There were 20 people in the room for the training on the new time card software. “You put your finger here and it clocks you in,” the trainer said. “Now let’s go over all the exceptions and frequently asked questions about the system.” At the end of the two hour class everyone left unsure when the system was actually being implemented. Three months later the system went live and most people forgot what they learned in the training. Payroll was delayed and everyone was mad.
The Information Technology Department blamed Human Resources for the poor timing for training on the system, Human Resources blamed Administration for taking too long to decide when to implement the contract with the vendor. Administration blamed finance for not sounding the alarm sooner about a delayed payroll.
In the middle of the blame game a hand went up. The executive director called on the employee who said “I’m less interested in who is to blame and more interested in when I can get trained on the system again. I have no clue what this conversation is accomplishing. Will you please train me? I want to get paid. And truthfully, I don’t remember what I learned in the class about how to use the system.” The silence was deafening. She continued, “If you need someone to own the coordination of the refresher training I’ll do it. And, I’d like to be trained to train others on the system.”
Stop Blaming, Start Owning
The ownership approach to the blame game is a great way to stop it. Jump in and own something! Do you really care who is to blame? Use ownership to jam a lever in the flywheel that spins off all the dumb, time wasting finger pointing and say “I’ll own moving this forward by taking something on. What needs to happen here?”
You might be thinking, “Why should I? The folks making the big bucks need to stop yapping and get going. If you can play a part in making that happen do it. What are they going to say? “No, we don’t want anything to move forward we just want to be mad and complain. No, you can’t own anything to move forward.” Use it as an experience to develop. It’s a great way to add to your interview responses about how you are the most accountable choice for the next opportunity. “Here is a list of ownership and actions I participated in to stop finger pointing, blaming and excuses. Would you like someone like me to work here?”
You are the lever. Accountability is the fulcrum.
Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.
Without the willingness to strategically place the lever where it can do the most good you will notice it will be the same road different day over and over again. You will only have yourself to blame.
Three Ways to Start Using Your Leverage Today
- Own something when blaming is going on. It doesn’t mean you are at fault or guilty of anything. Just look for something to own. “I’m going to own not taking about this after the meeting. I think enough blaming has gone on. Now what’s our next step?”
- Ask questions. Instead of making statements that signal you understand what is going on you can use questions to leverage everyone else’s knowledge to move forward. “I’m interested in understanding the time line fully, does it have any room in it for changes?” When finger pointing, complaining or blame erupts and you want to use your leverage to shift the conversation, start coming up with questions. Bizarre questions count if you are brave enough. “Does anyone know why there is a gold fish in the water cooler?” See? It diverts attention so you can get everyone to stop and get back on track. This works wonderfully at home too. (More leeway for bizarre questions.
- Walk out. Yes, I said it. Get up and walk away with your lever and go find some place to stick it where it will matter. Sometimes it is really true that there is nothing to add to the moaning and groaning. Life is too short. In the spirit of personal accountability I will say that you have to own the outcome of this choice. “I chose to walk out.” vs. “They made me so angry I couldn’t take it anymore.”
Use the power of your leverage every day. It’s yours for the taking. Fulcrums will show up endlessly. Have fun with it.