Admit it. We have all been there and we have all done it. The former business leader has either been promoted to a new job or has left the company and a new leader has been announced and is ready to come in and take over with a “fresh” perspective. Within minutes of the announcement, the rumors fly and soon after that the “Tornado of Blame” starts to build energy. The Tornado of Blame is what happens when people start to blame everything that is wrong with the company on the former leader.
Last week, Advantexe delivered a brand new version of a business leadership training simulation called “Leading Transformational Change™.” In the simulation, participants take over as a middle level leader trying to execute a new business strategy being pushed down from a new CEO. In the first scenario of the simulation, Fred Krome – the VP of Manufacturing – bursts into your office complaining about the leadership and strategic changes and threatens to quit because he “can’t take all of the changes anymore.” Fred’s resilience is really low and as a result, he has been swept up in the Tornado of Blame. According to Fred, everyone is an idiot, the former leadership was short-sighted and cheap, and the new leader will never be able to do anything because the former leader messed things up so badly anyway.
The point of this blog is that it is so easy to get swept into the Tornado of Blame and very difficult to break out into the “Realm of Accountability.” At Advantexe, we believe that effective business leadership is equal to the ability to execute strategy; in order to effectively execute strategy, organizations must be founded on a culture of accountability and not blame. Based on our ongoing research and our own practical experiences, I propose 5 business leadership tips to create a culture of accountability and get away from the Tornado of Blame in the business environment.
1. Identify the Changes Needed to Execute the Strategy Without Blaming the Former Leader
You must illustrate to your people in every conversation that their ideas and perspectives are welcome. A blame culture doesn’t go away overnight; you will need to go above and beyond to encourage, appreciate, and reinforce positive behaviors. They key to success is gaining trust, commitment, and engagement.
2. Let Your Team Hold You Accountable
Walk the talk. The most powerful message that you can ever give to your team that illustrates the difference between the Tornado of Blame and the realm of accountability is to ask your team to hold you accountable to your goals and commitments. When they offer ideas and feedback, take it and evolve and don’t engage in blame.
3. Identify, Target, and Communicate with Resistors (The Fred Kromes of the World)
Although it may seem obvious, some of the most effective leaders I have met seek out and evolve the resistors before the resistors get the entire team swept up in the Tornado of Blame. It may take a concerted effort, but the investment in time early on can save a lot of costs and pain in the future. And of course if it doesn’t change, then you must move the resistors out.
4. Lead with a Passion for Continuous Improvement
There is a fine-line between aggressive and passion for continuous improvement and the tornado of blame. Even when things go well, passionate leaders want to improve for the next time. Be careful that it doesn’t come across as feeling like blame. One of the best ways of doing this is simply sharing and communicating with your team your passion and let them know how much you appreciate the effort in addition to the desire to make things better for the next time.
5. Call-out Inappropriate Blaming
I saved the hardest one for last. The best way to change the culture is to simply address it head on. The next time someone on your team starts to create a Tornado of Blame, call them out and simply say “we aren’t going to do that; let’s move on to something positive.” Behaviors will change really quickly when that happens.