Risk is something we all face every day. We take actions and make decisions that could have bad consequences. Many of these consequences might affect other people, and most of us don’t like to feel responsible for another’s grief (or for a project’s failure). It is especially difficult to make decisions and take action in a culture where people are quick to shine the spotlight of blame. Though no one likes blame, the act of blaming often arises from a fear of being blamed.
High performance teams have a blame-free culture. That is not to say that people fail to take responsibility. On the contrary, people are willing to take responsibility for their role in any failure, look at it objectively, and take steps to draw learning from it so it’s not repeated. Team mates remain supportive of each other and refrain from personal attacks. Think what a team can do when there is no blame.
Charles Pellerin identifies ‘complaints’ as a related issue. Complaints are not the same as feedback. They are not productive. A complaint often starts out as an angry or negative voice in our head that eventually finds its way out to a variety of people who are usually powerless to address the issue. When we complain, we are usually blaming others rather than looking for ways that we can contribute to a solution. We assume the role of victim. The opposite, of course, is to take responsibility and do what we can to rectify a situation that concerns us.
Responsibility is a key individual ability for all team members. Each member acknowledges and accepts his or her role in the workings of the team. Each one exercises initiative and leadership to ensure it happens.
In your team, to what extent do people fear blame? Do they play the role of victim, or do they feel empowered to address issues that concern them? To what extent does each person take responsibility for their tasks and for the overall success of the team?