Blame: It’s E. B. White’s Fault
I slept late this morning. I slept late partly because my friend is vacationing in St. Martin. I slept late partly because our granddaughters started school and I didn’t. But mostly, E.B. White kept me awake in the night.
I listen to books when I wake in the night to protect my brain from its own thoughts. Last night I listened to the “Essays of White.” “The Eye of Edna” led me to “Coon Tree”. Before I knew it, two hours passed.
If I’m grumpy today, it’s E. B. White’s fault. And that is the problem.
Blaming E. B. White is more comfortable than being responsible for myself. If White doesn’t keep my eyes open, I blame other things.
When I stay up late watching TV, I blame television when I’m grumpy. Blue light from TV keeps me awake. What a relief!
Caffeine keeps me awake. But I’m addicted to coffee, so I blame the dark roast my wife grinds in the morning. Ah! It’s the woman’s fault I’m grumpy.
I’ve heard alcohol keeps drinkers awake. Thankfully, that’s not a problem. I bought a case of Yuengling Lager in July. I have 15 bottles left at the beginning of September. My wife used two bottles in pulled-pork. But eating pulled-pork at night keeps me awake. Thankfully, it’s the woman again.
Blame is comfort when I reject responsibility.
Blame is unloading responsibility on someone or something else.
When relationships go sour, I think of THEIR broken responsibilities, not mine. When things don’t get done, I have a million ‘good’ excuses why they didn’t.
Blame is the death of leadership. Incompetent followers are excuses instead of opportunities. Rather than innovation, poor results inspire self-justification. And that is the problem.
What prevents people from taking responsibility?
How will you take responsibility today?
So true, Dan! In far too many settings, “Blame is the death of leadership. Incompetent followers are excuses instead of opportunities. Rather than innovation, poor results inspire self-justification. And that is the problem.” It’s easy for egocentric leaders deluded in their thoughts of self-importance and superiority to blame others for their own shortcomings. Deflecting blame wouldn’t cross the mind of a leader bent on serving others. Thank you for your daily focus on servant leadership!
Thank you Paul. Your ability to connect ego with blame is useful. Even more important is the connection between service and blame. It’s difficult to serve those when we’re blaming them.
What prevents people from taking responsibility? Their mindset tells them different, easy to blame others than being responsible for oneself.
How will you take responsibility today? Simple just own it. We are the victims of our own misgivings. Stand up with your chin up, a stiff lip and be prepared to accept your responsibilities as you expect others to do. Don’t let your reflections blind you.
Thanks Tim. The search for an easy way to do difficult things is vain. In this case, there is no way to engage in partial blame and partial responsibility. The cure, as you indicate, is swallowing the whole bitter pill.
The first question the best leaders ask is, “What could I have done differently to produce better results.”
Blaming others protects the leader’s ego and doesn’t require him or her to do any self-reflection or make any changes.
One of my guiding principles is “Be honest and be responsible.”
Thanks Paul. That’s a wonderful question. If we aren’t careful, we ask the wrong question. Who can I blame?
“Blaming others protects the leader’s ego and doesn’t require him or her to do any self-reflection or make any changes.” I work hard to keep the words, “…because they didn’t…” from coming out of my mouth. I knew the pointing to others prevents me from considering my contribution to the situation. Your insight here, Paul, helps me get close to what was gnawing at me. Thanks!
The only question is whether that cause is used to justify (lay blame) or explain (take responsibility). It is our response as leaders that teaches people whether it is safer to lay blame than to take responsibility. And the cause for that is the leader (hopefully not the loyal readers of this blog!) who held it against the person who took responsibility and who let the person who laid blame (on others, on circumstances) off the hook.
Thanks Jennifer. The connection you made with followers is a wake-up call. If we see blamers around us, perhaps the problem lies with our own tendency to blame.
Thank you for this concise, compelling, and timely discussion!
My pleasure, Kelly. Cheers
Blame may be ego based. Yes, that’s it, it’s the ego’s fault!
Today, I will look for ways to unravel my perception in search truth, not blame.
Remember, we have a choice; a choice to take a step back and see things from all angles, perception can change your blame game. The outcome of a situation depends on how we choose to see it.
