Some years back we built a tool to help managers understand Mindsets and how to maintain, what we termed, a leadership mindset – i.e. focused on vision, values and goals.
The premise being, everyone’s mindset shifts because of emotional triggers. Great leaders counter this natural phenomenon by creating a vision they are committed to, by defining values to hold themselves accountable and setting goals to maintain momentum. Without defining these elements, leaders are just as prone to following their emotions as anyone else. In effect, triggers cause a shift in mindset, moving us from a flexible, open mindset to a fixed, closed mindset. A tell-tale sign that this mindset shift has happened is an outbreak of blaming.
When leaders blame or allow others to blame productivity takes a hit, as does morale and culture.
Blaming kills productivity because it diverts energy away from the important work of delivering the vision to unproductive work, such as defending yourself, playing politics, inventing proof, worrying, stress, distracted thought patterns, gossip and extra-long breaks to ruminate on the problem of being blamed.
Why do people choose to blame others?
The first reason is blaming is an excellent way to defend yourself. Blame helps you deflect attention to someone else or something else, which in turn allows you to deny the reality of the situation and displace the accountability. By doing this, you can avoid examining your flaws and maintain your self-esteem even though you are probably damaging someone else.
Secondly, blame is an attack tool. It is often used to hurt colleagues and partners, by calling their competence or motivates into question.
Thirdly, it is much easier to blame others than it is to assess the situation objectively, to develop an informed picture of what is happening, and assign accountability and responsibility to all the parties involved.
Blaming requires less effort and gives you an emotional win – like a jolt of cocaine, you feel good fast but only for a short time. The real problem lives on after the blaming stops.
Everyone lies! Read Feldman’s “The Liar in Your Life”, and you’ll be both surprised and sobered by the reality of lying in everyday life.
Feldman’s work shows how easy it is to lie and blame someone else even when you know you are at fault. He also notes that the more you play the blame game, the more you lose.
What has this to do with leadership?
One of the cornerstones of great leadership is awareness. If you accept that everyone lies at some point and everyone blames to attack or avoid responsibility, you must develop tactics to counter the effects of this behaviour in both yourself and others close to you.
The Performance-Life-Cycle is a tool that helps you notice your behaviour and recognize the emotional triggers cause you to lose focus on vision, values and goals. This tool also provides a safe way for those close to you to talk about their triggers and behaviour.
Unlimitedly, the cure for blaming is open dialogue in a safe environment that allows people to explore what is happening for them and to build trust in resolving problems openly