always schedule the next session when you are together.
2. Make two new friends outside of work. Friends help. You don’t need a lot of friends, but having a couple of folks outside of work can really help you feel connected to other human beings. Also, if things get tough at work, it is nice to have people to talk to about it. I said two new friends because we seek out people who resonate with our current selves. You may have old friends but they may be in a very different place than you are. You may need some new friends to meet you where you are.
3. Have working lunches with people who report to you. I have always found it difficult to negotiate lunch when I had a team reporting to me. There are so many complicated dynamics. That said, you can make lunch productive and avoid eating alone if you occasionally invite a direct report to a “Development Lunch.” Use it to talk about their hopes and dreams for the future and get to know them in a deeper but appropriately work related way. Your job is to be a friendlier professional boss with their interests in mind.
4. Invite colleagues and influential people in the organization to lunch. Make connections over lunch that might help your career. It will make you feel like the people at the top are more friendly, and if you play your cards right, it might help your career. Remember, in these lunches manners matter. Be kind, gracious, polite and reserved. Don’t talk about your problems, ask what they are struggling with.
5. Hire a coach. Leadership is lonely because at the heart of it all, there is no one who wants to hear your deepest darkest problems. You got promoted because you are a problem solver and everyone wants you to stay that way. Hire a coach and tell her (or him) your deepest problems and work on them together. A coach can help you talk through your challenges and collaborate to come up with next steps. Forbes recently reported on “a recent global survey of coaching clients by Price Waterhouse Cooper and the Association Resource center which concluded that the mean ROI for companies investing in coaching was 7 times the initial investment, with over a quarter reporting an ROI of 10 to 49 times.” It can pay off for you, too, and help to combat the Loneliness of Leadership.