Is It Me or Is It Them?

Leadership can present a lot of moments of disappointment.  Things don’t always go as we plan.  Initiatives fail.  Team members make poor decisions.  We say or do the wrong thing.

In these moments of frustration, I often find myself asking a couple of questions:

Is it me?

Is it them?

I think both questions are essential.

Problems or dysfunction in our teams always have to start with a look in the mirror.  As Henry Cloud says in Boundaries for Leaders, “as a leader, you always get what you create and what you allow”.

We always have some responsibility for the issues we’re dealing with.

But we also need to ask “is it them?”

Sometimes people are just people.  They are dealing with distractions.  They’re wrestling their own inconsistencies and issues.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you lead them.  As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

But here’s the problem for us as leaders:  Most of us don’t ask both questions.  We’re more likely wired to ask one or the other.

We either shame ourselves by constantly feeling responsible for everything or we always blame others.

Next time you’re dealing with a less than spectacular moment with your team, resist shame or blame.


1) Look in the mirror and ask “Is it me?”  Is there anything that I’ve created or allowed that is contributing to this problem?  If so, go to work on remedying the issue but don’t wallow in guilt or shame.  Just make it right.

2) Consider what part of the issue is them.  Is there a person on your team who is wrestling through their own issues and that is overflowing to the team?  If so, look for ways to coach and lead them through what they’re dealing with.  It’s another opportunity for you to lead them well.

When things aren’t going the way you hoped are you more prone to shame or blame?

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