Don’t Blame Me, I’m Not That Guy

If you’re remotely familiar with the 7-Steps to Become an Elegant Leader with Voltage, then you’re aware of the relationship between Ego – Results – Relationships. The biggest reason men and women fail in leadership roles is their ego. Today’s article focuses on the male end of the spectrum in being ‘that guy’. No one wants to be that guy in any endeavor. Even the guy who IS that guy doesn’t want to be known as ‘that guy’. Our fear of being found out is an extremely large dragon conjuring up incredible amounts of anxiety, doubt and discouragement.

I’m very fortunate that I get to sleep under the blanket of security at night provided by Team guys all around the world – and so are you. And, most of you are blithely unaware of operations that continue day-in day-out at any point on any continent today and tomorrow. What I’m sharing with you are insights and commentary from an operator who understands what it’s like to be ‘that guy’ and what it’s like to put your life in the hand of ‘that guy’.

The Purpose of Training

The purpose of the difficult training pipelines members of SOF go through is to separate the weak from the strong – it’s a filtering process. The Cadre want people to quit, because once they eliminate those who don’t really want to be there, they’re left with the final few; the ones who realize quitting is not an option. At your job or in your family, you have the option to quit at any time and many of you do. You quit because, as you see it, your life isn’t at risk here. Here’s why you’re ‘that guy’. Blind to the real consequences of your decisions, your actions.

Once the many are filtered out at BUD/S, the real forging begins – and for some the most painful evolutions begin. By this time, fear no longer exists physically. It manifests itself far greater mentally now. It creates a home in your head.

Sometimes great teachers are only great because they teach you how not to act.

“Don’t be that guy.” It’s simultaneously a bit of advice and a strong warning. It’s a phrase that is definitely common in the military and somewhat in certain civilian circles. It can and will be used in both military and civilian theaters to being accepted into Tier I units as well as into the finest Fortune 500 companies in this maxim: if you are consistently the source of grief, you don’t belong.

Can you spot ‘that guy’? It’s fairly easy to the trained eye in a group setting. It doesn’t take long if you’re dialed in to the signals and behaviors. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that it’s an adaptation for a team guy to be able to identify ‘that guy’ quickly so he can know how to not behave. Sometimes great teachers are only great because they teach you how not to act.

It’s not that he makes mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s not that he lacks situational awareness sometimes. He lacks it at ALL times when it matters most. It’s not simply that he has a short temper and can be volatile sometimes. Every man has a limit. That guy lives outside the limit because his ego is so fragile that any hits can cause him to either crack or explode, neither of which is beneficial when it hits the fan. All of us have a realtively solid skill set and situational adaptability to handle most things that arise in our personal and professional lives. It’s when ‘scorched earth’ is applied – in the civilian world, it’s the stress and pressures from above us be it an Executive, SVP or Board members when we slip into our most detrimental behaviors and become ‘that guy’. Why?

The default response to criticism and mistakes, worst of all, is the Original Sin:


There is nothing more destructive to team morale and cohesion than a guy who is unwilling to take responsibility for his failures. That guy starts to think everyone is conspiring against him or looking for reasons to get rid of him. Everyone on the outside looking in is thinking, or saying to themselves, “Dude, this guy is incapable of learning from his mistakes and he’s going to get me or you killed.” Most likely, none of you have jobs or roles involving life and death consequences. What you do have are function and livelihood consequences. How many of you are the ‘benefactor’ of that guy causing you a job in your past, causing you a breakup of a relationship, causing your family and friends hardship because they could not and would not take responsibility for their failures. And yet, some of them still lead other businesses, divisions and organizations today!

Over time, the conspiracy theory starts to become a reality. Guys really do start expecting or even looking for mistakes. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually, everyone starts to give that guy the silent treatment, which will lead him to travel down one of two terrible directions: more blame, or strengthening the Fear. What can we do about ‘that guy’. Quit giving in to his bullshit and hold him accountable. You have nothing to lose. Think about that!

The Fear

“The Fear” can be used to explain a variety of things, but for that guy, the Fear takes the form of believing he no longer has the respect or love from his mates or peers and colleagues. As this fear becomes more palpable and visible in his interactions, he becomes hyper worried about making more mistakes, which erodes his confidence even more and leads to more mistakes.

It’s a vicious cycle, especially if that guy truly isn’t actually disliked by his teammates. We’ve seen it before guys we do like, but they’re a ‘walking disaster’. The Fear of falling out of favor among your team is right around the corner. One moment you can be riding high, thinking you’re one of the guys. The next minute, you’re picking up the pieces after making a mistake which heralds the end of the world in your mind. To everyone else, you just screwed up again and you’re going to catch hell about it until someone else makes an even dumber mistake. What’s the best way to avoid this crippling disease?

Here’s how you can avoid being ‘that guy’:

Always Pay Attention. Situational awareness will save your life one day. Every day is a learning opportunity from others for both the good they do, and also what not to do.

Take Responsibility Immediately. It’s easier to recognize your shortcoming, instead of getting ignored from your colleagues for blaming them.

Be An Asset. And, not an ass or a liability. Submit that ginormous ego, if you believe you’re an asset to the team and you will often behave as an asset. If you go dark and worry that you’re a liability, well… the same rule applies. You never forget your swim buddies name and in life you better find one who will go through hell and back with you…just saying.

Make Amends and Allies. This works best when you’re genuine and sincere. You never know who may come to your aid in times of trouble. You also never know if that person you pissed off last week may just let you hang yourself because you acted like an ass. Step up and admit your mistakes, eat crow, suck-it-up and embrace the suck that you hosed it up.  Talk to your ‘swim buddy’ you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their honest assessment of your performance. No one likes negative feedback and you surely don’t want a shit sandwich either. Appreciate their honesty. Your desire to see the truth in yourself tells your employees, directs, associates, whomever that you want to improve and not be ‘that guy’.

Forgive Others Fast. Lastly, and probably most importantly I’m pretty sure Jesus had some good reasons for this maxim, all of which apply in this situation as well.

The Five are good in all walks of life and definitely in small, tight-knit teams, workgroups, Executive teams, etc., where internal mis-trust costs livelihoods. You should be glad you’re not in a daily environment where life and death is always a small mistake away. Team success is about submitting your ego, checking it at the door, leaving titles behind, wiping your feet and so on. None of us can build anything of value that’s sustainable without the help and support of other people. It’s all about relationships (Step 5). If you want to know more about the 7-Steps to Become an Elegant Leader with Voltage or want to know more about what Elegant Leadership is then get our FREE guide here. If you’d like to step up and step into ELV, we offer a recurring monthly growth experience on the first 4 Monday’s of every month and you can register for free here. Thanks to Jack Murphy and Brandon Webb for sharing ‘that guy’ with me.

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