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Finger Pointing 101

January 9, 2009 - Michael Palmer
While reading the Harvard Business Review I found an article on finger pointing in a crisis as it related to the current economic crisis.

7 Steps to Stop Finger-Pointing in a Crisis, by Marshall Goldsmith author of Ask the Coach.

The four words that he encourages everyone to remember that can help us get though the crisis in the best way possible: help more, judge less.

I think this is also a good philosophy for everyday life. I hear criticism and blame placed and am often guilty of it myself.

I really want my new son-in-law to read Steps 3 and 6.

Step 3. Try to get people to take responsibility for their own behavior. Sometimes it is easier to see our own mistakes in other people than in the mirror. We may not be able to change what other people have done, but we can certainly change ourselves.

And Step 6, it can be directly linked to the old count to 10 philosophy. Encourage each team member to avoid speaking when angry or out of control. We all get angry. That is natural and completely appropriate. We just don't have to talk until we settle down and can collect our thoughts. Plenty of research has shown how our 'angry mind' can lead to irrational behavior that we later regret.

Step 7. Before speaking don't just ask, "Am I correct?" - ask "Will this help?" Being right does not necessarily give us the right to speak out - especially if our comments are negative and belittle or berate others.

It is tough to be positive when things are not going well, in fact sometimes people who tend to look on the bright side of situations are thought of as unintelligent and/or silly. In reality some things we experience in our lives do not have a"bright" side, but how we deal with adversity is under our control.

I really do not feel that I personally had anything to do with the collapse of Wall Street or the problems with the Detroit Auto Industry, I am not sure even if I wanted to finger point that I could on this issue. Maybe if I had paid more attention in economics lectures. As for help more, I am not sure what more I could do in this arena to help, so I guess I will just try and avoid passing judgment on executives and just try and apply this advice to my own problems.

Maybe this whole philosophy is just based on Margaritaville" that 1977 song by American popular music singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett from the album Changes in Latitudes, where he eventually realizes, "Some people claim that there's a woman to blame; But I know its my own damn fault."


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