Leaders, Convert Blame to Accountability Part II

In my recent leadership post Breed Accountability Not Blame, many leaders applauded my definition of accountability as the profitable practice of initiative, ownership, and follow-through.

With that as a solid vision, I have worked with many leaders on converting a culture of blame to accountability. This is especially true for leaders who are moving into an organization where blame has paralyzed the teams in fear and hung success out of profitable reach.

From Old Bucket of Blame Image by: ValerieEveritt

To the Profit of Accountability! Image via Istock.

Leaders, Convert From Blame to Accountability

In one very telling case, a leader was taking over for a previous information technology (IT) leader who had actually cultivated a heavy CYA culture. Fear and blame had completely squashed initiative, ownership, and follow-through.

Meanwhile the company was changing and needed an IT organization that could engage, innovate, initiate, and collaborate for success. The new leader called me and asked if we could undo years of fear and get IT employees to fully engage. My answer was: Yes we can if you and your leadership colleagues will support encouraging words with daily actions that empower employees and value their talents.

From Old Bucket to New Bucket – Key Steps to Success

  • Identify the change needed without blaming the previous leader.

    You must show the teams in every conversation that you truly welcome their ideas. To undo years of a blame culture, you will need to encourage, reinforce, and show appreciation for participation. It is simple behavioral reconditioning that builds trust if you do it with heart and commitment.

  • Promote participation & recognize ideas.

    You must show the teams in every conversation that you truly welcome their ideas. To undo years of a blame culture, you will need to encourage, reinforce, and show appreciation for participation. It is simple behavioral reconditioning that builds trust if you do it consistently with heart and commitment.

  • Allow them to hold you accountable.

    One of the most powerful ways to teach the employees the difference between blame and accountability is to ask them to hold you accountable to your promises. As they offer ideas, show initiative, and engage, team members get to speak up if you fall into blaming behavior rather than shared learning.

  • Rebuild the definition of teamwork and team success.

    Results are not the only thing that take a beating in a culture of blame. Teamwork suffers terribly as team members protect themselves from each other. I have actually used the old bucket/new bucket theme in many team re-building sessions to replace all the mistrust with a new sense of collaborative hope and profitable actions.

  • Meet individually with team members who continue to resist.

    Some team members will take longer trust you and the promise of a new culture. Meet individually with them and listen to their concerns. Highlight what talents you see in them that can make a difference given the company’s challenges. Have them set some goals using their talents and follow up regularly. Emotional intelligence is your most appropriate skill in this case.

  • Lead with a passion for learning and results.

    Converting a culture of blame to accountability takes a passion for learning as well as committing and producing. Some leaders mistakenly hold back honesty and coddle the employees. This is not leadership. It damages success as much as the blame culture.

    Learning is about moving forward to prevent the same mistakes. Learning strengthens the team members and the company. It builds critical thinking and unstoppable success. Replace all your “why didn’t you” assaults, with open-ended questions and participative discussions on root causes and solutions. Solidify the future with next time agreements and shared ownership.

As you eliminate the last vestiges of fear and resentment, you will free the teams to be accountable for success.

You will witness improved communication and collaboration that bring shared ownership to life without the scourge of scapegoating and blame. You will see team member pride and honor in responsibility.

I will help you make it happen and welcome your questions, challenges, suggestions and ideas!

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

©2013 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

7 Responses to “Leaders, Convert Blame to Accountability Part II”

  1. Gary Winters says:

    “Fear and blame had completely squashed initiative, ownership, and follow-through.” If only more managers could recognize when this is happening within the ranks and start taking steps to nip it in the bud. The fear that seems part of working today doesn’t help (anyone can lose his job at any time for any reason). A manager’s got to be willing to take the lead on this and accept responsibility first.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Dear Gary,
      I do wonder if being able to spot it takes not only skills/information but also a willingness to look inward and find what has contributed to it. When leaders are in blame mode, perhaps they are silently blaming themselves for what they have done — and denying it to avoid the discomfort.

      Nonetheless, when it is unchecked it can be deadly to success.

      As you say, “take the lead” and eradicate it!
      Thanks for your contribution here,

  2. Khalid says:

    Wonderful Kate

    Especially when you gave the example of the IT manager as I relate to my own department 😉

    Thank you for your inspiring posts.


    • Kate Nasser says:

      You are very welcome Khalid. You have added to many of those posts with your real life examples and tips. Many thanks for your input and contributions.


  3. Dan says:

    As always, Kate, so well and clearly stated. Your six firm steps are an excellent roadmap. They imply a searching look within for the leader to root out every place where the hidden weeds of blame and negative judgment might grow. Beautifully done.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Dan,
      With one word you strengthened the imagery of this post … “weeds” of blame. Weeds choke the life out of plant life and the spirit out of any team!

      Thank you and keep on sharing your insights!!

  4. Excellent points clearly stated Kate.
    I see blame as the shifting of responsibility. When working with blamers I help them identify and accept their part in the situation so they can be held accountable to make the changes they need to make and hold those they blame accountable for their thoughts, words and actions. Blaming is often a cycle.
    I’d like to see you write about dealing with ways to hold a blaming boss to accountability without putting the employee’s job at risk. If you have already done this I’d appreciate the url.

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