By Steve Moran

No need to panic, this is a leadership article, not a political one.

If you are much of a political junkie, you probably know there is a major recall effort against Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California where I live.

In reading about the recall effort (which seems likely to get as far as the ballot), I came across the following quote that really hit home. It’s about how those who are being led look at their leaders.

“I’ve seen this movie before,” said South, former campaign manager to Gray Davis, the only governor in California history to be successfully recalled. Davis, South noted, was booted from office in large part for his handling of the state’s electricity crisis in 2001. “The governor gets blamed not for the problem, but for not solving the problem.”  – Source: CalMatters

Whether Democrat or Republican, no one is suggesting he has done a good job with both the lockdowns and, more recently, vaccine distribution, the two things he had primary responsibility for and control over.

This is critical: Leaders get blamed not for the problem but for not solving the problem.

Problems Happen

All but the most obnoxious understand problems happen even in the very best organizations. Some are external like the pandemic, fires, and hurricanes; all of which, over the past few years, have done serious damage to senior living.

In addition to the biggies, there are all kinds of little things that happen nearly every day. A rude staff member, a meal that doesn’t get delivered or is delivered cold, a room that does not get cleaned or cleaned well, an activity that falls flat.

On any given day, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways for things to go wrong. If the problems aren’t persistent the leader won’t get blamed. Unless they do not solve the problem with some important considerations:

  • The problem needs to be solved aggressively and promptly
  • The source of the problem needs to be addressed
  • It takes repeated complaining to get the problem addressed. Then the leader always loses, even when the problem gets fixed. 

The Problem Opportunity

What is curious is that when a leader goes over the top to fix a problem, it actually can be a big win for the organization. It makes team members more loyal and residents fall in love with you as a leader. Ritz Carlton is a master at this . . . and yes, even they have service failures. Amazon is another great example. If they screw up an order, they are likely to tell you to keep the wrong item and then send you the right one, no questions asked.

There is no doubt that dealing with problems is not much fun. But it can be an outstandingly fun way to win at the leadership game.

Click here to read comments and join the conversation about this article.