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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Hey Manager, It’s Your Fault!

Hey Manager, It’s Your Fault! post image

I have screwed up. I mean really. I have.

You want the story, don’t you? So here it is. The other day I was talking with one of my team members and I kind of promised something. I told that they’d get the thing as soon as something else is done, something else being sort of pushing project to a specific stage.

Well, that’s what I thought I said.

Because the true is I said something different. I kind of forgot to add the second part, this damn prerequisite.

Well, I might have added it but it doesn’t really matter.

It doesn’t matter because it doesn’t matter what I, as a manager, am trying to communicate. What counts is how the message is received. So I could either way said it like ten times but if I wasn’t able to deliver the message successfully so the team member actually hears it and understands it I could have just omitted it and it would have meant the same.

Basically, I have screwed up.

And I feel totally bad with that. The milk is spilled. If I’m lucky I can probably limit some damages, but then limiting damages doesn’t really sound positive, does it?

So while I sit in the corner and cry over my crappy leadership, take this lesson:

If you’re a manager it’s your damn fault. If someone fails to understand you it’s your fault, not theirs. If you think you communicate perfectly clear I still don’t give a damn. It’s your fault.

It’s not about you feeling well because you believe you kept your word. It’s about people being totally disappointed with you letting them down. You may say it starts being about feelings and not facts and you’ll be pretty damn right. But it doesn’t change the rules of the game.

It’s still your fault.

Letting people understand something else then you say is equally wrong as just lying to them.

It’s your fault.

Trying to get with your message to people and failing at it is the same.

And it’s your freaking fault.

So well, there’s no explanation I want to use. I’ve screwed up. I’ve let one person down and they won’t treat my word seriously for a longer time. Considering that it’s even possible to rebuild the trust which isn’t that obvious.

For that I’m both angry at myself and sad.

in: communication, team management

5 comments… add one

  • Phil Ruse May 11, 2011, 11:17 am

    It’s not often you find a manager as much self-awareness as this :)

  • Martin Proulx May 11, 2011, 11:52 am

    It is nice and worth noting when someone admits making a mistake. Your post does that well.

    I do however disagree with your harsh-self-assessment. Communication and Agreements are “two-way” actions. It requires both parties to hold their end of the deal otherwise, it is too easy to blame (or take full blame) with your actions.

    I’ve published something along the same lines recently.

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 11, 2011, 10:47 pm

    @Martin, Of course communication is (at least) two-way street. But if you are a manager and you want to deliver a message it’s you who should take responsibility for getting it done.

    If someone refuses to even listen to you then probably you shouldn’t take the blame, but then how often does it happen really? Usually, and this is the case from the post, we feel like we were clear, except we weren’t clear enough. In such cases I don’t feel that such attitude is too harsh.

    But it’s an interesting observation that I get quite many comments from different sides telling me that this stance is out of the line…

  • pmstudent.com May 12, 2011, 2:36 am

    You are spot on Pawel, my philosophy is the same. The only difference is that I don’t like to say ‘fault’ or ‘blame’ – it may just be different words, but I like to use ‘responsible’ and ‘accountable’ instead. I find these words and thoughts help me to focus more on how I can do better in the future and making amends now, and less on dwelling in the past.

    Superb post, as usual Pawel!

  • suff May 12, 2011, 2:56 am

    There’s this rule ;-) “One minute of angryness and sadness for every mistake you take” The most important thing is to point the mistake and take actions to try to fix it. Rest will come later.

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