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There Is No Blame in the Coaching Hall of Fame! by Brian D. Biro

There Is No Blame in the Coaching Hall of Fame! by Brian D. Biro

To become an extraordinary coach and catalyst you must move beyond blame. Blame is the most venomous and insidious destroyer of teams, families, and organizations. It eats at you, sucking your energy and infecting your attitude.

When you think about blame in the context of time, it becomes apparent why blame serves no constructive purpose. Is blame about the past, the present, or the future? From this timeline perspective it becomes immediately obvious that blame is always about the past. Yet you cant undo the past; you can only learn from it. As long as you remain stuck in the emotional quicksand of blame, you stay in the past. Solutions, opportunities, and recovery are available only in the present, creating promise for the future.

Moving beyond the past does not mean you pretend nothing ever goes wrong. It simply means that you acknowledge mistakes, take responsibility for your ineffective decisions even if they were well-intended, and then swiftly direct your focus to what you will learn and what you will do next. If you decide it is necessary to discipline the people in your charge, remember your goal, which is to correct and improve. Implement the disciplinary action fairly and calmly. When the consequences have been paid, move forward with a fresh start.

In your interactions with your family, work associates, and friends, if your communication is not generating a positive, productive response, make the decision to become a blame-buster by changing your approach rather than becoming angry and frustrated with them.

Whenever we feel pushed emotionally, we automatically push back. Thus, when blamed, our knee-jerk response is to become defensive. The problem is that we all speak a different language when speaking in defense.

As a blame-buster who accepts the responsibility to change and improve yourself when things are not going well, you have an enormous positive impact on your teammates. You create an example that inspires top performances and builds great loyalty. The legendary football coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant of Alabama explained the impact of blame-busting in his down-home country style when he said, "Im just a country plowhand, but Ive learned to get a team beating with one heart: If anything goes great, they did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes real bad, I did it." When you live by Bryants sage advice, youll inspire loyalty rather than backstabbing, teamwork instead of selfishness.

What feelings and emotions are generated within others, whether teammates, family, friends, or customers, when you sincerely and unselfishly accept responsibility for errors and decisions that did not produce desired results? Instantly others rally around you. Past problems and mistakes have now been accounted for and they are free to let go of the past and move forward to tackle the present and future. Your teammates respect your courage, honesty, and willingness to express your human fallibility. As you demonstrate your humility, you motivate others to seek win-win solutions rather than to waste valuable energy seeking a target for their frustration and fear. The moment you say, "I am responsible. I didnt do a good enough job," or "I made a poor decision," or "I did not come through for you," the uncertainty that fuels the upset is over. Then, when you honestly express your commitment to improve your performance, others are ready to refresh their support and optimism.

Full accountability, like real empathy, cannot be contrived or play-acted. Extraordinary coaches thrive on taking responsibility during difficult times because they recognize how it helps remove debilitating guilt and pressure from their teammates. They also realize that accepting full accountability does not mean they must beat themselves up.

When you state publicly that your actions have not produced the results you sought, you do not blame yourself. You simply accept the reality that new and different actions are necessary. Your effort and motives may have been well intended, but change is required to create success. When your new actions create better results, give credit and praise to others without hesitation. Responsibility is something you take, especially during the tough times; credit is something you give whenever you see the opportunity.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to teach a two-and-a-half day seminar for a special group of young people in Fort Worth, Texas. The kids selected for the seminar were high school seniors who had failed to pass a basic competency examination required for graduation in the state of Texas. In fact, these kids had failed the test four times. The maximum number of opportunities students were given to pass the test was five. They were down to their last chance. The exam was scheduled about three weeks after our weekend seminar for the kids.

The program I designed for these young people was aimed at helping them break through negative conditioning, fear, and destructive habits that kept them in the viselike grip of failure. Through games, experiential activities, and stories, my goal was to replace doubt with confidence, indifference with determination. I had taught the course in each of the previous two years with exciting results, so I expected the best. The seminar is vibrant, fun, and activating. Rather than lecturing to the kids, I involve them in experiences that are surprising, thought provoking, and inspiring.

But as I began to work with this particular group, I could see I was in for a major challenge. It was immediately apparent to me that these kids were bright enough to pass the test. They were creative, quick thinking, and energetic, as long as they werent in the classroom. As soon as they were asked to be attentive and to learn, however, they shut down. At first, I thought they just didnt care. But then I began to see they were simply afraid. Subconsciously they had resigned themselves to failure. The easy way out was to give up without even trying. They could then slouch the whole thing off with a convenient rationalization: "I could have passed the test if I wanted to. It just wasnt any big deal."

