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Dealing with the issues of blame and accountability is an essential component of a school leader's work. The following perspective provides a guide for your leadership.

1. Remember that others are acting rationally from their own perspective. Given what they know, the pressures they are under and the organization structures that are influencing them they are doing the best they can. Give others the benefit of the doubt.

2. Realize that you probably have a role in this situation.Your behavior may be influencing this person's behavior and may be producing some unintended effects. Keep in mind that you will tend to justify your own actions and point of view and discount the others person's perspective.

3. Remind yourself that judgment and criticism make it very difficult to see clearly; judgments are mental models that limit our ability to take in new data.


1. It is of a process of shaming other and searching for something wrong with them

2. Blaming provides an early and artificial solution to a complex problem

3. It provides a simplistic view of a complex reality.

4. I know what the problem is and you're it.

5. Blame thus makes inquiry difficult and reduces the chances of getting to the real root
of a problem

6. Blame also generates fear and destroys trust.

7. The qualities of blame are judgment, anger, fear, punishment, and self-righteousness.


1. Blame slows information flow and reduces innovation.

2. Blaming discourages innovation and creative solutions.

3. Blame shifts the burden.

4. People often grab onto the most obvious short-term fix rather than search for the fundamental source of the problem

5. Blaming can also be addictive because it makes us feel powerful and keeps us from having to examine our own role in a situation.


Initiating an Accountability Conversation:

1. Find out whether the person you are working with is interested in seeing problems as learning opportunities.

2. Include other people who are also interested in the situation.

3. Create a setting that is conducive to learning.

4. Have a conversation in which the two (or more) of you are committed to resolution.

There are three levels of specific behavioral change in moving from blame to accountability - the individual level, the interpersonal level, and the group or organizational level.


Individual Level: Individuals must be willing to change their own thinking and feelings about blame. This requires self-reflection and a willingness to be truthful with yourself.

The guiding questions here are:

1. What am I learning about myself in this situation?

2. What does this remind me of?.

3. What new behaviors or thoughts does this situation call for that may be a stretch for me?

4. What information am I missing that would help me understand this person's behavior?


Interpersonal Level: People need to become skillful at making contracts with one another and holding each other accountable for results.

Develop a basic agreement defining the nature and scope of the work; identify specific and yet to-be-defined tasks, deadlines and related outcomes, processes or methods to be used, check-in at interim checkpoints you have agreed on.

In the event of a misunderstanding, a lapse in communication, or failure to keep an agreement is helpful to:

1. Check periodically on the state of the partnership through accountability conversation.

2. Review the contract regarding the task, roles, standards, process, and expected results.

3. Be willing to be held accountable. This means that, when an issue comes up, you are willing to consider whether you have lived up to your end of an agreement or expectation.

4. As soon as you realize that you can't keep a commitment, then renegotiate the commitment.


Group or Organizational Level: Groups and organizations need to promote responsible and constructive conversation by developing norms for direct conflict resolution between individuals.

1. Use a system thinking perspective to explore the pressure on the players involved. Notice that there are some larger forces at work that are probably having an impact on both of you.

"Did I have a role in this situation?"

" Did I take some actions that seemed right at the time, but that had unintended consequences."

" What pressures is she or he under?"

" What system or structure might be influencing this behavior?"

" How might this behavior make sense?"

2. Work constructively with your anger. Sustained anger may point to personal issues that have been triggered by the current situation. Broken agreements, mistakes, and blame all have difficult associations for most people.


1. Bring your a issue to a third party to help you clarify a situation. This can be a much more productive alternative when you feel strongly about something.

2. Bring your problems with someone else to a third person to get coaching on how to raise your concerns.

3. Raise your concerns directly with the other person. A good framework is:
   This is what I have experienced (not necessarily what you intended)
   This is the impact that this experience has had on me
   This is what I would like for the future
   Negotiate a mutual commitment
   Reaffirm your commitment to maintaining a good working relationship and find a way to express your fundamental respect for the person.

4. Let the coach know what happened.

5. Outside of this framework, refrain from making negative comments about people.

6. For the listener who frequently hears complaints about a third party and wants to create a learning setting, it can be helpful to say something like: "I'd like to help, but only if you want to create a constructive situation. We can explore these questions, otherwise I prefer not to listen to your complaints."

                              [ ERLINE BELTON © re-posted new CCLR site - August, 2003 ]