By BRIAN TOWNLEY Reality Intelligence featured trainer
It’s a dreaded dynamic in the workplace: who to blame when things go wrong.
A cultural shift toward “blamestorming” rather than “brainstorming” is a reversal in the character qualities we should expect in leaders, whether in politics, community or business.
Credibility and integrity take a back seat when blamestorming takes the front seat.
An effective leader looks forward to seeking solutions through proactive problem solving and collaboration. A weaker approach is to lay blame, which offers no productive outcome and promotes the inability of people with different perspectives and objectives to accept any argument other than their own.
It’s the blame game, and it’s a failure of leadership we must not ignore.
The daily dialogue in business, politics and society is a chorus of laying blame to the external. It is always someone else’s fault when something goes wrong, whether that’s a cultural failure or an individual one.
The trend to “blamestorm”-assign responsibility for a weakness, failure or mistake-is a reactive outcome to tragedy and disappointment.
For example, a project is behind schedule and will likely not meet its deadline. The members of the team responsible for the project have various reasons for how the timing has lagged behind. Perhaps one team member was out of the office for an extended period of time due to illness. Maybe the budget was cut after original bids were sent out for outsourced components. It’s possible that one or more external vendors did not meet their progress markers.
In truth, all these elements affected the project and each of them could be-and should be-handled and not ignored. When one team member is out, divide their responsibility among the others or add a new member to the team. Resend bids with the adjust budget numbers and proceed. Be the squeaky wheel when vendors are slow and remind them of possible repeat business if you are satisfied with their service.
At the end of the day, the entire project is off course. While many factors come into play, no one has “owned” the process and steered it along the way to manage these obstacles. They became excuses and were not addressed as they arose.
An effective leader will forecast potential roadblocks and “brainstorm” with other team members to mutually solve problems and arrive at acceptable solutions. The end result is profitable and successful, and no energy was wasted on passing blame.
Let’s face it. Blame is toxic. It permeates an organization affecting productivity and customer service. No one feels they need to accept responsibility because the culture of blaming is deeply rooted. Leaders shift blame to employees, and co-workers point fingers at one another. Most everyone is uptight fearing for their own job security and not knowing whom to trust. The price of blamestorming is too high to allow it to take hold in the workplace, and good leaders will model “ownership” and expect the same of their employees.
Leaders who insist on brainstorming instead of blamestorming have discovered the power of seeking solutions among their team. They have a “Let’s get this thing done!” attitude and it permeates and excites the entire team. They eliminate the fear that is underlying all those excuses. Their team members do not wallow in a fear of failure or confrontation, they are not afraid of being disliked and they don’t worry about being unprepared. They are ready to face the challenge without clutching the comforting excuses that have shielded them in the past. Excellence is expected and the focus of every conversation.
Brainstorming, or exchanging a multitude of ideas and creating a synergy of creativity, is a powerful leadership tool. Sometimes people in leadership positions will approach a discussion with the mindset of rejecting the viewpoint of others and setting the tone for blaming on any possible outcome where they might disagree.
This becomes a distraction from learning from mistakes and dealing with the real issues. Real issues become blind spots when leaders listen to respond rather than listen to understand.
Leadership should be the willing to gather ideas, give credence to good suggestions and explore and approach topics openly.
Voters make decisions to vote for candidates who share the same core values as themselves. But yet, too many times campaigns are built around blaming others instead of offering fresh ideas for helpful solutions.
Whether it is campaign politics or office management, blamestorming is not productive or a credible tactic of an effective leader.
Building trust is about turning “Me” into “We.” We live in a “What’s in it for me?” culture.
A good leader understands that most people are partial to themselves. When talking with an employee or even a customer, make it about them. Share how your ideas will benefit them, which in return will benefit the company. It must be about them before it’s going to be about you, as their leader, the company or party you may represent.
When the “We” attitude overrides the “Me” attitude, blamestorming is not the driving force. Instead, the “We” attitude pursues fairness, flexibility, collaboration, compromise, thinking before speaking and listening to all ideas with an open mind. In addition, it allows the employees to have a sense of ownership in the success of the company. And, we will support what we help to build together.