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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"...3 fingers pointing back at you"

I heard this phrase the first time when I was a young lieutenant (I mean, majorly wet behind the ears). I was a Signal Corps officer assigned to a Field Artillery battalion in the 4th Infantry Division. I was responsible for all the communications assets and was one of a handful of non-artillery types in the battalion's group of officers. I had gone to speak to my battalion commander about how the other officers and their men were not taking care of the communications equipment and how they wouldn't follow the manuals regarding communications training.

The colonel looked at me and said, "OK, Lieutenant Hall, I'll get on the other officers about this. However, remember, when you're pointing your finger at someone else, you have three more pointing back at you." I didn't get it. First, I'd never heard that phrase before and second, THEY were at fault, not me. At least that was obvious to me.

What I came to find out later was that my men had not properly trained the "gun bunnies" on how to use the equipment and I hadn't done as good a job working with my fellow officers as I could have. It was very uncomfortable to deal with when those officers got chewed out and then they proceeded to let the colonel and others know how the Signal guys had dropped the ball.

I point all this out to say that whenever we're not happy with what other people have done or failed to do, whether they're family, friends, coworkers, or people who report to us, we will be sorely mistaken if we don't take a serious look at our potential role in the problem. What did we do that helped cause the problem? What could we have done to ensure the problem didn't get this far or never existed at all?

Bosses take heed. When you're not happy with your people's performance, ask yourself what role you had to play. Ensure you've done your part and more before you start pointing fingers.

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