When things go wrong there’s a pretty strong chance that human nature will cause a very specific reaction. And what do you suppose that reaction will often be? Yes, someone will be blamed. “It’s his fault” is simply another way of playing the victim card. As entrepreneurs we should resist allowing ourselves to be drawn into the blame mentality.
As children we often would blame our siblings for our own transgressions. Fortunately (though unfortunately at the time) my parents didn’t buy into my efforts to shift responsibility away from myself. A withering look from my mother was all it took for the blame to shift right back where it belonged. Perhaps it was this grounding effect that taught me to be accountable for my actions – right or wrong.
We damage our credibility as leaders when we blame others. When I’m speaking with someone from another company about something that went wrong, I lose respect for that person if he or she doesn’t take responsibility in the “organizational we” sense. Let me explain. I’ve gotten calls before about a glitch in our customer service. It would have been very easy to say something like, “Mary Manager failed to do her job and I’ll see that she is disciplined.” Instead, I want everyone in our organization to know that I have their backs. When I get those calls I say, “I’m sorry your customer experience was unsatisfactory. Clearly we should have done better. We’ll see that the matter is rectified as soon as possible.” If Mary Manager really caused the problem we’ll make sure to privately counsel with her and make sure she has the proper tools and perspective to avoid a repeat of the mistake. But internally and externally we won’t point our finger at her.
As entrepreneurs and leaders, we need to own our mistakes and be comfortable doing so. Recently I failed to properly communicate in a situation that caused some heartburn for a client. Upon realizing my error, I quickly sent an e-mail falling on my sword and taking full responsibility for my inadequate communications. Then I called him and apologized personally. I have a philosophy that mistakes are experiments in the laboratory of life. If we are properly prepared we usually don’t make them. But when we do, we admit and amend. Quickly acknowledging a mistake; apologizing for it, and taking the necessary steps to remedy it actually builds customer loyalty. It also builds loyalty with team members.
Refusing to play the blame game demonstrates real leadership and engenders respect. We can model this for others when we accept responsibility for our own deficiencies and do so in a gracious manner.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.