- When you blame others for your mistakes you lose status, learn less, and perform worse than those who own up to their mistakes
- If you allow your business to develop a rampant culture of blame, your levels of creativity, learning, innovation, and productive risk-taking lessen significantly
- Rather than avoiding mistakes, make them a top priority to ensure people feel free to talk about and learn from their errors.
It’s only human to want to shift the blame when you make a mistake. The reality is that you’re not just human though – you’re a leader. Resisting the urge to point fingers is far more rewarding, both personally and for your company as a whole. Admitting when you’re wrong will gain your team’s respect and loyalty and prevent a culture of blame from emerging in the organisation.
“Our findings showed that blame was contagious, but not among those who felt psychologically secure,” says Nathanael J. Fast, assistant professor of management at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. “So, try to foster a chronic sense of inner security in order to reduce the chances that you’ll lash out at others.”
The big idea: Change how your team communicates
One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to foster a culture of psychological safety. Change the way you give guidance by confronting a specific situation in a way that’ll impact how everyone communicates.
“There are two dimensions to good guidance: Care personally and challenge directly. When you do both at the same time, it’s ‘radical candour’,” explains Kim Scott, founder of Candor Inc and author of Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.
“It’s also useful to be clear about what happens when you fail on one dimension (ruinous empathy), the other (obnoxious aggression) or both (manipulative insincerity).Being clear about what happens when you fail to care personally or challenge directly will help you avoid backsliding into old habits too common to all of us.”
What’s in it for you: Encourage innovation and raise your competitive advantage
When a culture of accountability and responsibility is developed, greatness automatically follows. Encouraging this mindset gives your teams the mental tools for success and positively impacts your business’s competitive advantage.
“Some companies are actually starting to incentivise employees to make mistakes, so long as the mistakes can teach valuable lessons that lead to future innovation,” says Fast.
Make it happen
Avoid the blame game with these 3 creative methods:
- Be gentle but direct. Don’t try to sugar-coat the criticism by mentioning it between false positives.
- Don’t personalise. Address the issue and not the person as this may come across as labelling, which is known to hinder improvement.
- When you do blame, be constructive. Remember that the goal is always to learn from mistakes and highlight this.