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Ban Blame!

Blame! Me? Really? Having read this and raised your awareness, you will catch yourself blaming others. Yes you!

Blame is easy, it shifts focus and avoids ownership.

Blame is destructive.

Blame damages your customer experience and brand.

Blame encourages staff to “hide” their mistakes.

Blame is toxic, it causes unnecessary stress and anxiety, it increases sickness levels.

Blame inhibits constructive risk taking and innovation.

Blame reduces productivity.

Blame burdens the business with restrictive policies and procedures that are developed as a result of failures.

Blame stifles growth – both personal and business.

Blame has an adverse impact on your bottom line.


Every day we hear others placing the spotlight on anyone but themselves. It could be the train company running the train that was late, the queue in the coffee shop, or even worse a colleague or process that prevented progress. It’s all around you and if you listen carefully you will also be guilty of apportioning blame elsewhere.

Blame is often the antidote for personal inadequacies. It is often easier to point the finger elsewhere than to own up to the facts. The fact that you could have done something to avoid the outcome such as get up earlier, catch an earlier train, forgo coffee …….

However don’t become victim to unintended consequences. I recently heard about an organisation that introduced a ban blame culture that resulted in no one willing to take ownership!

So what can you do about it?

  • BAN BLAME – literally. Introduce a change in culture. Be clear about your vision, reasons for the change and benefits for individuals and the business. Set your expectations by stating that blame is no longer acceptable. Replace blame with ownership and learning using the tips and techniques below.

  • Encourage ownership and accountability:

  • Introduce robust monthly reviews throughout the business. Linking to the vision, set clear objectives, agree actions and timescales, provide the right development and support and hold people to account. Don’t just focus on tasks, include behaviours. Set clear expectations and provide feedback. Recognise success and manage poor performance.

  • Introduce the ethos - every time you find yourself or others pointing the finger, blaming others, remind yourself/them that there are 3 fingers pointing back prompting you/them to answer the question:

What can I/you do about it? or

What can I/you do differently?

  • View mistakes as an opportunity to learn. Be clear that repeat mistakes are not acceptable as all initial mistakes will be used as a learning opportunity. Introduce a safe environment in which learning can be realised, actions for improvement agreed and learning shared to promote best practice.

  • View complaints as a gift. [1] Complaints are an opportunity to receive feedback from staff and customers. They are an opportunity to review, learn and take action.

  • Focus on what you can control - encourage staff when raising a concern to come prepared to recommend solutions.

  • Where improvements are needed, involve those who need to apply the improvements. They often hold the key to improvements that will work.

  • When a critical or childish style is inhibiting performance, encourage adult to adult interactions

To achieve the above you will need to upskill the businesses, by introducing the following skills and techniques:

WOW Conversations©: encourage conversations that support personal growth and ownership for continuous learning. This technique can also be used to identify and share best practice throughout the organisation. It encourages peer to peer feedback and feedback both up and down the organisation.

When providing feedback the technique explores:

What happened? - provide specific examples/evidence.

Outcome – describe/ explore what happened as a result.

Way forward – be specific about the change needed and agree what the person will do differently next time when faced with similar situations.

After Action Reviews: this review technique can be used for learning and generating actions for improvement. It can be used in 5 – 10 minutes to review meetings. Individual interactions or more complex reviews of projects or complaints require 2 hours or more.

(For the latter you need a strong facilitator and the right people in the room – those who were involved in the activity that you are reviewing, who can make decisions about the changes needed for improvement and progress the actions that are agreed.)

Each session needs to be introduced as a learning review, where blame is not acceptable.

The review considers each question in turn:

  1. What should have happened?

  2. What actually happened?

  3. What were the differences?

  4. What will we do next time to continually improve? Allocate actions, owners and timescales.

Adult to adult conversations: Eric Berne identified 3 ego states that influence our personality, behaviour and communication.

In a parent state you use styles that are copied from parents and parent figures. You can be either controlling: “Do it like this” “Why did you do that?” or nurturing “You must be feeling rough, let me help you”

In an adult state you encourage the other person to contribute, share their point of view. You reach an agreement even if it is not to agree

In a child state you use styles from childhood. The natural or free child lacks inhibition. The adapted child has learnt how to behave in the adult world and uses procrastination, withdrawal or compliance to avoid fully engaging.

Awareness of our own dominant style and that of others helps us adapt our style and recognise that when using Adult to Adult we can be at our most effective.

Skills development: equip your executive team, staff and managers to adopt these new techniques. Provide a safe environment to practice and learn these new skills. To encourage ownership and personal growth,

develop coaching skills for every line manager.

Keen to explore further? Then please do contact us at

[1] A Complaint is A Gift Janelle Barlow, Claus Moller

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