(Time to read this blog article is about 40 seconds)

When something goes wrong in your business or department, do you immediately ask the wrong question?   Do you ask that easy question that’s designed to lay blame, but almost never fixes the problem or prevents it from happening again?  That wrong question, the one that most of ask, is, “Who screwed up?”

A much more useful question would be, “What went wrong here and what do we need to fix or do differently so that it doesn’t happen again?” Digging down to find the real cause of the problem and then improving the training, communication or process required to fix it requires more effort and discipline (and less emotion), but it’s the more effective way to go.

Certainly, you will have situations where the right training, communication and process are in place and something still goes wrong.  Now there are two possibilities…

  1. Simple human error or accidental circumstance caused things to go wrong. “Stuff happens”…get over it, learn from it and move on.  If you over-react in these circumstances, you run the serious risk of paralyzing your staff with fear of taking any action at all. 
  2. The second possibility is that you have an employee, or group of employees, who simply don’t give a damn.  They’re “bad apples”!  They have an attitude or commitment problem that’s hurting the business and they need to be dealt with.  Invite them to move on before they do more damage.

So, except for those few genuinely “bad apples” that you need to deal with, stop playing the “blame game” when something goes wrong.  Ask the right question and, through it, empower your staff to help you fix what needs fixing in the business.  You’ll be amazed at the results!

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