The more I tried to involve the kids and build enthusiasm, the more they pushed back. They didnt do so by being aggressive, but rather by mentally checking out. Not once in hundreds of seminars had I encountered a group so disconnected and unmotivated. The physical participation, fun, and heart in the program had always won over even the most skeptical teams. But these kids were yawning, falling asleep, and paying zero attention.

As I struggled through the first day, I began to get frustrated with the kids despite my best intentions. Luckily, just as my frustration was starting to escalate into anger, I arrived at the section in the seminar that focused on blame busting, and I remembered that the meaning of my communication is the response I generate. I decided to take a risk.

When we finished a game that is designed to point out the futility of blame, I stepped forward and got right in the kids faces. They had sleepwalked through the game with their typical indifference. Up until this point I had met every yawn with patience and kindness. But now, in a stern, almost menacing voice I stared icily into each of their eyes and said, "You know, I came 2,000 miles, spending four days away from my wife and children to be here with you. And youre not getting a thing from it."

As I scolded the kids I watched their reaction closely. It was exactly what I had hoped for. A couple of them nudged one another and gave just a hint of a triumphant smile as if to say, "Were getting to him. Hes losing it." They wanted me to give up on them and leave them alone. Then they would have an airtight excuse to give up on themselves. They could just mess around for the rest of the time and pin the worthlessness of the seminar on the teacher who lost his cool.

Encouraged by their response, I became even more intense. I said, "It would be so easy for me right now to say, whats wrong with you!" Once again I could sense the growing feeling among the kids that I had indeed lost it and would soon be out of their hair.

But what I said next shocked them. "It would be so easy for me to blame you for not caring about anything important. But if I did that, Id be dead wrong!"

Several of the kids did double-takes and looked at me as if to ask, "Huh? What did he say?"

Impassioned, I went on, "There are ideas, principles, and possibilities in this class that can do more than help you pass that test in three weeks so you can walk across the stage on graduation day. There is value here that can change your life! But youre not getting it because I havent been a good enough teacher to help you see. If I blamed you Id be dead wrong. If youre not finding the value thats right here today, Ive got to change me!"

For the first time in our more than six hours together every eye in the room was glued to me. They werent used to having someone take responsibility for their attitudes and indifference. They were used to being blamed. Suddenly they were confused, but interested and attentive.

I next told them a story about one of my dearest friends who broke free from addiction to cocaine through the unconditional love and support of an intervention team. It is an intense, emotional story I rarely tell in my seminars. I had not planned to share the story with the kids, but right at that moment my intuition told me it was the right thing to do. As I told the story you could have heard a pin drop in the room. Every one of those kids was right with me, hanging on every word. I saw several of them choke up with emotion. I realized that here was a story with which they could identify. They have seen more drugs, violence, and fear in their seventeen or eighteen years than most people see in a lifetime. When I finished telling the story, something happened I would never forget. One by one those kids stood up and gave me a standing ovation. Ten minutes earlier I was on the verge of losing them. Had I chosen blame, I surely would have. Later, each of the students broke a one-inch thick wooden board karate-style as a personal metaphor for breaking through. On the front of the board they wrote about a fear, habit, or obstacle they were determined to move beyond in their lives. On the other side of the board they described the feelings, accomplishments, and positive changes they would create for themselves and those they loved when they successfully broke through. The support and energy in the room during board breaking flew right off the charts!

About two months later I received a letter from one of the kids telling me that she and several others had passed the test. She wrote, "When we were taking the test we brought along our broken boards. Now we are ready to graduate in May. Even the ones that didnt pass made improvement. We are very thankful to you for encouraging us to think positive and to believe in ourselves. Without you pushing us on, I dont think we would have made it. Thank you, Tanesha."

As coaches and leaders, it is important to remember that we do not control other people, we only affect them through our vision, actions, and example. The only person we directly control is the one we see in the mirror. By becoming a dedicated blame-buster you set an example of character, responsibility, and maturity that will make a lasting difference.

Click here to find out more about Brian's book: Beyond Success - The 15 Secrets to Effective Leadership and Life Based on Legendary Coach John Wooden's Pyramid of Success by Brian Biro

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