“Accountability breeds response-ability,” according to author and productivity guru, Stephen R. Covey. Yet, one of the most prevalent and dangerous accountability shifting techniques still in place with business today is what’s been coined as “The Blame Game.”
The Blame Game is sneaky. It is played on conference calls, in one on one’s with our managers, in staff meetings. It can be subtle, an effective distracter from the real issues before us, the real challenges and problems we’re trying to solve.
Most importantly, it also can destroy our credibility long-term, and certainly damage – sometimes irreparably – the relationships we have with clients, customers and colleagues alike.
What is the Blame Game, you ask? The Blame Game is when we fail, when we don’t deliver on expectations, and instead of really stepping up and investing our energy into solving the problem, we get mired down into pulling reports, finding data, building the case that it was all (insert name here)’s fault.
In the back of your mind, some of you may be thinking: ‘Wait a minute, it’s not blaming if it’s REALLY someone else’s fault. It wasn’t my fault I missed the service level agreement this month, I mean who could have predicted half my team would end up sick. Or that the client was going to run that ad campaign without giving us enough notice.’
However, if you’re thinking this, you have unwittingly fallen into the sticky trap of The Blame Game. Do you think your client really cares what the reason is for you missing the performance metric? Probably not. Let’s face it – our jobs are to get the job done. To get results. To deliver on what we’ve committed to our customers and our clients. That is the implicit contract of business and their clients and/or customers.
Of course, that’s not to say that results must be accomplished at the cost of everything else. Obviously, the solution would not be to threaten your sick employees on fear of job loss to come to work. That would be equally disastrous, for other reasons!
Stopping the Blame Game means taking a good, honest, hard look at where you have missed the mark. When did you not meet expectations? And, did you offer up an excuse, a finger point of blame to something “outside of your control” instead of investing your energy to find a solution to accomplish what you needed?
Did you ask for help? Did you brainstorm with colleagues on alternative solutions? Did you call the client immediately and see if perhaps they could add insight into the situation that you had perhaps not considered? Did you roll-up your sleeve and go to the front-line, setting an example and helping firsthand?
Sadly, despite all of this, sure – there will be times that even with our best efforts, we will fail. We can even do all the right things and STILL miss the mark. And when this happens, our biggest responsibility is to try and not let it happen again. We have to own the solution, own the future, and take full accountability without shifting the blame away from ourselves.
You may not be able to control everything in a situation, but chances are you can control a lot more than you think. Use those levers to drive your performance, capitalize on the relationships you have (strengthened by working together in crisis, and not attacking each other in blaming), get creative, and set yourself apart as a team builder who gets the job done.
Because while you might get away with playing the Blame Game once or twice, in time it will catch up to you. Your client, your boss, or your company will start to lose faith in your ability to accomplish the work. You have to deliver on your part of the work contract – with the results. You have to do what you said you could do, and excuses – as real as they may seem to be – aren’t going to cut it.
by Channon C.