One of the traps you and I both fall into, when we’re not eagle-eyed about it, is to blame others when something goes off-track.
We either physically, verbally or attitudinally point our finger at someone else. We think, talk and behave as if another person is the cause of the trouble.
The problem is, when your finger’s pointing outwards, that you’re not considering:
- The other person’s defensive reaction to being blamed
- Your lack of concern for the other person’s wellbeing and feelings
- How little influence you’ll have with them because they feel defensive
Let’s look at when your finger pointing is negligent and when it’s productive. We’ll do negligent first…
When Is Your Finger Pointing Negligent?
When you’re blaming, critical, attacking, insulting or accusing—when your finger’s pointing directly at the other person—your finger pointing is negligent.
I know, I know, you’re pointing your finger at them because they’ve screwed up—because you think it’s their fault!
But regardless, yep, regardless of who made the mistake, who caused the error—it’s dysfunctional to point your finger at another person, physically, verbally or attitudinally.
Your finger pointing will cause a (noticeable or hidden) reaction such as:
- Lowered morale
- Reduced productivity.
Dean’s a pretty effective leader, except that…
When something goes wrong, or when it looks like something’s going to go wrong, he’s quick to hold others responsible. He makes it someone else’s fault. He blames them. He has a habit of pointing his finger at someone else.
For example, Dean’s team’s results are below par, way lower than expectations. In a team meeting Dean’s habitual behaviour is to say something like:
“You guys aren’t pulling your weight. You’re just not putting in the effort needed to turn this thing around.”
Not very motivating comments are they? Especially if the team thinks they’ve given it their best shot!
When Is Your Finger Pointing Productive?
Ah, good question! Imagine if Dean said something like:
“We can all see that these numbers aren’t looking good. The question I have for you is ‘What can I do to better support you to get them to where we need them to be?’”
In take-two of Dean’s scenario, he pointed his finger inwards in order to resolve the situation.
And this is when finger pointing is OK—when you’re pointing your finger inwards, fairly and squarely aimed at your own chest.
It’s even better than OK actually—it’s healthy, constructive and solution oriented. Nice.
Your Call To Action
I don’t think it’s going to be hugely difficult for you to habituate this highly constructive, productive behaviour—provided you’re eagle-eyed about it.
Will you do a mental stocktake?
- Think about two or three recent interactions, those that didn’t go as smoothly as you wanted.
- Reflect where your finger was pointing in those interactions. Were you behaving negligently or productively?
- If your finger was pointing out—physically, verbally or attitudinally—how did the other person respond? (Careful, their real response may have been hidden.)
- What will you do to habituate more respectful inward-finger-pointing?It’s an immensely productive leadership behaviour!
Remember to email me if you’d like help with this or similar leadership behaviours..
“My coaching enabled me to resolve issues that were previously difficult to approach. I really enjoyed working with Carolyn and learning new ways of dealing with issues and people. It was invaluable being able to talk openly to someone without feeling judged.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Carolyn Stevens has worked with leaders for more than 25-years—hundreds of them.
She’s supported leader after leader (including those who previously struggled to confront the difficult, let alone persuasively deal with the it) flourish—and become confident, courageous and impressively influential.
Carolyn is authentic and results-oriented. She draws on an eclectic array of approaches, tools and techniques to suit the situation.