Posted tagged ‘leadership’

Blame culture

September 3, 2008

It’s become very fashionable these days to run an anti “Blame Culture” in many businesses.  It’s fashionable an AD to spout of “lets not jump on the blame train here guys..” and refuse to listen to any reasons for any mistakes that have been made.  I’ve never understood why blame is such a faux pas in business, as it is essential to know why things go wrong.  How can you plan for the future when your AD is telling you the new marketing budget was spent on useless banner adds rather than something useful, when they keep coming back with “it’s happened now, so lets not be blame pirates and forget about it” every time you ask for an explanation?  Fear of blame is nothing new, but I’m surprised it’s still a trendy management belief after so many years.  Therefore, I’ve looked into the reasons for the anti-blame culture and reasosn for why blame can, actually, be good.

The anti “blame culture” stems from our fear of publicly ranking one person above another (even though we can privately do this with pay, promotions, etc).  It’s not fair to be better than someone else, or to proove that someone else is not as good.  This runs alongside the fashionable idea that competition is unhealthy. When I was a kid at primary school, the head teacher banned football as it incited “competition” (spitting the words out like competition was a mongrel at Crufts).   in her mind, competition would turn all of these rosy cheeked cherubs into slathering thugs. Her rose tinted views of children was grossly out of proportion with reality, as we very quickly found other ways to be competitive (because we couldn’t play football, we took to games of “stinging Nettle fighting” which involved using an armful of Nettles as weapons to hit other kids with.. and then saying that “they started it!”…).

Anyway, after years of sports days with no prizes (just “I competed at sports Day!” certificates, like turning up and losing is something to be proud of…), we all turned into a group of THE most competitive teenagers in the history of Southern Oxford.  When you take competition away from people, they will always find other ways to be competitive, and to proove that they are better.

This brings me to my point regarding the blame culture.  If you take away all blame in a business, people will work harder at pinning mistakes on other people.   For your staff to be the best, they must work hard to avoid mistakes that could cost the company.  you want staff that are always thinking about their next action, and not sitting back unconcerned as they have no chance of getting picked out for their sloppy work.

I agree that we shouldn’t parade the mistake-maker in front of the office (possibly wearing, a big purple “dunce” hat, and tarred and feathered like a chicken) but it is essential that the leader of the team knows exactly what went wrong and why, so that in future they can ensure it won’t happen again.  Looking after your staff so that they don’t live in fear is important, but flatly refusing to listen to any reasons for errors made will lead to more errors.

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Leadership and England Cricket

August 8, 2008

I’m going to be looking into leadership a lot more in the future, as I believe it is one thing that covers so many fascinating aspects of business, and is a skill that can be learnt as well as intrinsically possessed naturally, as many suggest. Anyway, this is just a really quick post. Stay with me.

I’ve been watching with interest the success and failure of the England Cricket team for some years. I was talking to my brother yesterday about Micheal Vaughan’s retirement from the England Captaincy and Kevin Pietersen’s promotion. So Justin had a small bet with a good friend that KP would be England captain for the Test side within 2 years, and his friend vehemently denied his chances, stating nationality, lack of experience, lack of composure and lack of leadership as reasons to keep him out of the captains job. This really got me thinking. Vaughan was a fantastic captain, with a great strategic brain and strong leadership skills, yet he wasn’t performing with the bat. Although Vaughan was a very good captain, he was dropped because his non-captains role of batsman was letting him down. In business, if a CEO was a great leader with strong ideas and a level head, would he be fired because his sales skills weren’t that great? Now then, KP is a fantastic batsman and a talisman for English Cricket, yet has no experience for captaining a test side. Yet he was made captain? I fully agree with him leading his team, but it really makes me wonder what makes someone captain material. Is it his performance at his role BEFORE he was picked, or should it be his potential in the new role?

It just goes to show that sometimes you can be the best in your business, yet you’ll always have pressure from some flashy sub-ordinate. The grass is always greener on the other side of that fence, so it’s always a challenge to perform. Ok, onto my point: How many times have you started a job, been the golden boy for a few months and then slumped as you have become bored? It’s incredible to see the effort put in by so many people in the early months of their job, yet they ALWAYS slacken off and lose their edge. The learning behind this? Promotion, even perceived promotion, is a great way to get people performing. Even if it’s giving them another role to look after, or shifting roles between your workforce every few months, it keeps people interested and keeps them performing. After all, they are trying to impress you, so why not give them something to impress you with. And remember, the quiet ones who have lost their edge are a drain on your company, but so is training up new staff. Find those bored workers, and get them new and interesting jobs and let them SHOW you that they have the talent. After all, that’s what we all want. To look the best…

So, what’s this got to do with KP? He was given a chance, an outside shot, by England. Look where he is now.

Sorry to my American readers for all the cricket talk. I promise to write a post on Hockey or Football (American) next time. But not BBall. I hate anyone who is taller than me…