One of the adages that I firmly and regularly remind my kids is they won’t get in trouble for telling me the truth, they will get in massive trouble
if they don’t.
If we don’t have a culture of open and honest communication that an employee can feel safe in making decisions by, we can inadvertently create a culture of the exact opposite.
A key principle that I work with my clients on and is the key principle I believe I must make sure my children understand is a concept called above and below the line.
Above the line decisions are when somebody chooses to take ownership, accountability, and responsibility for their situation, behaviours, and actions.
Below the line decisions are when somebody chooses to blame others, make excuses, or deny their situation, behaviours, and actions.
As leaders though, we often drive our team members (and kids) below the line unconsciously with the questions we ask.
Let me explain.
If something goes wrong, for most people our natural question sequence will be something like…
1. Who did this?
2. Why did you do this?
Quite often at this time, the emotion level will be high and the intelligence level low.
(See my article on why we get stupid when we are stressed).
A person’s natural reaction in the situation above is quite often to blame someone or something else, particularly if they do not feel safe.
Even if we find the right person, when we ask question 2, again if they don’t feel safe, they will blame another or make a crappy excuse.
If something does go wrong, the pathway to an optimal solution and outcome relies on a couple of key decisions.
Firstly, don’t react, as tough as this will be in the moment take a breath and ask, “what are the top 3 things we need to do to overcome this situation, now?”
This is a future based time frame and the person responsible can now take ownership.
Once the emotion has gone out of the situation, then we can do some constructive forensics with the person involved with quality questions in the context of a learning exercise instead of a crucifixion (well that is how the employee may feel sometimes).