Forget the Blame Game

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame.” – Oscar Wilde

I use the quote above to draw your attention to how we often act. All of us hate to get blamed when something goes wrong, and, as a result, we are tempted to resort to blaming others. We’ve all done it at some point. When you have others working for you, this can be the difference between success and failure. Yes, people make mistakes; sometimes rather foolish ones. Rather than seizing this as an opportunity to chastise and demean those you direct, look at this another way.

A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting.” – Russell H. Ewing

Here we see in stark contrast the difference between a leader and a boss who in this instance is essentially a verbal bully. Have you ever worked for someone who was a verbal bully? I’ve had the privilege (perhaps that is the wrong word) of observing verbal bullies who practically suffocated those who worked under them. They acted as if these people never had any good ideas and never did anything right. On the other hand, when anything went right or as planned, the bully (perhaps tyrant is a better word) took credit and found it just about impossible to commend others.

This is a Two-Side Coin

Remember, if we blame others when things go wrong, we should certainly be willing to credit them when things go right.

If you blame others for your failures, do you credit them with your success?” – Unknown

Let me suggest that this is not a random coin toss. Rather, we get to choose which side of the coin is up. While there are times when blame needs to be assigned, the truth is it is not really that often. Look again at the quote comparing a boss and a leader. The boss (or verbal bully) is focused on the past, the event, and the perceived short-comings of another. The leader, on the other hand, is focused on using the past to help build a better future, the learning opportunity for those under them (helping them correct mistakes and develop competence and confidence), the learning opportunity for themselves (asking questions), and the on-going relationship. If we verbally bully others, we leave in our wake a series of relational wrecks. On the other hand, if we choose to mentor we leave behind a string of strong relationships and know that we have helped others.

The Choice is Yours

Just as what you do when you fail is a choice (See Failing – An Essential Part of Success for more thoughts on this), so to is how you respond when others fail. Will you be a verbal bully or will you be a leader?

If you want to get the most of your people, you must allow them to develop, and that means they will make mistakes. Learn to accept that as part of the process.

People want to be on a team. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be in a situation where they feel that they are doing something for the greater good.” – Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University men’s basketball coach.

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As always, your comments are welcomed.


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