Blame Game vs. Team Building


Those arcane business jargon proverbs "may" be doing more harm than good. Try to pause and think a moment before using them.

Words matter, and as a leader selecting the correct words is crucial. Many times we spout off the first word that pops into our head that satisfies the need of the moment, whether it be for timeliness or laziness. Often however taking a few moments to pause and think about the impact to the team will save so much heartache.

I was previously coaching a team and one of the manager's favorite lines was "I need one neck to choke." As far as I can tell, this meme of a phrase was coined in the bowels of arcane business practices, signifying that the manager needs one person to blame if things go awry.

This is one of those terms that make me cringe, inside and out. First, the term implies that things are going to go wrong, and the only thing the manager knows is that it won't be her fault. Second, the modern utopian dynamic is for a team to be autonomous, taking responsibility for the work and the project without the need of ye olde carrot-stick motivation antics. This terminology is straight out of the "if you screw up it's going to be your ass!" type management.

Sometimes, it does help and is necessary for a single person to coordinate and guide a project (or feature). A simple solution would be a slight adjustment to the wording: "Due to the nature of the project, we need someone to drive this feature and ensure all the teams are coordinated. Who would like to be that person?". See how much better that sounds? It accomplishes both the need of the manager to direct questions and status to a single person, but also grants the team the autonomy and frankly the professional courtesy to decide who this person should be.

Next time you spout off some wit and wisdom from the farm, be sure to pause a few moments to see if there's a better to way.