In this episode of THE SAMPLE, Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA answers the question, “How do I stop blaming others and get the job done?”
Welcome to The Sample, a quick discussion of auditing concepts and terms that will help you do your work. Conducting an audit in accordance with auditing standards is no small feat and I want to support you. We’ll be referring to the GAO, IIA and AICPA literature to bolster our conversations. Let’s get started.
In this episode, we consider how to stop blaming others and get the job done. You’re probably like me. Sometimes you go, “Really? Is that really what you’re doing right here?” You’re working with team members and you say to yourself, “What the heck?”
My first instinct is always to blame the team member instead of looking at myself and asking myself, “What is my role in this problem that we’re having right here?” I got to work with a leading leadership organization many years ago, and they taught me that blame gets you absolutely nowhere.
What you should do instead is start with yourself and ask whether you have (or in this case, I have) set clear expectations. And usually right there, I catch myself and go, “You know what? No, I wasn’t very clear about what I wanted.” Have I provided clear and timely feedback? You know, sometimes (basically always) it takes multiple rounds of feedback and shaping to get your team where they want to go.
So you’ve got to have that patience and that diligence to keep giving them that feedback that they need. Very few people work on the tell-them-once-and-then-it-gets-done track. That’s not how people work. Usually it takes multiple rounds. I’ll tell you a little bit more about that in a story I’ll tell you in a second. Have you given them the resources that they need to get the job done?
Once I’ve looked at those three things (expectations, feedback, and resources), and I’ve made sure that I’ve set them up for success, then I can start getting a little into the blame category, looking at them. But you’re going to notice very quickly here, how this starts to get ugly.
First of all, I can ask, “Do they need more training?” I make a living giving training sessions, but you know what? Training is not the cure for a lot of problems. You might think in your head, “Well, if I could just send them to a class on that.” No, usually it’s you. Sorry. It’s you on this left hand side. Sorry. I’d love to see them, but it’s probably expectations, feedback and resources that’s really the problem.
Now here’s where it gets really gross. Are they even right for this job? See, look at that. You’re starting to go, “I don’t even think they belong here.” That’s super blaming. Or do they just don’t care and lack motivation? What the heck?
Alright, so let me tell you a little story that’ll bring this to light a little bit better I think. So when my kids were little and before they could figure out how to dress themselves and whether clothes matched or not, my husband ended up dressing them most days because I was on the road or working. I’d come home from a road trip and they’d be standing there really happy to see me, but they’d be wearing like black tops and purple pants and green socks, and I couldn’t stand it.
I wanted my kids to match. I wanted my kids to look like this beautiful little girl over in the left hand corner right here, all matched up, all pretty. I told my husband, “Hey, this doesn’t work for me. They don’t look so good.” He didn’t really care that much about it, but he wanted to make me happy. And so he said, “Yeah, I’ll work with you on that. But remember I’m colorblind.” Okay. So he’s color blind. He can’t tell green from red. So green socks and a red top look fine to him. So I said, “Okay, well, we’ll try to match this stuff up a little bit better.” He agreed, and then I went on another road trip and I came back. They still looked bad. And I’m like, “What happened here?” He said, “Well, I still can’t tell what clothes match.”
So what I decided to do was put clothes in a stack in the closet. He built me some shelves in the closet, and I would put little outfits on these shelves. I said, “Okay, pull this outfit out every morning to dress Gracie and Sara, and that’ll match.” And he’s like, “Great.” So that worked for a few weeks. But then I came home one day and again, they were not matching because they had painted that day. And he went in and scrambled up the outfit on the shelf. Like he pulled a different top to go with the pants in this other set. So we had to talk about it again. It took several iterations and it took about a month before my kids started looking like that kid in the left hand corner of the screen.
I had to set expectations and he very generously agreed, even though it didn’t really matter to him, but it mattered to me. So that was nice of him. I gave him feedback in a kind way, not in a harsh, critical way, because who knows what they would’ve been wearing if I had done that. And I provided resources and made sure that the resource actually worked. So you notice who had to do the work here in a lot of ways; it was me. And that’s what you have to do as a supervisor or a leader. You have to set people up for success. Once I said, “Okay, if they’re painting and they mess up either the bottom or the top, the whole outfit has to go,” then we were cooking with gas. Everything worked out great, right?
This is a lovely quote from a leading Buddhist monk. Please read this:
“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.”
Isn’t that lovely? So I’m not going to blame the lettuce here. I’m not going to blame a colorblind man for his children’s clothes not matching. Okay? I’ve got to set him up for success. Here’s some other quotes about blame.
What I really want you to get out of this little session, this little version of The Sample is: override your first instinct. Override your first instinct to get angry and to blame others, and instead, ask yourself, “Did I set this team member up for success by giving them clear expectations, frequent and multiple versions and methods of feedback? And did I give them the resources that they need?” So stop blaming others, look at yourself so you can get that audit done.
That wraps it up for another episode of The Sample. True to the nature of a sample, we didn’t talk about everything, so you’ve probably got questions. Write to me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to fill in the blanks. Thanks for playing.
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