When something goes wrong, is your first thought “who’s fault is this?”. Now on the surface, this makes complete sense. Once you find out whose fault it is, you can fix it. It might feel like you are gaining control by blaming somebody else or working out whose fault it is. But actually you are giving away control. Poor leaders ask “who is at fault”, and strong leaders ask, “where did the process break down?”
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[00:00:00] When something goes wrong, who’s first response is to want to know whose fault it is. Now on the surface, this makes complete sense. Once you find out whose fault it is, you can fix it. Well stick with me while I share this story. A client was telling me the story about her son and his game of cricket.
[00:00:21] He missed hitting the ball and was bowled out. And the first thing he said to her, when he left the pitch was “that was your fault”. Now from the outside, this might seem a little bit crazy. How was it? His mother’s fault for him getting bowled out?
[00:00:38] Let’s follow the line of thought. Why? Because his father was supposed to be there, but he was at work and instead his mother was at the cricket game, and he didn’t usually miss the ball and therefore her being there was the reason he missed the ball. Or, usually the father took him to cricket and with him not there, it put him out-of-sorts, which meant he did something he didn’t usually do, which was miss the ball, which meant it was his mother’s fault. Now, maybe this is true. Maybe this is not true, but let’s have a look at the role that blame it plays.
[00:01:12] Blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain. And what we know from the research is blaming gives us a feeling of control. Now as humans, when we feel discomfort or pain, we want to get rid of it. And if you think about this story about my client and the game of cricket.
[00:01:33] I imagine he was very uncomfortable and wanted to discharge the discomfort as quickly as possible. And the fastest way to do that was onto his mother. Now blame has a very interesting relationship with accountability. It is an inverse relationship.
[00:01:50] So while we have blame, we cannot have accountability.
[00:01:55] So while my client’s son was blaming his mother for missing the ball, he cannot be accountable for doing a better job next time, because essentially he’s saying “it wasn’t my fault, I don’t have any control over this”. This gets really challenging when we’re wanting to improve our own performance, because if we blame somebody else, it means it’s out of our control and we cannot change it.
[00:02:18] We can only change what’s in our control. or we can change how we think about it, so it’s in our control.
[00:02:25] When we’re blaming somebody else, we miss this opportunity for empathy. Because we are so caught up in the story of who we’re trying to blame and whose fault it is, we miss trying to connect with the person and understand.
[00:02:39] Blaming is corrosive in relationships in both life and work because we’re not listening to the other person. All we’re trying to work out is who we can blame for the responsibility and discharge that emotion.
[00:02:53] It might feel like you are gaining control by blaming somebody else or working out whose fault it is. But actually you are giving away control.
[00:03:03] Without taking accountability for missing the ball, he also missed the opportunity to improve in future, which means he gave away his control.
[00:03:13] There’s a saying that can be quite helpful here, which is “everything I do is my fault”. Now this can seem quite blunt, and if you are someone that is prone to self-blame or self-deprecation, I’d like to encourage you to use a slightly different framing, which is “everything I do is in my control”.
[00:03:37] Everything I do is in my control. In businesses, and in life, we want a culture of accountability, not a culture of blame.
[00:03:48] Poor leaders ask “who is at fault”, and strong leaders ask, “where did the process break down?”
[00:03:56] So when you notice that you are blaming somebody for a situation, have a think about “what is my role and where’s my sense of control?”. Instead of thinking, “who can I blame” think about what process broke down and what needs to be fixed in future. And that can be from a business sense, if a project proposal didn’t go out on time or a client deadline was missed, instead of blaming the person, have a look and see, where did the process break down?
[00:04:26] So next time when something goes wrong, notice if you start to think who can I blame or who’s fault this is, and start to change the story. Change the story to “where did the process break down?”
[00:04:40] Everything I do is in my control. I’m not saying it’s comfortable, but a lot more effective then blaming somebody else and giving away your control.
[00:04:53] The next few podcasts are all going to be focused on the topic of delegation. So if you are curious about how you can be a better leader through delegation, I encourage you to tune into November 2022. And listen to this series on delegation, what it is some common myths, how we get caught up and what a good framework is to be able to delegate better to your team.
[00:05:19] Because we are only as good as the delegation that we do. We cannot expand past ourselves if we’re not good at delegating. So it’s a great series of mini podcasts for anybody in a work or personal situation that is wanting to improve their delegation and becoming more effective.
[00:05:39] So tune into November’s series on the Level Up Leadership Podcast. Thanks for listening.
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