From what I’ve heard, we all have the same _______ (fill in the blank, eg. boss, family member, friend).
The one who refuses to be wrong. And who believes that the only way not to be wrong, is to make everyone else wrong. Like blame musical chairs.
And let’s face it. Sometimes we are that person. No one likes to be wrong.
Being blamed is a fast route to feeling devalued and, frankly, just awful. The worst part about it is that it’s contagious. In the sense that once you’ve been blamed and devalued, that feeling starts to creep into your psyche. That place of feeling bad infects other areas of your work. It can pulverize your enthusiasm, your willingness to take risks and innovate.
Blame is a lose-lose situation. The person doing the blaming is trying to control other people (which is impossible). And the person being blamed feels totally out of control (it never feels good to be powerless).
After every project that our teams complete, we have a postmortem. Call it a hot wash, eval, review, whatever—they are a critical part of business as they allow us to take stock of what we’ve learned and adjust for the future.
They are also ripe breeding grounds for finding what went wrong and nailing it to someone’s head. Not a pleasant image, not a pleasant occurrence…but one that happens regularly.
Is it helpful? Not really. (please refer to the words above)
I propose this: instead of looking back and making people feel bad for mistakes, why not identify any problems and then, ask your team to ask themselves the following questions:
1. What did I do to contribute to the problem?
2. What can I do to solve the problem?
These two questions turn the attention away from the blame and towards the only thing each of us can actually control: ourselves.
Extend these two questions into everything you do. Extend them into the meeting process, not just the hot wash at the end. This, is true collaboration—when every member of the team is responsible for themselves and sees issues as they arise as opportunities, not to throw blame and run…but to continually look for how they, themselves, can contribute to making it better.
Image credit: multipletrees