Keep Your Team Focused On The Future With A No Self-Justification Ground Rule

If you ever find that your Executive Team has become “stuck,” it’s usually down to a small number of topics. One or two Directors may be holding onto some type of “baggage” from the past that somehow is taking their mind off the business future. This kind of topic can be difficult so you should remember the motto – “no self-justification.”

What you should do is establish ground rules as this can be very powerful in enabling your Executive Team to get rid of those old habits. “No self-justification” is a ground rule that can help resolve conflicts and steer away from issues that are too hard to deal with. When people are freed of the responsibility to either themselves or their closest colleagues to recall the way they see events from the past, we’ve got a much better chance.

This rule should also come into play whenever a team has to have a discussion about a difficult subject, one that is likely to bring up deeper emotions among some of the Executive Directors on the basis that they may have been wronged in the past. Perhaps they feel that a takeover was badly handled or they were treated badly by Nonexecutive Directors, or that things didn’t go very well during a merger. Grievances and resentments may be simmering under the surface, which can have a negative affect on key discussions if they are triggered.

Remember That Because The Team Signed Up For This At The Start They Take Ownership Of The Ground Rule.

Interestingly, I noticed that those who might be carrying the most baggage are more relieved when they see that the ground rule was introduced, as they feel that they’re not going to be put into a position to put across their side of the story in relation to whatever it was that took place in the past. Do make sure that everybody agrees with the no self-justification rule before the discussion starts.

If you see that somebody begins to say something like “this is why I responded in the way that I did,” you need to step in and say “don’t forget that we don’t need to go into that, because we agreed not to.”

As the CEO, Focus On Looking Forward.

As the Chief Executive you can establish a positive angle to get what you want out of the discussion by outlining this ground rule at the start. You could say, “I’m just concerned that we look at the future of the business based on lessons learned from the past, whilst leaving what’s gone on in the past firmly there. It’s easy to slip into self-justification and I know that you agree with me that we’re not going to do that today.”

This type of ground rule can be very valuable. There is undoubtedly a lot to be learned from the lessons of the past, but occasionally we do need to find new ways of convincing us not to wallow in some of those self-justifying details.