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Here's Why Blame Never Works In Family Businesses

By Kyle Danner

Recently, I was going through my dad’s things for old time’s sake. He passed away 11 years ago and he’s been on my mind. Anyway, he collected inspirational quotes. He’d type them up on index cards and post them on his filing cabinet in his office.

One of them was this quote from Wayne Dyer, and it really struck me because it’s so relevant to family businesses:

“All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty of something by blaming him, but you won’t succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy.”

Your Erroneous Zones - Wayne Dyer

What NOT To Do When Things Go Wrong

When something goes wrong in the family, we look to the cause of the problem. Sometimes we look to blame someone. Blame feels good in the moment.

However, by blaming someone else, you put the burden on your loved one. You don’t have to think about where you missed the mark. You don’t have to do the hard work. You can wash your hands and walk away.

Here’s the rub. Nothing changes and the problem remains. There’s no guarantee the other person will feel guilty.

If anything, after being dumped on they may feel defensive or even justified. What they won’t feel is invested in finding a solution that works — in fixing the problem or even in repairing the relationship. Enough of that goes on and over time, everything falls apart leaving everyone feeling resentful.

family business not the way resized FINAL


What To Do When Things Go Wrong

So what do you do when things go wrong and you feel the urge to blame? To be clear, you have a right to feel disappointed, sad, frustrated or angry when something goes wrong. It’s what you do with those feelings that matter.

Here’s a way to acknowledge the pain caused, work towards a solution and preserve the relationship.

1. State what you’re feeling.

That means not saying “You make me feel.” Rather, take ownership of what you’re feeling.

  • I’m frustrated.
  • I’m disappointed.
  • I’m hurt.

2. Then, point to the behavior that you saw.

Avoid the word “you.” That decreases the tendency of the other person becoming defensive and not listening.

  • ...because the directions weren't followed.
  • ...because the customer wasn’t called.
  • ...because a delivery date was missed.

3. Finally, ask “how can we keep this from happening again.”

This shows you’re willing to work with your loved one to find a mutual solution. It’s also an opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding.

  • How can we make sure directions are followed in the future?
  • How can we stay on top of our customer calls?
  • What do we need to do to make our delivery dates?

So when things go wrong and you feel the urge to blame:

1. State what you feel

2. Point to the behavior that you saw.

3. Ask how you can work together to keep this from happening again.

It’s a simple way for you to share what you’re feeling, work toward a solution and build a relationship all with the goal of building a peak performing family and business.

When it comes to blame, think about the root cause of that blame. Who are you blaming? What are you blaming them for? It very well could be an “elephant” in the family business, an elephant no one wants to talk about.

DOWNLOAD CHAPTER for family business owners

Whether that’s an underperforming family member or a fear of passing the business onto the next generation, I can help you approach the elephant in a way that promotes positive change and clarity.

Contact me today to schedule a conversation about your family business. Let’s work together so you can position your family business for success for generations to come.

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