A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting.
–Russell H. Ewing

We all make mistakes, but not everyone takes ownership of them. What’s key is how we handle/address them. Chances are you experience negative feelings, and your energy level drops.  This is normal.  Looking for someone to blame, sadly, is also normal for some individuals and teams.

A team consisting of technicians, customer advocates, and quality control agents worked on a joint initiative.  There were no common reporting lines, and each person had an assigned role and accompanying deliverables and due dates. The initiative ended up being over budget and the completion goal was missed.

Frustration levels grew, excuses were made, and finger pointing occurred in all directions; surely there was someone to blame.

When errors occur, frustration levels grow, excuses get made, and finger pointing can sometimes run rampant. Surely there must be someone to blame!

A man can get discouraged many times but he is not a failure until he begins to blame somebody else and stops trying.
–John Burroughs

Healthier Approaches to Dealing With Mistakes

Finding external causes initially makes one feel better; in actuality instead of being helpful, these behaviors accomplish little, they waste energy, and they cause ill feelings.

  • Accept responsibility; assigning blame creates obstacles to success.
  • Drill down on the reason(s) for the error, seek solutions, and consider alternative approaches. What could have been done differently to prevent the problem? What can be done so there is not a re-occurrence? Do processes need to change? Were the right resources involved?
  • Avoid asking “why” as it places blame and puts people and teams on the defensive.
  • Replace the word “should” with the word “could.” (It provides options, and there isn’t necessarily only one correct choice.)
  • Do get to the root cause, identify and remove roadblocks, remove emotion and remain fact based.
  • Look at replacing unfavorable behaviors with those having a positive influence
  • If you’ve erred, own it, learn from it and move on.

We’re responsible for our actions and behaviors, and the only actions and behaviors we can change are our own. Placing blame lessens the power to change and grow; don’t play the blame game!