LEADERS TAKE THE BLAME (IN THE RIGHT WAY)
CYNTHIA GOERIG, CEO
Someone has a bad day and makes a big mistake. Growth in the practice is overwhelming systems. A new team member doesn’t fully execute their role and duties to practice standards. Changes have unintended consequences. Personalities sometimes clash. A patient or referrer has a bad experience and complains.
When things go wrong, our tendency is to place blame on something or someone. But for leaders, that is often the least productive solution. Blaming something (inanimate or external) means we give up our power to that thing. Blaming someone means we make them “part of the problem” rather than the solution. Blame turns into shame and they can become reluctant to problem-solve and take initiative for fear of being further judged.
As the practice leader, you have ultimate authority for what occurs under your roof. Everything has either been decided in the past by you, or you have allowed it to occur without intervention or direction (which is often a big source of issues). When something goes wrong, you need to take the blame in the right way and accept your personal responsibility to prevent future occurrences.
That’s doesn’t mean you announce to the team “It’s my fault!” for anything. But it does mean that your response to these situations should not be anger, deflection or disinterest. Leadership is first owning the vision, and then everything under that umbrella focused on achieving it, improving, streamlining, growing and navigating the roadblocks as they occur.
When a crisis or problem occurs, great leaders rally the team to engage in finding the right solution. After all, preventing future problems is much more important than a painful blame-assigning autopsy on what just happened. Sometimes that solution involves the entire team, and sometimes it is just one team member.
Either way, it is better to go into the discussion with the heartfelt belief that disturbances are inevitable and when something happens it is an opportunity to learn and grow. That creates a positive foundation based on possibilities to improve rather than a defensive one based on emotional reactions.
However, “taking the blame” also does not mean removing accountability for team performance, accepting poor teamwork, living with interpersonal disharmony, or allowing failure in job duties and standards from a team member.
Sometimes a team member needs more training, or you have to refine systems and job roles to be clear about future expectations. Sometimes a kind but firm conversation is needed about attitudes, mindsets and effort. And yes, sometimes you must calmly face the reality that a certain team member is not the right fit for the practice going forward.
As leaders, we want to create an open, growth-focused culture where team members can learn, improve and become more empowered to contribute to our vision. Every time something undesirable occurs, your best strategy is to approach it as a teachable moment for your own leadership. That’s how you improve, actually, as a leader. No one else is going to create leadership accountability for you, other than your own personal commitment to your vision.