When things go wrong, targets are missed, hard work doesn’t produce desired results and self-inflicted wounds cause organizational pain, the first question we often hear is, “Who’s to blame?”

While it may be a natural tendency to look for someone or something to blame, playing the “blame game” comes with a cost.

I had to laugh last night as I watched my lanky 20 -year old son stretch out on the living room couch.  He stretched so far that he knocked over an end table that sent a salt lamp crashing to floor and knocked over a standing lamp that also went crashing to floor.  His immediate response was, “I didn’t do anything!  I’m not to blame.”  Really?

Look at today’s headlines and see how many times you see or hear someone blaming someone or some circumstance for whatever reason.

Examine what happens within your organization and how often you can identify a person, a team, department or leader pointing fingers, making excuses with an element of blame and accusing others for a failure.

So while it might be a natural tendency to protect in the face of a failure, blaming others comes with a cost.  What are some of the costs of playing the blame game?

  • It weakens leadership
  • Erodes the value of integrity
  • Lowers trust
  • Creates dissension
  • Dismisses the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and failures
  • Causes negative emotions
  • Undermines the value of respect
  • Poisons the culture

Obviously, costs are high.

The remedy?  Take responsibility for what happened first.  Take that finger pointing at someone else and point it to yourself.  Overcome the natural tendency to blame others.  Get into a learning mode.  Examine what worked?  What didn’t work?  Why?  What could I have done differently?  How can I turn the failure into a success?  What lessons have I learned?  What lessons can I share to help others not make the same mistake?

Many say that leaders are defined by their followers.  People will follow a leader who can own their mistakes without blaming others.  In the face of failures, looking in the mirror is your friend.  The more you do this, the more you will like what you see.