Attack The Problem, Not The Person

“Jim, we’re in this mess because of you!”

“I told you we’d lose the client, Jane. This is all your fault. You never get it right!”

“The kids wouldn’t behave this way if you weren’t such a bad father, Bill.”

We’ve all heard words like this from bosses, parents, spouses, teachers and colleagues. I’m sure many of us have bitterly spoken them as well. It’s easy to play the blame-game when our backs are up against a wall and we feel threatened, defeated or helpless. The problem is, cutting down others is completely unproductive. Not only that, personal attacks also leave emotional bruises that can take months or years to heal, if they heal at all.

The primitive parts of our brain can unconsciously tell us to lash out, in the same way dogs impulsively bark at squirrels. Luckily, we’re not cavemen and we’re not forced to follow our crude instincts. We have the ability to choose every word we speak; to select the approach that will yield the best results.

Instead of telling Jen she’s a total idiot for missing a deadline, attack the problem. Did she have the adequate time and resources to complete the job? Was there some unforeseen factor that caused the delay? Did she clearly understand the scope and time frame? Did others on the team carry their own weight? Attacking Jen with stinging insults doesn’t finish the project, and it certainly doesn’t enable her to perform better next time. If, in fact, the setback actually was due to Jen’s shortcoming, you can hold her accountable without cutting her down. Help her learn and grow instead of shaming her while she’s down.

Pour all your energy into conquering the problem, not the person.

Your primary job as a leader is to help those around you achieve their best. The best leaders serve instead of control. Empower instead of subjugate. Build up instead of tear down. When those around you stumble, it is your platform to help them reach their potential, not an opportunity to administer a beating. And you don’t need a fancy title to be a leader. We all can and must lead in our families, communities and professions.

We live in challenging times and face a string of daily challenges. Let’s stop blaming and focus more on solving the task at hand. You’ll enjoy better results in all areas of life. Others will look at you with gratitude instead of fear, and you can be sure they’ll return the favor the next time you botch something yourself.

Simply put … attack problems, not people.

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