We have met the enemy and he is us.
So declared Pogo long ago. In many ways its just as true today as when it was first uttered.
In the past few weeks I've encountered several situations where the “problem” (or enemy!) been clearly identified. As someone else.
Without going into much detail let me say just say this: before you cast aspersions, doubt and recrimination you might save a lot of collective time – as well as be right – by just looking in the mirror.
The Enemy Within
Since I'm not a psychologist I can't tell you why people do what they do, but as a longtime HR person as well as manager of others, I can tell you what they do.
They throw people under the bus. (To my European and Asian friends, this is, how you say, not good.)
Often times in trying to problem solve an issue we dance around technical aspects, marketing problems, financial constraints, etc., until we finally get down to business and say somebody just screwed up. Somebody didn't do their job.
Someone [else] is to blame.
Conveniently this “someone” is typically not present for the meeting, or better yet altogether out of the office when the assignation of blame occurs. This is handy so at the next confab we can prolong the discussion as to who is to blame now that a new set of characters is unavailable and the ownership for failure can be reset.
In this manner problems can be prolonged indefinitely as we search for a fall guy a la Humprey Bogart.
Vive La Difference
What a difference it would make if we looked in the mirror. If we met the enemy and he is us. If we just said, this is my responsibility. My fault. My to do.
In the healthy organizations I've worked with this stepping up is a norm. No one wastes energy looking for the fall guy since there is none. Every one owns their own behavior and fulfills their own responsibilities.
I know. Tall order. But it can be done.
You have had relationships – at work, with friends, with family – where this was so. Where people took the ownership for their own performance and in doing so accepted responsibility. And these relationships work. People are unencumbered and will do their best work free of guilt, doubt or concern.
Free of any blame.
Because the truth is, blame is the only enemy there really is.
Don't believe me?
Look in the mirror.