• Javier Perez Fernandez

A internal responsibility story: the leader who blamed his team.




As leaders, we have to start by managing ourselves, and unfortunately this is not always the case.


Last week I had dinner with a friend who had recently been promoted to head two development teams. He was complaining that his team members were behaving like "divas or immature", mentioning that they were more concerned about creating a new framework or increasing their technical skills, than creating a solution that would satisfy the customer.


He explained to me that when he was a software developer he also behaved the same way. However, his perspective had changed when the company promoted him. He told me that he would like his team to evolve as well. Together, we explored the reasons why he had changed his priorities and came to the following conclusion:


  • He had a more global view of the system.

  • He was held accountable for the team's results.

  • He was getting direct feedback from the customer.


I asked him how the team would behave if the above points were applied to the team. It struck me that he said they could not be applied due to some company policies. We probed a bit further and I asked him what he could do to take care of changing the impediments so that his developers would no longer be "divas or immature". He denied that he could do anything.


In my opinion, this leader did not want to take responsibility for the change he wanted to see happen. He preferred to put the responsibility on others: first on his developers ("they were divas or immature") and then on the organization ("I can't do anything because of company policies").


To make a complex change, the first thing to do is to take internal responsibility: what you can do yourself to achieve it, then consider possible reasons for the system's behavior, think about which are the most plausible, change them, and see if the expected behavior is achieved.


In this story the leader was able to think of a few reasons that could explain the behavior of his team. However, there could be many others. Have you experienced a similar situation? What other reasons do you think could explain the behavior of the system?