3 Ways Leaders Can Change a Blame Culture | TechWell

3 Ways Leaders Can Change a Blame Culture

Man in a suit pointing his finger

There are few things in leadership as damaging as passing the blame to your team when things don’t go right and taking the credit when they do.

Blaming team members leads to decreased trust. People don’t like to be publicly told they’ve screwed up. It’s embarrassing, and more often than not, the person who made the mistake already knows they’ve made it. If your organization has a blame culture, a lot of mistakes also can go unnoticed because team members become good at hiding their mishaps.

One of the biggest reasons blame is damaging is because it focuses on the past. While you’re trying to determine who made a mistake, you’re not coming up with solutions to move forward.

If you want to increase trust, inspire creativity, and nurture a generative culture with your team, here are three things leaders can do instead of placing blame.

Hold the team (yourself included) accountable

There’s a major difference between blaming someone and holding them accountable. Blame is all about avoiding responsibility: If someone else can take the fall, then you don’t have to. On the other hand, accountability is about recognizing there is a problem and then finding solutions to the problem based on lessons learned.

When something goes wrong, work with the team to devise a plan to move forward. What did the team learn from making the mistake, and what can the team do now to rectify the situation?

Allow the team to self-organize to find solutions

If we look at problems as problems, we’re likely to have our eyes on the rearview mirror. If we look at problems as opportunities for solutions, we’re more likely to come up with creative ideas to move forward. Rather than telling their teams what to do, good leaders will allow their teams to self-organize around solutions.

Your colleagues are on the team for a reason. They add value in some form, and they’re in the trenches day in and day out actually doing the work. They’ve tried different solutions and probably failed more than once. As a leader, you should listen first and then help your team remove blockers so they can work through their potential solutions. 

Focus on the future, not the past

From a business perspective, blame is cost-prohibitive. Managers can sit around all day trying to determine whose fault a mistake was, or they can help their team focus on the future. What went wrong? What are some potential solutions to make things right? At the end of the day, would you rather know who made a mistake or have a new strategy in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

A blame culture is easy to fall into, but it can be as easy to climb out of. If something goes wrong, always start by asking yourself, how can we move forward? That should help keep you on the right path to provide solutions and not point fingers.

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