How Eliminating Blame Makes Us Smarter
Have you ever played the blame game? You know how it works . . . when something goes wrong, we all begin ducking for cover and point the finger at someone else.
Why does this happen?
For many people, responsibility and blame go together. The joke is that we’re happy to accept responsibility when things go well, but we’ll refuse to accept blame when they go wrong.
But what if the two don’t actually go together at all? In fact, what if accepting 100% responsibility eliminates blame from the equation entirely?
Does accepting 100% responsibility sound a little daunting? Like, "Hey wait . . . what about everybody else?"
Okay, not to worry. It's not an all or nothing proposition. And, the fact is, this approach can have a powerful, positive impact on how we do life. It can also increase our individual, team, and organizational intelligence and effectiveness.
We call this approach Quantum Responsibility™ because the math for this method works in an entirely different manner. Traditionally, responsibility and blame are portioned out. The idea is that everyone involved deserves some of the credit and/or some of the blame and that it all adds up to 100%.
With Quantum Responsibility, there’s more than one responsibility scale; everyone is fully responsible for their unique role and how it impacts the whole.
So, if three people are involved, we don’t divide up 100%, with each person having some portion of it.
Instead, it’s 100% plus 100% plus 100%.
When this happens there is a quantum leap—an exponential factor that kicks in as this mindset spreads. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. The result is that everybody plays the game as if their role truly mattered; the level of commitment skyrockets, and the group’s individual and combined intelligence gets optimized. What's more . . . there’s zero blame to spread around because it's not about blame, it's about results.
Popular author and consultant, William Guillory, PhD, describes that real responsibility is a mindset that drives our level of engagement and our sense of personal empowerment. Accountability, then, is our willingness to own the results, succeed or fail.
Said another way, if I see myself as fully responsible for my role in creating a given outcome, what I will do about it is significantly more than if I only see myself as partially responsible. My willingness, then, to own the outcome becomes a litmus test of how responsible I saw myself going into the situation.
Let’s consider how this works in a realistic scenario. You’re on a software development team. The big day comes and the software has major issues. The usual reaction would be to find out what went wrong and who’s to blame.
But imagine this thriving do-over:
We all own the problem together
We carefully assess our own role and the overall situation to find out what went wrong
We then determine what we can do to immediately begin fixing the problem together; and
What can we all learn from this challenge so we don’t repeat the problem in some other form or fashion in the future?
This is what can come from the Lean approach, when it’s properly executed.
Ultimately, Lean is all about optimizing the group’s intelligence to create improvements. It starts with inclusion—involving a good representative sample of all those involved in or impacted by a process or change. It’s also about learning. In fact, every business improvement process is, at its heart, considered to be a learning experience that will continually evolve based on what we learn next.
Fundamental to this process working well, is the understanding of “Quantum Responsibility”—where each person takes full ownership for their unique role, how they show up, contribute, collaborate, learn throughout the process, and take ownership for the outcome.
When we separate blame from responsibility and choose to adopt a mindset of full responsibility from the beginning, it changes everything. Then we begin to see that true responsibility relates directly to personal and collective power.
In other words, the more responsible I see myself as in my role, the more of my own power and capacity I will tap into to create the desired outcome; the more influence I will exert, and the more of my network and relationships I’ll tap into when needed. The usual defensiveness and turf protectionism evaporate when we function this way. We’re all in it together, striving to do our best, and ready to learn from whatever happens, good or bad.
When we see responsibility as a mindset that leads to empowered actions, we’re not worried about dodging blame. We can relax our hesitations, fully engage, and plunge forward with the confidence of knowing we're in this together. Empowered actions then develop results which we will be proud to be fully accountable for.
These three qualities form a powerful formula for effectiveness: responsibility, empowerment, and accountability (and it helps to understand their differences and how they fit together).
Your Thriving Breakthrough opportunity for the week:
Consider some aspect of your life where you’ve been reluctant to assume full responsibility, for whatever reason. With your new understanding,
decide to be fully responsible for your unique role. Starting with that mindset, notice how your behavior changes and how your attitude becomes contagious; and how you begin to access more of your own intelligence, power, and connections to bring about the desired outcome.
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Will Wilkinson and Christopher Harding