The (Un) Importance of Blame
Being a Canadian kid, I grew up a hockey fan and living near Edmonton, an Oilers fan. For those of you who don’t follow hockey, the Oilers have ended an NHL-record streak of playoff misses this season (11 years since their last playoff game – ironically, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final). While there is jubilation in the streets this year, last year and the ten before it there was plenty of blame going around. Fire the coach, fire the GM, change the trainers, trade the goalie – you get it. That got me thinking about the mentality of those around situations where things don’t go as expected in our work lives. Natural human instinct is to find blame in something or someone. But what does that solve? What action items or improvement initiatives come out of laying blame?
No Such Thing as a Time Machine
Those who work with me know that this is one of my favorite sayings. Things are going to go wrong sometimes – it’s simply unavoidable. Yes, mistakes will be made but as we all know, we learn far more from failure than we do from success. The trick is to harness the knowledge gained from your failure to become better and not repeat the same mistakes again. When I have a team member come to me with bad news, more often than not the first thing that I tell them is that we can’t change the past, we can only learn from it to get better.
Blame vs. Accountability
By not laying blame, one might argue that we are not holding people accountable for their actions. That is not the case. Accountability is part of what keeps us driven and motivated. The second we remove the accountability, then there is truly no structure for ensuring that things get done. Blame is simply establishing fault for a situation. Accountability is taking ownership of the situation and finding a way out.
At the end of the day (another one of my favorite sayings), we need to always be learning – that’s how we improve. By laying blame for a failed situation, we don’t learn anything – we just say that it’s someone’s fault – there’s no lessons to be taken away from that. By making sure we learn from our failures we get stronger and ensure that we don’t repeat the same mistakes we did before.
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