Unlocking the Heart and Soul of Remarkable Leadership, Keith Merron
Remarkable Leadership

Archive for June, 2010

Stop the Blame Game

Monday, June 14th, 2010

A website called Grist breaks down who to blame for the Gulf Oil disaster in a view that has immediate impact. http://www.grist.org/article/201

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0-06-03-whos-to-blame-for-the-gulf-oil-gusher-we-break-it-down/ It brings clarity to the whole mess and at one level appears quite instructive. It looks like this:

At another level, this chart illustrates the prevailing view of problem solving—that blaming is worthwhile.

When a problem occurs, spending time and energy figuring out whom to blame only results

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in more of the same. It is counterproductive. The problem with this chart or the view that the chart represents is three fold:

  1. Blaming rarely causes

    learning. When we blame, we close down learning and learning is the first priority at this time.

  2. Conscious leadership is absent in such a view. By dividing up blame into fixed pieces, everyone can say, “well I am only partially to blame.” It can easily result in everyone washing his or her hands of the problem. Conscious leadership is one where a person says, “I take full responsibility for the problem.” When everyone demonstrates such responsibility, things move in powerful directions. I’d like to see the chart rewritten so that every piece has 100% in it. I know this doesn’t add up, but responsibility should never add up to a fixed amount. When powerfully expressed, there is plenty of room for everyone to take responsibility.
  3. The chart does not demonstrate the interaction among these elements; that we are all part of a larger system. It does not show that BP and MMS are in bed with one another, or how Bush, Cheney, and Haliburton are inextricably linked. We are all in a web of connections for which separation does not serve. Ultimately, we have all contributed to this Gulf oil disaster and each of us has the opportunity to contribute to its solution.

Interestingly, in the span of 2 days, I received an email urging me to boycott BP and encountered a demonstrator outside an ARCO gas station (owned by BP). Here is my thought: if we boycott BP we are going to make it even harder for them to clean up the problem that they are assiduously attempting to do. We are saying you are to blame (which they certainly are) and we will punish you by taking away resources. In so doing, we make it harder for them. It is in our collective best interests for the problem to be solved, so by boycotting them, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Shouldn’t our focus at this moment not be on punishment, but on doing everything we can to support them in fixing it and cleaning up the mess? And why punish the owner of the gas station, who is likely an independent owner? He or she does not deserve to be punished for what BP has done Remember that whenever we purchase plastic, there is a high chance it came from oil that BP produced. Boycott yourself under the same reasoning.
I’m not interested in playing the blame game. It hurts us all, reduces learning, and it denies that we are all connected. That is not to say I’m turning a blind eye to BP’s choices and actions. They certainly have responsibility and rightfully bear the burden of the clean up. I am responsible for my actions as well and my reactions to them. The more I react without awareness of the larger system of which I am a part, the more I contribute to the problem continuing to exist.


Friday, June 11th, 2010

I recently saw the movie Avatar and loved it. Although its message is simple, that we are all connected, it is a cinematic tour de force for its extraordinary special effects.

The movie is a game changer in two ways: it creates an imagine

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d world that feels very real to the viewer.

The second is that it presents in an accessible format a powerful message about leadership and life. That message is: the people you see as the enemy are really no different than you. They may appear different, and have different customs, and beliefs, but deep down we are the same.

We all know this message well, and yet we forget. So this is a message worth remembering. This is the essence of inclusive leadership. To see the person who appears different as having gifts worth tapping into; to see that deep down we share the same essence; to respect all peoples is the height of conscious leadership and Avatar offers such a message.

James Cameron, the writer and director of the movie made this statement at the Annual Golden Globes Awards:

Avatar asks us to see that everything is connected, all human beings to each other, and us to the Earth. And if you have to go four and a half light years to another made-up planet to appreciate this miracle of the world that we have right here, well, you know what, that’s the wonder of cinema right there, that’s the magic.”

I loved the movie. And will continue to appreciate movies like this for their simple, profound message. Call me an idealist,

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and call me a softie. I will gladly accept these monikers, for they are true.

A Perfect Response

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

A few days ago, an extraordinary event occurred in Major League Baseball – an event that has dignity and inspiring leadership written all over it.

In the 9th inning, Armanda Gallarraga of the Detroit Tigers was about to pitch a perfect

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game, which is a

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game where the pitcher gives up no hits or runs or bases on balls. There have been only 20 perfect games thrown in the entire history of baseball.

On the last out, the umpire blew the call. He called the runner safe on a ground ball. As you can see from the enclosed picture, the runner was out. Veteran umpire Jim Joyce erred on that first base call robbing Galarraga of a moment of baseball greatness. Upon seeing the video, Joyce immediately stepped up, took full responsibility for the error and apologized directly to Gallarraga. While the media tried to vilify the umpire, there was nothing more to be done.

But that is not the significant story from a leadership standpoint. It was Gallarraga’s response. Baseball immortality was stolen from him and he completely forgave the umpire and said he could have made the same error given the high level of intensity in that moment. His maturity, dignity, and humanity were beyond compare.

In the face of anger and resentment, Gallarraga offered understanding and forgiveness.

How often have we heard that the mark of great leaders is how they act in the face of mistakes or failure? Joyce made a monumental mistake, which robbed Gallarraga from an exalted record. Instead, the dignity and aplomb that Gallarraga demonstrated puts him squarely in the Gracious Hall of Fame.

I remember the moment during the recent winter Olympics where during a gold medal performance for speed skating, the coach mistakenly guided his athlete to the incorrect lane, causing an immediate disqualification. The athlete was enraged and berated the coach, publicly. It was an honest mistake, and we all make them. We can all understand this athlete’s response, for it was a huge disappointment. His response was common.

It appears to me that Gallarraga’s actions were uncommon, and will have far greater impact then having pitched a perfect game. Instead, his response was pitch perfect in my view. Graciousness is the mark of great leadership and none more telling then in the face of failure.

I am reminded for the umpteenth time of Rudyard Kipling’s words from the poem, IF.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,

And treat those two impostors just the same…

then you will be a man my son.”