Exercises on Transforming Blame

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This blog is about transforming blame to nurture healthy and effective teams. It also includes exercises to facilitate how grounded you feel and how you can use that feeling to transform blame.

What is blame?

Blame is an LIM tool used to shift responsibility from one person to another. The goals are multitude and fall into two categories: avoiding consequences and avoiding feeling specific feelings. People want to avoid consequences such as becoming distrusted by others, rejected, excluded, disrespected, ignored, ostracized, fired. People also want to avoid feeling feelings such as shame, fear of failure, mistakes, not being “good enough” and the like. Based on LIM assumptions, organizations separate responsibility with authority and most people find themselves without the power to achieve their intended goals and responsibilities. Within this context, blame is especially deleterious to individuals and teams.

Using blame to nurture a positive team culture

When in the HCL mindset, blame is replaced with responsibility. The way to transform blame is to stop responding to blame and stop blaming yourself or others. I’m not being cheeky here, just reminding you that you don’t have to respond to blame as if it’s true. You can respond to blame as if it’s the truth of the person who is blaming and then move into solution mode from there.

Distinctions: blame = finding fault and responsibility = owning your triads

Case 1: Others blame you or people on your team

You can assure them that you’re going to focus on a solution without accepting the blame. You can hear the blame as “blah blah blah blah” in other words, without taking the blame or associated emotional charge as yours. You can sleuth around to understand what’s going on and then brainstorm with your team for solutions.

Case 2: one or more team members blame you or others on the team

The same as with Case 1. You can also talk about what blame assumes and how this affects the individual and team morale. You can shift people’s focus by saying things such as, “What if we shifted away from blame and focus on the solution. Let’s discuss what we can do to solve this problem.” Everyone will be relieved to focus on what they can do instead of waste time blaming others, which only postpones getting to a solution/new opportunities.

If people on your team like to blame others and seem to do it with vigor or consistency, that calls for gentle one-on-one conversation to understand their needs.

Exercise: what makes you feel grounded?

By listing out what makes you feel confident, solid, grounded and stable you can use that inner power to respond to blame. Oft-times, blame is coupled with emotional charge and so, it takes a calm person to facilitate transformation. The transformation comes when you consistently use a blame situation to move toward solution without punishment of any kind — as much as you can control that with your behavior. In some situations, blame is thrown back and forth and the CEO or another person in position power believes the blame and takes action. In such situations, it’s difficult to prevent blame from being used in negative ways. In most cases, however, we can each step in to guide the conversation from blame to problem solving.

There are many times in today’s organizations where you might work for someone less skilled than you in technical or leadership skills. This gibes you an opportunity to educate your boss about taking responsibility by understanding his/her needs and which needs s/he is trying to fill. It’s usually certainty and significance, so if you find more resourceful ways to help your boss fill those needs s/he can shift out of the behavior. In the end, though, all you can do is model with your behavior.

Good questions to ask yourself:

        • What would happen if you were blamed for everything? How would you feel? What, if anything, would that mean about you? Going to the extremes of situations helps understand the associated judgements or intensity of the feelings
        • What would happen if you were never blamed – how would you lead differently than you have in the past?
        • How do you feel when you believe blame?
        • How do you feel when you know that blame is an LIM tool and you don’t need to respond to it?

Digging into the ways blame makes you FEEL is a powerful way to learn about yourself and ensure that there’s no fear, self-blame or judgment involved. The more you see yourself and others as people, the more humanely the ways you can turn an LIM tool (blame) into an HCL tool (responsibility).



[Image from Freepik]