COMMENTS ON BLAMING AND RELATED TOPICS
William Frank Diedrich offers personal coaching, executive coaching, and workplace interventions (resolving conflict). For more information on coaching contact him at Bill@noblaming.com . We also offer the online DISC behavioral profile. Click on the button below. Your profile will be sent by email. Results from the profile will come to you automatically. The DISC Profile is a reliable and well-tested instrument that provides insight into behavioral style.
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I have read that baby elephants in captivity are chained by one leg to a post. They try hard to free themselves but are unable. After awhile they give up. When they grow up, they believe they still can't free themselves, even though they have the strength to break free at any time. If the story is true, humans are a lot like that. A good many of our ideas about ourselves were created when we were small, powerless, and defenseless. We still carry those identities within us. They activate automatically in the face of challenges. For example, if we think someone doesn't want us, the identity "I'm not good enough" or "I'm not lovable" activates. The emotional charge may be one of shame, embarrassment, or woundedness. Whenever we feel negative emotion, it is because something in us is being activated. We can break free of these negative identities and emotions.
The mistake most of us make is thinking our emotion is caused by something or someone outside of us. We live life from the inside out. Other people whose behaviors activate negativity within us are our teachers. They help us to understand what needs to be healed. This is not an excuse for hurtful behavior. We cannot change what someone else has done or continues to do. We can ask for change. We can express ourselves to others. We can set firm boundaries. Even if they are willing to change for us, to make the relationship better, the negative identity that was activated still lives within us.
We are the creators of own experience, and negative emotion doesn't have to rule us. Emotion is energy in motion. When we feel negative emotion, we can step back and observe ourselves. This usually happens later, as often it is difficult to do this when we are engaged in a conflict or drama. The way to diffuse the negative emotion is to let yourself feel it. Feel it. Become it, but don't feed it with analysis and thought. By allowing yourself to feel it, you process it. The hard part is opening yourself to feel something unpleasant. Yet, if you let yourself experience it without judging it, it will play out.
For example let's say a challenge is in your life and you feel overwhelmed. The identity "I can't do this" is activated. You feel fearful and powerless. Become fully immersed in "I can't do this." Experience that. If you feel it without judging or analyzing, but simply experience it, the emotion will begin to fade. As it fades, imagine that you can do it. What would that feel like? Let yourself feel the confidence of that. If it helps, remember a time when you did meet a big challenge and succeed. Fully experience "I can do it."
If more negative shows up, go back to the negative and let it play out. Again return to the positive. You will find you have a great deal of control over your emotional state. You can't stop a negative from showing up, but you can work with it and let it move through you. You can generate positive emotion by imagining yourself succeeding. The key is in not repressing the negative. Repression makes it stronger.
This is one technique for facing your fears and becoming a real adult. As long as our powerless identities acquired in childhood dictate what we can and can't do, we prevent ourselves from becoming powerful. We need not be chained to ancient fears. We have the power and we can use it -- either to make ourselves powerless, or to become the powerful beings we are meant to be.
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You are Powerful
by William Frank Diedrich
Everyone has power. It is the ability to get things done. Power is the motivation to move forward with confidence whether or not you know the outcome. Power is trust in the Creative Intelligence that drives you. Power is the ability to create.
We are so powerful that we often convince ourselves we are powerless. We pretend that we are each an isolated being dependent on the decisions and moods of others.
We are so powerful that we create amazing stories of weakness and victimization based on what others have done toward us. We are so convinced of our victimhood that we play that role for a lifetime. We experienced pain when others were aggressive toward us, but now we suffer as we cling to the memory of that experience.
It's okay if that is what you think you must do.
But, an Inner Voice is calling to you, saying "Come on out and play! The Universe is your amusement park. Dance! Sing! Express! Be you! Forgive! Be the owner of your life and determine what it is that you want. What do you want?"
Whatever you want, ask for it. Work for it. Take steps toward it. Be it. The way to power? Feel your emotions of powerlessness, your anxiety, frustration, hopelessness, hurt, etc. Experience it and then remind yourself that you have created this state of powerlessness. It's not who you are. No, don't blame yourself. Take full responsibility for the story you have continued to tell yourself that interferes with the recognition of the power within you.
Next feel your power. Stand up straight and breathe deeply. Feel the energy of your confidence moving through your body. This is a sample of your power. Give thanks. Ask for guidance. Move forward.
