Why is it Easier to Look Out the Window than in the Mirror?
Updated: Sep 21, 2022
Let me ask you a question.
Have you ever noticed that when things go wrong, some leaders tend to point the finger elsewhere immediately?
Growing up, my father and mother often asked a poignant question. "When you point the finger and blame others, which direction are the other three fingers pointing in?" That's right; they're pointing right back at you!
Blaming is looking backward, and preventing is looking forward. It is very easy to say, "They are the problem!" But it's hard to say, "I am the problem."
During my virtual coaching sessions, I always remind my clients that 90% of solving a problem is admitting they have a problem. If a client is unwilling to look in the mirror and admit fault, we're just wasting time and resources. It takes courage to be a leader. It takes courage to look in the mirror and ask, "What do I need to do differently?"
Have you ever tried to convince someone of your point of view on something? Did they respond, "Let me think about it?" The average person making the recommendation will likely get quietly defensive by saying to themselves, "They wouldn't know a good idea if it hit them alongside the head!"
Instead, ask people who object to your judgment:
Where did I not convince you of the importance of accepting my judgment?
Where do you have a problem with my facts?
What will it take to convince you of the importance of accepting my idea?
Another helpful exercise I suggest to leaders is playing the "Yeah But" Game. You remember that game? Someone invites you to solve a problem, and every suggestion is met with, "Yeah, but that won't work because…."
Get your team together and ask them, "If you were my leader and I made a recommendation to you, respond to any objection by saying 'Yeah But...'"
"Yeah, but, what about the cost?"
"Yeah, but what about the time it takes to implement?"
"Yeah, but, what about the impact on productivity?"
If you are making a recommendation and can't answer every objection, nobody will bite off on what you are selling. You see, blaming is looking backward, and preventing is looking forward.
One of my more popularly requested presentations, Improving Interdepartmental Communication, is rooted in getting leaders and support staff to look in the mirror and reflect on their own attitudes before jumping straight to blame.