Leadership involves more moments of disappointment than we’d prefer, doesn’t it? Things don’t always go as we plan. Initiatives fail. Team members make poor decisions. We say or do the wrong thing.
In these moments of frustration, at the very least, I want to salvage a lesson learned. I often find myself asking a couple of questions:
- Is it me?
- Is it them?
I think both questions are essential.
Dealing with problems or dysfunction in our teams always have to start with a look in the mirror. As Henry Cloud says in Boundaries for Leaders, “As a leader, you always get what you create and what you allow.”
As leaders, we always bear some of the responsibility for the issues we’re dealing with. And a valuable aspect of self-leadership is our ability to own what we’re responsible for, correct what we can, and let disappointments make us better.
But we also need to ask, “Is it them?”
Sometimes people are just people. They are dealing with distractions, maybe now more than ever. They’re wrestling their own inconsistencies, insecurities and issues. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you lead them or what great systems you have in place As the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
But here’s the problem for us as leaders: Most of us don’t ask both questions. We’re more likely wired to ask one or the other.
Neither of those extremes is appropriate. Next time you’re dealing with a less-than spectacular-moment with your team, resist shame or blame.
1) Look in the mirror and ask, “Is it me?” Is there anything that I’ve created or allowed that is contributing to this problem? If so, go to work on remedying the issue but don’t wallow in guilt or shame. Just make it right.
2) Consider what part of the issue is them. Is there a person on your team who is wrestling through their own issues that are overflowing to the team? If so, look for ways to coach and lead them through what they’re dealing with. It’s another opportunity for you to lead them well.
When you ask both questions and resist shame and blame, you’re creating a more psychologically safe culture for your team. As you develop this habit, you’ll see more openness to feedback, a more positive approach to risk, and less sideways energy devoted to conflict.
So, ask both.
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Keep leading well!
Jenni Catron and The 4Sight Group
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach who consults churches and non-profits to help them lead from their extraordinary best. She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults with individuals and teams on leadership and organizational health.
Jenni is the author of several books, including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.