As a project manager, you need to rely on people to get things done. You work with a team, you get input from stakeholders. But what happens when things go terribly wrong? Do you work your way trying to find the culprit? Do you feel that when you find the person responsible and get them to work harder on their issues, you have solved the problems? Have you ever felt that by doing this you have dodged the bullet? If so, you should consider the possibility of being part of “a culture of blame” a.k.a. the infamous finger-pointing.
There are two reasons why this approach is so not cool. The first one is that blaming is problematic and ineffective. If you are analyzing issues trying to find the people responsible and investing time and effort on investigating, proving or defending… well then, when do you actually get your work done? You also need to consider that communication, trust and teamwork are the keys to creating an environment where improvement can take place. The tendency to find the culprit cuts off communication destroys trust and creates a stressful environment.
The second reason and perhaps the most important is that when you are trying to find the responsible person for a problem, when you are blaming others, you are actually giving up your power to change things. There is simple question you can ask yourself here “How did I contribute to this situation?” By using the “I” language any feedback is rightly owned by you and this creates a culture of responsibility and eliminates any possibilities of blame. At the same time, by placing yourself at the protagonist, you have gained back the power to change and make things right. This will also set an example for your team, for mutual accountability and collaboration.
So how do you turn it around? A few pointers below:
Set the example
In the wise words of Albert Einstein “setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” You have to walk the walk and practice what you preach. If your words and actions are aligned, over time you will lose the respect and trust of your people. Don’t let this happens! Hold yourself to a higher standard of performance than anyone else does. Model the behavior that you want to see and others will follow.
Focus on the problem and not on the person
Rather than focusing on the person, you should try to see past them and figure out how to solve the problem. There will be cases when you may feel as if the person is the problem (if they’ve tried to cheat you, or have failed to meet their duties). But if you take a careful look, the situation may not be as simple as it appears. Perhaps the person hasn’t been given enough information, time, or incentive to do what you want. A good starting point would be saying something like: “Please don’t see this as blame or finger-pointing, but things haven’t turned out how I hoped they would. What can we change to fix the situation and make sure it doesn’t happen again?” In this way, you are making the person part of the solution and showing them that you are concerned with fixing the problem and not fixing the blame.
Feedback and Feed-forward
Yes, do create an environment in which people are encouraged to give you feedback on your performance. You must also provide them with honest feedback, and encourage them to do the same among one another. On the flip side, remember that feedback is focused on what already happened. Remember to open the floor for feed-forward, that is to give someone else suggestions for the future to make a positive difference in their lives. Ask for it and provide it. The result will be an engaged, open and aware team.
Remember to “be the change you want to see in the world”. 🙂
That’s all for now, folks. Stay tuned for more tips coming soon!
Fair winds to ye all!
Photo Credit: Aimee Lee