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Bridle Research and Development Limited

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12 NOVEMBER 2009
Three fingers pointing back

by Paul Bridle: Leadership Methodologist, International Researcher, Author, Inspirational Professional Speaker, Consultant and Facilitator.

My grandmother once said to me, when you point a finger at someone, take a look at your hand because there are three fingers pointing back at you!

I have often thought about that and it has been exceptionally useful over the years. Many times I have been about to blame someone for something and then looked at myself and found that I am behaving just like them. I see this very often in business. Managers who are very quick to blame others, but when you examine what they are saying, you find that the manager is behaving in the same way.

The worrying aspect of this is that often they were not always like that. I had a chance to talk to a senior manager recently that was telling me about the lack of communication from a member of staff, the lack of planning, and he didn’t like the way that person talked to people. When we discussed it in detail, I started to realise that the manager was behaving in a similar manner himself. I asked him if he had noticed this about himself? He was stunned as he considered his own behaviour and recognised that he was behaving in this manner himself.

“How can that be?” he asked me. “I have never been like that.”

In reality we do pick up on the behaviours of others and we do have a tendency to mimic behaviours. We are prone to adopting behaviours and doing so without realising it.

I am caring for my elderly father at the moment, until we find him a place to live. He always had expectations of me that I never lived up to. As a result, he was always quick to point out my mistakes. It was extremely rare for him to praise me for anything and as a result I got to the stage where I felt that he blamed me for everything that went wrong.

Now that he is living with me, the situation has become more evident once again. But what has surprised me is how I have become like him when dealing with him. I find that I also point out what he is doing wrong and do not thank him for things when he does them right - and this is just not like me. I pride myself on pointing out to people when they have done well and thanking people in as many ways as I can find so that they know it is genuine and heartfelt. Yet in the case of my father I have not been doing that!

“Who has trained who?” “Who has allowed themselves to be influenced here?”

The same situation may apply in your working environment. You may be allowing people around you to inadvertently be training you. In other words, you may be adopting their behaviour without even realising it. Of course your instinct may be to deny this and even point out that you aren’t like that because of the way you treat others. However, with that person you may well be behaving just like them.

So this month I am asking you to think of someone that you are not getting on with and ask yourself:

  • What is it that they are doing that annoys you?
  • Now consider if you are behaving like that with them? Be honest and consider it carefully.
  • In what ways are you being exactly like them?
  • What actions of theirs are you doing yourself?
  • How much of their behaviours are you finding that you are adopting?
  • What are you doing, or are not doing, with other people that you expect from them?

It is so easy to fall into this trap if we are not careful. We slide into it without realising what we are doing. We have to be prepared to be brutally honest with ourselves if we want to learn and improve. Think about it, if you are blaming your people for being poor at communicating and then you are not doing it yourself, then guess what they are saying behind your back?

So this month, consider all the things that are annoying you and ask yourself if you are doing the same to others. It may not be directly, but it may be indirectly that you are behaving exactly as you are accusing them, without realising it.

Be an example of what you want from people so that they have something to follow. Be careful that you are not the follower and behaving just like them.


Bridle Research and Development Limited
Paul Bridle is an Information Contextualizer and Leadership Methodologist. For over two decades he has researched effective organisations and the people that lead them. Visit our InfoCentre or website.

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