The Best Advice I Ever Received

Blaming people doesn’t fix the problem.

I used to work for a big law firm as a paralegal, in charge of organizing bond closings. There is a lot of paper involved in legal work — hundreds of pages of Indentures, Lease Agreements, Mortgages, and miscellaneous one-page acknowledgements. If you’ve ever re-financed a mortgage, you know what I’m talking about.

I made phone calls to set up meetings, obtained corporate documentation, made the correct number of copies of everything, witnessed, notarized…

With that much paper, so many details, something always goes wrong.

I worked for a number of attorneys at the firm. Usually when disaster struck we were summoned into his or her office and read the riot act. Who is to blame for this? Why didn’t you…? You should have…

People hung their heads, imagined hours of work to fix things. Nobody wanted to be the one who brought the bad news. If you didn’t get shot, you would be put in charge of the rescue effort.

My favorite boss didn’t do that. If something went wrong, he didn’t waste any time figuring out who should be responsible. He didn’t make speeches or rant or even get mad. He didn’t skip a beat, but went right into brainstorming what we could do to fix it. And somehow we always managed to fix it.

We were very loyal to him. Where I turned down overtime from other lawyers, I always agreed to do extra work for him.

He epitomized the saying, “The buck stops here.” He took complete responsibility for any mistakes we made.

A great strategy for success: skip the blame game and move right into recovery. It’s a lot less stressful.


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