What a fun post! Thank you Dan.
Thanks melrose. The idea of taking different perspectives is another factor in overcoming the blame game. The leader that blames doesn’t care about other perspectives, unless those perspective place blame on someone else.
Often, poor leaders blame others out of fear of appearing weak, never embracing the empowerment of taking responsibility, and failing to realize that blaming makes them look weaker. Someone once said that blame is for God and small children; all others should take personal responsibility.
Thanks Jim. The fear of appearing weak is another useful insight. What’s unexpected is a person who pretends to be strong when they are weak actually looks weak to the rest of us.
Great post, Dan. Readers might enjoy two books by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin – Extreme Leadership and The Dichotomy of Leadership. Engaging and powerful reads about how true leaders accept responsibility and use setbacks as motivation and lessons learned to get better.
Thanks for suggesting additional resources. Much appreciated.
Great challenging reminder, Dan. One question: Your recommendation for response when organizations use a ‘Lessons Learned’ post-mortem MOS but gallop into the next iteration / event and abandon the LL and risk mitigation plans — certain to repeat the pain?
Thanks Barbara. Interesting that you bring this up. Research indicates that many organizations that do AAR’s still repeat their mistakes. The important idea is to develop a clear plan for next time. How will you execute on the lessons learned. What precisely will we do differently next time?
If you don’t learn your repeat mistakes. A second or third mistake often hurts worse than the first.
Yuengling goes down like water, and you still have 15 left???
Haha… thanks Dan. Yes, it’s not a full bodied brew. One of my favorite commercial brews is Sam Adam’s Octoberfest. But, I can’t seem to bring myself to buy any with all the Yuengling in the fridge in the garage. Boy do I have problems.
What keeps leaders from taking responsibility? Sometimes stakeholders, boards, and/or followers fiercely attack leaders who both take responsibility and make difficult, but necessary decisions that require costly and hazardous execution.
Thanks Michael. Such a great point. It’s harder to take responsibility when you get punished for it. And when I say punished, I mean negative consequences that aren’t directly connected to the mistake. It’s one thing to bear the pain of a mistake. But it’s very disappointing when you also punished for doing the hard thing.
So what you’re saying is Joe Biden is showing poor leadership when he blames Trump for everything that is going wrong?
Thanks Warlord. I’m not saying anything about Joe Biden. I will say that politicians are experts at blaming others. They’re also good at being the hero for solving problems they create.
Thanks Dan for the reply! I agree politicians on all sides are generally expert blamers and poor leaders. There is simply no accountability for their mistakes, or at least that is what they’ve been led to believe. Newsom’s impending recall will change that game, though.
Us “regular” people do have reason to blame our elected “leaders” who have failed us. They deserve real blame. All of them. Red, blue, or otherwise. They are in charge of making the tough decisions on behalf of all of us, and they continue to screw it up. In this case, we should blame those who ought to be accountable but mostly aren’t.
I know this is an exception to the rule and misses the point of your excellent blog entry, though. Just had to vent because we’re in the fight of our lifetimes right now. The politicians have declared war on the people and we need to wake up fast or get run over.
Thanks Dan – while not a selfie guru, that tactic strikes me as a good first step… Look 1st to myself and if I am owning my choices & the issues in whatever is not going well. If I start acting on that selfie, then it’s an invitation to others to do the same, to join in solution-focused actions, and to build culture that is not blaming/shaming.
Thanks L3. So true. Leaders model the way. Never expect more from others than you expect from yourself. I like your use of “selfie” in this context. Cheers
I believe lack of responsibility being true to ones self. Recognizing your faults or limitations and rather passing the blame I ask what can I do differently? What should I have done differently?
My previous employer believed that I know how to talk my way around even though I felt hurt or misunderstood. I realized I justified myself when I behaved a certain way or took certain actions. With that in mind I am learning to take comments or feedback openly, not giving up and really learn from my shortcomings. Thank you Dan
There’s a difference in using blame as a mechanism for avoiding your own failings, and not holding somebody you have/had no control over accountable for the outcomes of their actions.