Today I thought I would write another piece that was sparked by a note I wrote myself a few months earlier. When I wrote it I thought it would be a good subject but then every day when I would review and come upon this note I would say “no, not today”.
Well today I just looked at the note again but this time I said “today”.
The note was “Monday morning quarterback, before you criticize, stop and look at the situation. Would you have done the same thing?”
What made me write that note was hearing a boss say to someone after the fact, “I knew this was going to happen.”
How convenient. Is this the boss absolving himself of all sin? Oh great and powerful leader why did you not see fit to bestow this prophetic knowledge upon us as we were proceeding down the path of failure?
To me it’s a bullshit coup out.
It was something I got very tired of hearing. Hearing it as often as I use to when I was a manager it was just another factor that helped persuade me to make a change in my life.
This time when I heard the boss say it I was very familiar with the situation that had gone wrong. I was very familiar with the circumstances leading up to this point.
I knew that if the boss had been in the same situation and looked at the same data, variables and options that they would have chosen the exact same course of action as the subordinate they were currently chastising.
Sometimes things that are outside of your control just go wrong. It happens to you and if you are a leader it happens to your team.
When I was a manager if I saw something going on with one of my team members that I knew would lead to trouble or if I even thought there was a chance of some issue with what they were doing, I would pull them aside, look at the data and work with them to correct it before it became a problem.
Did I do this because I had some sort of altruistic sense of duty or compassion? I would like to think that was the case but the honest truth is I probably did it because problems caused by or that happened to my employees became my problem.
I had enough of them on my own without taking on more.
The last thing I wanted when the problem worked its way up the chain was to hear my boss coming down the hall saying, “I knew this was going to happen.”
That statement would be uttered with a certain amount of arrogance to which over time I developed a healthy disdain.
When things go wrong you need to step back and access what just happened. You need to figure out why it happened and then correct it.
How do you do that when someone else’s decision caused the problem?
You put yourself in their shoes. You look at what they were looking at and try to come up with how they arrived at their decision.
Sometimes you will learn that they made the right decision based on the data, it’s just that something totally unforeseen and out of their control came along and screwed things up. Nothing you can do but have everyone learn from it and be aware of this new variable in the future.
Sometimes you will learn that they looked at the data and due to a lack of proper training and/or experience they just made the wrong decision. You can correct that by teaching, training and fixing the process. Since you took the time to understand how the error was made you can do all three properly.
And sometimes you will learn they are just the wrong person for the job. I am not saying they are stupid or bad they just don’t have the make up for the job they are doing. Then you need to make the toughest decision of all, do you need to replace.
But as a “leader” you just don’t run around spouting off from the hip like some soothsaying prophet.
So to all you Monday morning quarterbacks, shame on you if you truly possess this divine power to see into the future and only use it to tell people after the fact how smart you are.
Quit your job and start saving the world from itself.
The rest of us will continue to learn from our mistakes.
© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.