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What is my 50%?

old fashioned balance scales

When your business experiences problems, what is your first thought? When something basic goes wrong, do you ask why or who? Do you ask yourself “why can’t they get it right?”, or worse, do you make it personal and apportion blame?

I’d like to think that I have a hopeful and trusting view of my fellow humans, but too many times, I’ve fallen victim to being too fast in my judgement after basic problems occur. Only after questioning further, I would find that there was a clear and plausible explanation for the problem my team was experiencing. And the cause was – as Dr W. Edwards Deming suggested – in the 90% category of all problems caused by the process or system (management’s responsibility) rather than the 10% of the problems the workers are responsible for.

If you want to shift your mindset as a leader of empowered high-performing teams, here’s a simple mantra to remember.

Enlightened leaders ask themselves “what is my 50% in this?” when a systemic problem occurs. Did we design the work correctly, did we recruit and/or train for the right skills, are we making it easy for people to be successful, are the expectations or instructions clear? The 50% is deliberately chosen: even when you think you may only be responsible for a small part of the problem, this thought automatically apportions blame with the other party. However, asking, “what is my 50% in this?” creates an environment where we can focus on the problem and the solution, rather than the people caught up with it.

So next time your business experiences problems, think “what is my 50%?”. If you are open and authentic about this, you will find that your team will be more likely to dig into the root cause of the problems, rather than ignoring or deflecting them. They’ll see you prioritise why over who, cause over victim.

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People