Two umpires were umpiring a high school baseball game between rival schools. One was a rookie, the other, a seasoned veteran. On one particular play, the rookie failed to cover a specific base he should have been responsible for, resulting in a missed call, and the ejection of the coach of the team that was wronged by the blown assignment.
It would have been easy to blame the rookie for missing the call. He was the one who had diverted his attention elsewhere; he was the one who ignored the base he should have been watching. But the senior umpire ultimately took the blame for the SNAFU. Why would he do that? After all, the veteran was watching his bases, and following his assigned plays closely. He hadn’t made any mistakes, and handled his assignments flawlessly.
So, how had he failed? How could he have possibly done anything to change the situation?
Before every game, the umpires get together for a pre-game conference. In a normal pre-game conference, they review assignments, discuss game scenarios, cover potential situations that may require the umps to rotate and watch bases they would not normally cover, etc. Knowing that his partner was a rookie, the experienced umpire acknowledged that he should have been more thorough in his pre-game conference. The senior ump didn't review this potential scenario in the pre-game conference. Even though the rookie had been trained in a clinic about how to cover this play, he had never experienced this particular play before, so he wasn't adequately prepared to handle the situation. The veteran assumed the rookie knew what to do, but because he failed to review this scenario in pre-game, the play resulted in a botched call and a coach’s ejection.
Does this ever happen in business? In our homes? With our friends? Do we make assumptions that we know what we’re doing, and that everyone else should as well? Do we assume that our associates, our friends, or significant others, even our children, are as experienced and knowledgeable as we are? Do we blame others when things don’t go as we plan?
Let’s revisit the baseball game… The veteran ump took ownership of his failure to teach the rookie. He acknowledged that if he had properly reviewed this game scenario in the pre-game conference, not only would the play have been handled correctly, but more importantly, the rookie ump would have been better prepared to handle the ball game.
Blaming others and finding fault in our associates is easy to do. It’s the path of least resistance, and an easy copout. Pass the buck, blame someone else, and get off scott free, with our reputation unscathed. But, instead of simply looking for someone else to blame when situations go off the rails, can we try and own the situation, and perform a quick self-evaluation of our role in the scenario?
It’s difficult to admit fault, but far more often than we are comfortable admitting, we can identify some aspect of a SNAFU that we could have taken care of differently, which would have generated much different results!
In life, as in baseball, let’s look for ways we can take ownership of situations. Let’s make certain we’re communicating effectively. Let's ensure that we’re providing our associates with the skills they need to excel, and we’re providing help and guidance to those who need it. No more excuses; no more blaming others for issues and problems.
THE BUCK STOPS HERE!