In our social-media obsessed world, blame abounds. Most online news articles allow public comments, and it has never been easier to call someone out.
I enjoy reading the comments, but I’m amazed at the outrage. Everyone wants to blame someone else. “You thought wrong.” “You acted wrong.” “It’s all your fault.”
This doesn’t just happen in social media. It’s a way of life. For example, on the way to work this morning, all the other drivers on the road were causing me problems. The faster drivers passing me were all stupid and dangerous, and the slower ones in front of me were unsafe slackers who should have their licenses revoked!
In the workplace, the people who disagree with me are … well maybe I should keep that opinion to myself. Parents, spouses, kids, everyone — why do they have to make everything so hard?
Turns out, everyone is really good about confessing OTHER people’s sins, but they are not so good about confessing their own.
Let’s get this straight — that list of sinners includes me. Here I am, writing an article, calling out everyone else for calling people out, blaming those people who cast blame. I guess that makes me the No. 1 hypocrite. But wait … I am trying to offer a solution!
So here it is: For any given problem, before you start criticizing, look in the mirror and ask, “How might I have contributed to this problem?”
In most cases, you can see a contribution that you yourself made, either through action or inaction, that allowed the problem to grow. And if you look in that mirror long enough, you might discover that you were the main cause!
Once you realize your role in the problem, imagine the impact it might have on your colleagues, friends and family to admit it. Rather than weakening credibility, you might actually strengthen trust, which is essential to working out a disagreement.
I once led a maintenance crew. Things weren’t going well. The reliability of our equipment was poor and the resulting poor availability was costing our company — and our customers — lots of money. Everyone was unhappy and morale was in the dumpster.
I looked for the source of the problem, searching for answers, and blamed just about everyone. Everyone, that is, except me. The planners weren’t planning well, the workers weren’t working well, and the supervisors weren’t supervising well.
But after looking in the mirror, and really asking, “How have I contributed to the problem?” I realized that I could list several ways: inadequate training, unclear delegation and poor communication on my part had exacerbated the reliability issues. Once I recognized my role in the situation and owned up to the ways in which I had contributed, we were able to come together as a team to begin a search for solutions without constantly blaming each other.
I can hear the song “Man in the Mirror” playing in my head, with the following lyric:
I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways …
If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.
Making the world a better place. That’s our mission, and we can do it even better by reflecting on the reflection of our own limitations. #lookinthemirror #thecooperativedifference #startswithme
Duane Highley is president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., (AECI) and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC). AECI, a statewide service co-op, and AECC, a wholesale power supply co-op, are owned by Arkansas’ 17 local distribution co-ops, which provide retail electric service to more than 1 million members.