Tabitha Laser, CSP
Human beings are an extremely intelligent and prideful species. In many instances, these traits help us innovate, improve, and expand our horizons. Unfortunately, these same traits have a nasty habit of preventing us from addressing the problems that continue to plague companies around the globe. Our intelligence often misleads us into believing we have the answers and our pride prevents us from acknowledging that isn’t always the case. What results is a tendency to place blame because we are reluctant to look in the mirror and hold ourselves accountable for our actions.
All that finger pointing is a direct result of employees not being aligned with the values of the company. According to a survey of nearly 100 HR professionals revealed that only 22 percent said that over 60 percent of their employees know the company’s core values. The staggering number here is that between zero and 40 percent of employees knew their company’s core values, and 29 percent of them in the 0-20 percent range.
This is a symptom of the disease of not building a strong enough foundation to sustain the wear and tear of everyday life.
The root of most undesired events leads back to weaknesses in a company’s foundation and/or leadership, both of which need to be strong to achieve sustainable success. When leadership fails to hold themselves accountable for problems that arise and try to shift blame to others, it’s a lot like replacing a fuse that keeps shorting out with a penny.
Ironically, the blame game quickly morphs into a self-destructive game of duck duck goose! Nobody wants to be it, so they just keep running around, blaming others, and failing to address the root of the problem. It’s an extremely difficult habit for most leaders to break because they have various advisors (e.g.: legal, human resources, safety, shareholders, etc.) advising them not to accept fault, and because it tends to be easier to point fingers somewhere else rather than deal with the bigger issues. For example, it may seem easier to terminate an employee for not following the rules rather than admit that the rules may be flawed and have to go through the hassle of revising them. As mentioned earlier, getting rid of the employee will stop that person from breaking the rules, but doesn’t prevent the problem from happening again. Instead, this type of action ends up causing more harm than good by breeding a workplace culture of animosity and fear. Failing to address the root of the problem combined with a weakened culture is a recipe for disaster.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of tactics that can help leaders fix problems their companies are currently facing:
- Acknowledge all of the existing and potential problems facing the company
- Assess the risks associated with each problem
- Identify the controls that need to be in place to prevent problems from occurring and mitigations that should be in place to lessen the impact to the company in the event the problem arises
- Develop long-term plans to address gaps identified and continuously improve
They four key tactics are just the beginning of the process.
In order for your culture and organization to thrive, leaders need to espouse their values at every point. It means living your values; in other words, talking the talk and walking the walk. It means having enough wisdom to stop applying band-aids to a gaping wound. It’s tempting to “fix” a problem and hope it never comes up again, but leaders must resist doing that on a regular basis.
Leaders need to communicate a clear vision, always. They need to implement ideas and drive change. They need to turn away from the crutch that is finger pointing and placing blame on everyone and have the courage to share the credit with every member of the team – top to bottom. If employees feel like they’re under the microscope and will get blamed all the time, it’ll only increase dissatisfaction and turnover rates while decreasing productivity. You don’t need to have a PhD in business to know this is a bad combination.
It’s never too late to turn things around, but we need to start looking in the mirror and having the conviction of sticking to our values to create an atmosphere of growth.
As a leader, you need to break the cycle of blame.
About the Author: Tabitha Laser is a multi-faceted professional with over 25 years of leadership experience in a variety of industries ranging from oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, agriculture, construction and more. Her diverse background has provided her opportunities to work with government agencies and some of the world’s largest companies, including Fortune 500 companies, BP, 3M, and General Mills. Her expertise has fueled her passion to help shape the next generation of leaders, especially millennials, to help avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors and lead beyond best. Tabitha is the author of Organization Culture Killers. The first book in a series of leadership books she calls, “The Deadly Practices.” Follow Tabitha.