Published monthly by Sharon Eakes, Hope Unlimited, LLC
************************************************************* FOCUS: From Blame to Accountability
Disciplines: Personal Mastery, Team Learning,
Systems Thinking

"Blame is like sugar; it produces a brief boost
and then a let down."
Marilyn Paul

Blaming gives us relief. Jamie, my barely 2-year granddaughter, knocked important things off a table. "Meow did it," she said, referring to her stuffed cat. We easily fall into blaming each other in families and in organizations. We form blame-based communities by playing what Lois Perelman calls PEANUT.
P= take a Position
E= gather Evidence
A= find people who Agree with you; Then run
N= Non-
U= Useful-
T= Tapes
The trouble with blaming is that when we blame, we don't learn. Blame breeds fear and distrust. When we create a blaming culture, there is little room for progress and success is unlikely.

1) The non-engineers in a company blame the engineering department for every missed schedule. They look for evidence and share it with each other knowingly, assuring an "us and them" rift.
2) A wife blames her husband for all the problems in their marriage. Her family and friends play PEANUT and line up with her.

To get unstuck, we must move from blaming to accountability. (See Marilyn Paul's excellent article "Moving from Blame to Accountability", The Systems Thinker, Vol. 8, N. 1, February, 1997.)
1) Stop playing PEANUT, period.
2) Examine your thinking about whomever you're blaming.
- What are the assumptions you make about them?
- Using curiosity, try hard to see the world from their viewpoint (people usually do things that make sense to them.)
3) Imagine you are looking down at the situation from a very high balcony. What does the whole system look like from up there?
- What is your role in the problem?
- Are there built-in pressures in the system which keep everyone from creating the desired result?
4) Manage your anger. Get underneath the anger to see what's hiding there. Is it disappointment, fear, sadness? Wait. When you hit people with your full-force anger, they need all their energy to defend themselves. They seldom hear or learn. When you have calmed down, you can be charge-neutral and get your point across.
5) In any new relationship (individual or group), have a clarifying conversation at the outset. Spell out assumptions, expectations, time-lines. Pre-plan what you will do when problems develop.
6) Have "accountability conversations" periodically as a way to keep the relationship free from blame. These don't just happen. SCHEDULE them with your important partners, both personal and work related. When the shared goal of such conversations is success for all parties and the joint project, they can make a powerful difference.

Try these steps both at work and at home. You will be amazed at how much better everything works when you switch from blaming to accountability.

You are warmly invited to join me for a 45 minute telebridge conversation on moving from blame to accountability, Wednesday, February 28 at 8:00 p.m. EST (7 CST, 6 MST, 5 PST).
Just dial (702) 558-4398.

Reach me: 1-888-769-3494 or e-mail

Each month FRESH VIEWS focuses on a single topic, relates it to one of the five disciplines of a learning community, and offers a coaching tip and a follow-up telegathering. Please forward it to friends and colleagues. My purpose in writing FRESH VIEWS is to nurture, prod and encourage readers to think and talk about these topics with their families, friends and colleagues. Mine is only one view. Multiple conversations may deliver us to insights only hinted at here. Such a process sustains the vitality of learning relationships, learning families, learning organizations and learning communities.

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