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Transcending the Blaming Culture
by William Frank Diedrich
Many organizations have a blaming culture. A blaming culture is where blaming is a common occurrence. Blaming behaviors include pointing the finger, complaining, criticizing, and making excuses. In a blaming culture time and energy are spent proving someone else is wrong, proving that one's self is not wrong, evading accountability and responsibility, avoiding honest communication and accumulating data for proof of blame or innocence. The tendency to blame stifles communication. It destroys trust and creates stress. Blaming creates an environment of fear. As the world renown quality expert, W Edward's Deming said, we need to drive out all fear for organizations to work effectively. In order to drive out fear we need to drive out blaming.
Blame is an illusion. It is a distortion of reality. There is no blame. Most problems in organizations are systemic. They are rooted in processes and systemic structure. Deming claimed that 94 % of all problems were systemic and he attributed them to common causes. If most problems are systemic in their origin, then why do we spend so much time blaming individuals and groups?
First, most of us do not realize how much blaming is going on or that we are doing it. It becomes a way of life. Try monitoring your thoughts for an hour at work. How many times do you find yourself complaining about someone or something, defending your actions, or noting the faults of others?
The second problem is that we think that whoever is standing closest to a problem must be to blame for it. We are taken in by the illusion that there are simple, linear cause and effect relationships. An example of this kind of thinking comes from a client of mine from several years ago. A supervisor was upset with his people because the customer had sent back product that did not meet the customer's specifications. He blamed his workers.
He was sure the problem was their carelessness and poor work habits. His solution was to complain and criticize to them. This is a common occurrence in many organizations. I asked him a few questions:
· Were his people aware of the customer's specifications?
· Did they know how to set up their process in order to meet those specs?
· What were their inspection procedures?
· Were they applied appropriately to this shipment?
· Were all workers clear about their specific jobs and work expectations?
· Did all workers have the skills needed to produce the level of quality required?
· Was the equipment capable of producing the quality needed?
· Was there consistency in how each job was performed?
Most of these questions could not be answered well. There was little clarity and consistency in this system, so results tended to be inconsistent. We cannot blame our people for poor quality when we have not taken the time to create a structure for success. The supervisor was accountable for the returned parts and so was his manager. It became their job to respond (be responsible), to make appropriate changes that would ensure future shipments would be right.
As leaders we cannot make success happen. What we can do is understand what needs to happen and remove the barriers to success. We can look at structure, leadership style, relationships, and our view of the world and ask ourselves: "Is this working for us or against us?" I can almost guarantee you that the blaming given by that supervisor was not working for him. It created resentment and disrespect.
The illusion we create is that somehow blaming and complaining will make things better. Once we have blamed someone we feel impelled to "prove" it. We spend time and efforts building a case, amassing data, and defending our position. On the flip side, if we are blamed, we spend time defending and justifying ourselves. Imagine an organization full of people blaming, complaining, justifying, defending, and building cases against others. When would the work get done?
If blaming is so futile, how can we avoid the blame game? Leaders must make a commitment not to blame or complain. Do your complaining to a trusted friend who is not your employee. Vent it and get over it. See problems as challenges to be overcome, not as opportunities to blame people.
Look at all possible sides of an issue. Ask good questions similar to ones asked of the supervisor. Be willing to look at yourself and see how you are contributing to the current situation. How does your way of being affect others? Have you taken the time to create positive relationships with the people involved? Are you aware of their needs, concerns, and issues? Are you responsive to their needs? Have you helped them to create a structure that helps them succeed? Have you helped people get clarity on their mission, role, and the expected standards? Are you walking your talk? Do you give people honest feedback on their performance? Do you act quickly to correct problems? Do you listen to the people around you? If you are not doing these things, what stops you? (And don't blame someone else.)
As a leader, your example teaches others how to act. The leader who is accountable and takes responsibility teaches her people to do the same. The leader who blames, undermines her own authority and teaches people that they are not responsible. When we refuse to blame and choose to be accountable and responsible, we begin to discover our power. Focusing on what we can control--- our thoughts, behaviors, and actions--- makes us powerful. Seeing that small changes in how we relate to others, what we choose to believe about others, and opening ourselves to actually hearing what others have to say can create powerful results.
A leader's ability to make small changes within will influence those around him. His/Her new way of being becomes a new way of doing. Others see the results and begin to make their own changes. Every leader is a teacher. Anyone can make the decision to be accountable and responsible, to treat others with care and respect, and to communicate honestly. Waiting for others to change, including those in higher positions, is an excuse. True leaders are people who initiate new ways of being. Culture change begins with one leader who has the will and is willing. Is that person you?