Executive Insider

Five disastrous impacts for leaders who are quick to blame

Business Leaders

How leaders react to problems has a direct impact on their teams, their results and ultimately their leadership. Some leaders spring into action, marshaling their troops, seeking out the root cause and look to address it as quickly as possible. Other focus on trying to find out who is responsible, who dropped the ball that created the problem, basically who is to blame.

But when you take the blame path this can have serious consequences, here are 5 ways that playing the blame game can negatively impact you.

  1. Gives away your power to solve the problem
    Once you start to point the finger, not only have you diverted yourself from finding a solution but by making someone else the source of the problem you are also making them the source of the solution too. When we say this is your fault, we are effectively telling them they need to fix this. We are absolving ourselves of blame and saying this is not our fault, not our problem to solve. When we give up ownership of the problem, we also give up ownership of searching for the solution.
    Effective leaders take ownership of the problem looking to solve it first and only then do they held an inquest but here they focus on ensuring the problem doesn’t happen again.
  2. Creates a toxic environment
    When a leader looks to blame people it actually gives others the green light to blame too, and it doesn’t take long for a blame culture to become the norm within the organization.
    Good leaders not only don’t point the finger the are quick to stop others from doing this, because if it’s allowed, then it’s perceived as condoned.
  3. Leads to employee disengagement
    In a blame culture, people become afraid of making mistakes in case they get called out, or the fingers start pointing in their direction. The best way to avoid being blamed, either fairly or unfairly, is to do the absolute minimum, don’t volunteer, don’t get involved and certainly don’t look to take ownership. All of which lead to employees becoming disengaged.
    You need to create a safe environment where people feel that if they make a mistake they will be supported, and the focus will be on solutions and not blame or criticism as this will encourage people to become more involved.
  4. Reduces productivity
    In a blame culture, people need to ensure that if things do go wrong that it won’t come back to them. This approach dilutes their work efforts because, in addition to doing their tasks, they also need to spend time covering their ass, and that effort reduces their effectiveness and productivity.
    We need to foster an environment where people feel comfortable about admitting mistakes, learning the lessons and moving on without fear of reproach.
  5. Reduces your effectiveness to lead
    When leaders are quick to blame it erodes the trust that the team has in their leader. Leaders are supposed to provide support to their teams, a safe environment and nurture the talents, and blaming others, especially when they are not at fault is an anathema to that. Trust is the cornerstone of leadership and anything that erodes trust erodes your effectiveness as a leader.
    Great leaders defend their teams and they take more of the blame because they know that leaders are accountable for the results. This approach actually breeds trust in the leader and that increases a leader’s ability to lead, the engagement from their team and ultimately the results.

Written by Gordon Tredgold.
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Gordon Tredgold
Gordon Tredgold is a business and IT transformation expert who has successfully delivered $100 million programs, run $300 million departments, and led teams of 1000 staff for Fortune 100 companies. Gordon is the author of the critically acclaimed book FAST: 4 Principles Every Business Needs to Achieve Success and Drive Results and works with enterprises on implementing results-based leadership initiatives to accelerate the organization’s growth rapidly.
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