Updated: Jul 24, 2020
One of my early childhood memories is of my parents constantly telling us that it did not matter who was to blame, whenever my brothers and I got into a fight or an altercation. In retort, I would rant and rave about how unfair and prejudiced that was. In my reality, I would very seldom be the person at fault and even if I was, it was never really my fault and therefore should not be punished.
Like most people, I have been guilty of wielding as well as at the receiving end of the blame stick. However, over time and many experiences later, the wisdom of this maxim resonates loudly with me. At the end of the day, the blame game is about self-preservation and while that works in the game of striving, it does not work so well in the game of flourishing.
How can we break this cycle?
Create a safe and secure space
One of the triggers for the blame game is the fear that being responsible would compromise our standing or self-worth. Our failings are usually attributable to some extrinsic factor. That extrinsic factor would typically be circumstantial or a result of someone else’s action, seldom our own character strength limitation.
However, when there is a sense of safety and security in that space or relationship, this is triggered less frequently. If you are a leader or have control or influence over the creation of a safe and secure space, there are 2 important attributes that have to be present.
1. Have agreed behaviours that applies to everyone, equally
We are aware that each person has their own way of thinking, expressing ourselves and taking action. As such, it is important to have a simple to explain as well as easy to adopt rules of engagement. The more complex these are, the more time and effort we spend on getting buy-in or justifying them instead of moving forward.
One easy expression of this is to define agreed behaviours. Behaviours are tangible, observable and can be baselined. These agreed behaviours then become the foundation upon which rules of engagement and/or processes are built on.
Another point to note is that regardless of seniority, position, role or relationship, the same rules has to be applied equally to everyone, when the situation arises. If a rule of engagement has to be flexibly applied, that flexibility has to apply to everyone equally with the converse being true.
This creates a level playing field upon which we are able to hold each other accountable in a safe and constructive manner.
2. Take actions that contribute to positive outcomes
When a situation does arise, as it will from time to time, we have a moment to moment choice of whether to keep the agreed behaviours alive. In those moments, keeping in mind that each conversation and action to be taken have to drive a positive outcome is critical.
This holds true too when considering the feedforward you may want to gift to someone in your team or group after the situation has been averted or resolved. In having that conversation with that person, consider:
what the agreed behaviour you are being present to is;
how the conversation ties back to the agreed behaviours; and
what positive outcomes you are working towards with that person and for team success.
This creates a playing field upon which it is clear what guides team success and a commitment to positive outcomes.
Every moment is a choice and we have the option of making choices to flourish by stopping the blame game.