The Blame Game Is Not Improvement


What happens in your organisation when things go wrong? Do the fingers start pointing? Does the situation become the blame game? Whose fault was it?

Blaming someone when things go wrong solves nothing. All it does is to reinforce a climate of fear, which is probably part of why the blame game is being played in the first place. The question is, does the organisation want to survive or not?

Seriously we really are talking about survival here. Because if the root causes of problems are left to go unresolved they will eventually destroy the organisation.

Responsibility for the existence of the blame game and failure to address problems promptly and effectively lies firmly at the door of management. Managers are responsible for the whole organisational system and therefore it is they who should look in the mirror.

There any number of reasons why managers have allowed or even generated a climate of fear where nobody is taking responsibility. Too often it is managers themselves who are the ones pointing the finger or trying to find out whose fault it was.

Sometimes this is due to managers having fixed mindsets rather than learning or growth mindsets. Dr Carol S Dweck has researched and written extensively on this subject. Her book Mindset is a million-copy bestseller.

People are usually not aware of their mindset; however, you can usually see it in their behaviour. Whether someone has a fixed or growth mindset becomes clear in the face of difficulty, problems or failure.

As Dweck says people with a fixed mindset feel that every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. They evaluate every situation as to whether they will succeed or fail, look smart or dumb, be accepted or rejected or feel like a winner or a loser?

People with a fixed mindset faced with difficulty show a tendency towards helplessness and vulnerability. So they will tend to avoid difficulty and perhaps look to shift the blame elsewhere. They are prone to stereotyping, labeling and even lying in order to protect their self-image.

With a growth mindset people have perseverance and resilience in the face of difficulty. They may seek out new processes, skills, knowledge and strategies in order to solve the problems that they encounter.

Dweck says of a growth mindset carries with it the belief that,

‘…the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.’

A growth mindset leads to a less stressful and more successful life.

When it comes to a culture of blame in an organisation a way out is for managers to work on their mindset if, that is, they intend to stay. Because the alternative is to move on before all the problems that they have been ignoring come home to roost.

So I suppose it depends how strongly a manager has been conditioned into a fixed mindset whether they are willing to begin to work on developing towards a growth one. Perhaps a start may have been made if on reading this article you begin to recognized a fixed mindset in someone.

It is not easy to tackle such an issue on ones own. This is where some outside help is useful. Perhaps there is a friend or significant other who can be trusted to help reflection and moving on. Another alternative can be to use a coach.

A coach helps first by creating the space and time that enables a manager to reflect upon their situation to work out their way forward. A coach helps and supports the process of reflection by asking good questions and reflecting back to the manager what they are saying.

And when it comes to something as deep-rooted as mindset the coaching conversation really helps people to truly address their challenges. It is too easy, particularly when just thinking about feelings, for one’s mind to windmill on and nothing changes.

Let us return to the issue of blame and moving away from it. A start can be made by utilizing Dweck’s work. Instead of looking for error-free perfection and reaching goals from everyone right “now”; start thinking in terms “not yet”.

So by saying ‘not yet’ a manager would still be aiming for goals. They would begin to understand that they’re on a learning curve. This gives them a path into the future.

Alongside this, management can start to model another new behaviour when things go wrong or people make mistakes. In these situations the new behaviour is first to move away from trying to implement the first solution that comes to mind .

This is moving towards an improvement ethos, which involves proper analysis of a situation to discover the root causes of the situation. From there changes can be implemented supported by processes, procedures and training.

The vital key to all improvement work is to engage with as many people as possible who are working with, in and around the situation. Only in that way will real root causes and truly effective countermeasures be arrived at.

And if things don’t work out perfectly this time it will only be a case of ‘not yet’.

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