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Stifle the finger-pointing pest

Transform a fault-finder into a leader

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by on
in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Greg is an otherwise fine worker with one bad habit: He loves saying “I told you so” ... even when he didn’t. You’re tired of his arrogant antics. You want him to take charge and make a difference now, not look back when it’s too late.

If you manage employees who’d rather point fingers than get their hands dirty and solve problems, don’t let them get away with it. Hold Monday-morning quarterbacks responsible for speaking up while they can still do some good. Here’s how:

Tie words to action. The next time an employee lapses into I-told-you-so, don’t just grit your teeth and nod. Say, “Good. I’m glad you pointed this out. I’ll put you in charge of making sure this doesn’t happen again. What steps will you take?”

Follow through. Have the individual devise a forward-looking action plan. Demand specifics, not generalities. Write down the steps to show that you intend to hold the person accountable.

Stage a self-exam. It’s easy for finger- pointers to blame others after the fact. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Respond to an I-told-you-so remark by asking the speaker to examine his own performance. Say, “What you haven’t told me is what mistakes you’re making and how you’re handling them.”

Request a “priority list.” Stop letting employees wait on the sidelines and holler when it’s too late. Instead, respond to their carping by asking them to list their top priorities for improving products, services and the bottom line. Say, “Please write up the biggest improvements we need and what you can do about them.”

Compare and contrast. The next time the finger-pointer starts up, listen patiently. Then say, “You weren’t the only one who saw this coming. Another employee anticipated the problem, too. But that person actually took action and prevented things from getting worse.”

Save this last-resort strategy for an insufferable pest. And don’t reveal the other person’s identity, unless you want to create a divisive rivalry.

Above all, don’t argue with the speaker about the past. Avoid saying, “I don’t recall you telling me about this. You didn’t speak up.” It doesn’t matter now. What’s important is that you look ahead and motivate the person to play a hands-on, active role from this point forward.

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