Change Culture Design Leadership Reflection

Hate the game. Not the player.

Find the root cause. That’s what matters most when you want to create change.

I listened recently to a podcast where high-net-worth individuals and tax-avoiding companies were the subjects of the discussion.

Or perhaps the subject of their rage is a better expression of the dynamics of the conversation.

Then a politician, known for progressive and more left of the political spectrum beliefs, joined the conversation.

They asked him his opinion about these terrible individuals and companies doing their best to limit the taxes.

“Hate the game, not the player,” was his response.

He explained that you can’t blame individuals for trying to find loopholes in a broken system. 

It’s the system that needs fixing first.

It doesn’t mean those people are without flaws, but the system lets them abuse it.

The whole conversation reminded me of my mother’s passing recently.

She was sent home too early after an operation that proved to be with mistakes later on.

Then a combination of factors caused her to get a heart attack she did not survive.

It’s a very sad story, but I can’t get angry with the guy who did not check properly before sending her home.

It’s the system I’m upset with. 

A system that focuses on efficiency first, treats all patients with certain conditions the same, and refuses to see that each patient is a unique individual with different needs. 

That’s where the problem is.

That system, like any system, is designed by people. Politicians. Those are the people that should look in the mirror and be ashamed.

This game vs. player dynamic works the same at work and in life.

In my coaching sessions, I work with leaders who are mature in their leadership growth and leaders who lack even basic management skills.

Who have never learned how to give proper feedback, for example.

Leaders who are not available to have an in-depth conversation about performance and growth.

“You’re doing a great job” is what their team members often hear.

While that might be true, the primary reason for their weak or non-existent feedback is that they’ve never learned how to do it properly.

Unfortunately for them, the current generation of talent demands good feedback.

You can hate the leader for being unwilling to engage, but the root cause lies within the company’s culture.

Hate the game, not the player.

A senior leader must look in the mirror, acknowledge the problem, address it, and role model how it needs to be done. 


While the game, the system, and the culture are often to blame for dysfunctional behaviors and relationships, it never means we get to let ourselves off the hook.


That’s the point here.

You can look at the game, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything yourself.

If you’re the CEO, you can change it. You can initiate the transformation.

Be the change you want to see. 

That’s what this politician is trying with the tax system. I don’t think he will succeed, but at least he has a clear vision and determination.

For us, as team members, when we don’t get the feedback we need to grow, we can wait passively for our leader to engage, but that’s not the solution.

You’re entitled to get good feedback, so stand up and demand it. 

If your needs are not being met, take it head on and raise the topic. Don’t try to find a workaround. It’s too important.

Your turn: Game or Player?

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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