It’s easy to lay blame when things don’t go right. People blame the weather for how they’re feeling, the traffic for making them late, the economy for their financial situation. Schoolyards, boardrooms, and the halls of Washington reverberate with outrage as people regularly reassign blame to someone else.
It’s easier to dispense blame than to accept accountability. There are people in the world with two viewpoints; yours and mine. When things go wrong, the fault is yours. When things go right, the credit is mine. Blame helps aid this belief. When we blame others, we can shift accountability and shirk responsibility. Whew, what a relief.
When we blame someone, we declare that the responsibility was theirs and they misused it. Then we watch as people squirm and contort with all sorts of stories to shed the skin of responsibility they had but did not take. And more often than not, how do they respond? By blaming someone else. Watch any Sunday morning news program for abundant examples from elected “leaders.”
Unfortunately, counterintuitively, when we habitually knee-jerk blame others, we dilute our power and leadership credibility. If we exert effort to only condemn someone other than ourselves for the outcome of an event, we weirdly empower them and weaken ourselves. Why are we so regularly willing to give up our power? Because responsibility scares most of us. If we screw up, people might blame us.
There are two methods to interrupt this vicious cycle. One is to accept blame that is rightfully yours. You could share it with someone else, for few are blameless, but it’s better to take it alone. Accepting responsibility knocks the breath out of blame. Accept it, fix what you can, and move on. If you dwell on it, you merely perpetuate the blame yourself.
The second way to begin eliminating the destructive power of blame is to overcompensate with its opposite — praise. Do you think you’re getting too much praise in your life? Do you get too much recognition for all the good things you do every day? Some may say they don’t need credit. I say they don’t realize how badly they do need it. Do you feel like you are receiving more blame than praise? What are you finding more in others, fault or admiration?
Even if you’re not speaking the words, your mind is either assigning blame or praise; while you wait in line, read an article, watch the news, listen to a podcast, attend a lecture, or nurse a drink. You can’t turn off these thoughts, but you can influence them. Ensure your focus is more on praise and what’s going right with your world and less on blame and what’s going wrong.
Blame is the weak leaders’ ointment, and they generously apply it everywhere. Responsibility is the rare remedy effective leaders use to heal most wounds.
Boston-bred and California-chilled Karl Bimshas is a leadership consultant, author, and podcast host who collaborates with underestimated professionals who want to become confident, competent leaders in their field without becoming a jerk. Improve the working relationships with your colleagues and direct reports to create high-performing teams with a series of leadership workbooks available at LeadershipWorkbooks.com