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Do you have a culture of learning or a culture of blaming?

Last week I wrote about the importance of having a culture where everyone accepts responsibility and invites accountability. If you have that culture in your piece of the organization, then you also likely have a culture of learning. Without those elements you likely have a culture of blaming.

“You can blame, or you can learn. You can’t do both.”

Sidney Dekker

As a leader you have a choice about the culture you are working to create in your piece of the organization, and it starts with you. Are you willing to take the blame and give away the credit? Are you willing to stand up and own up when you screw up? Are you also willing to spend the time to reflect and identify the learning and share then the lessons with your team?

In a culture of blaming when someone commits what you determine in hindsight to be an error, all the blame is put on them, they likely get labelled a “bad apple” or a “problem child” and no one looks any further into what happened and why it happened.

In a culture of learning you understand and accept that to err is human. Human error becomes a window into what is working and what is not working and becomes the starting point of the investigation. As a leader you ask, “What piece of this do I own?” and as an organization you ask, “What piece of this do we own?” Asking those questions will lead to positive learning and will also create an environment where the individual is willing to accept responsibility for their actions and decisions. A culture of blaming, however, simply results in a lot of finger pointing and blaming and no positive learning.

I use the term ‘positive learning’ because learning will occur in a culture of blaming. Unfortunately, what people learn is that the best way not to get in trouble, not to get thrown under the bus, not to get blamed, is to do as little as possible. They become action averse to avoid errors. They become focused on not making mistakes and staying out of trouble instead of striving for excellence in everything they do.

Focus on what you control, control the controllable and strive to create a culture of learning in your piece of the organization. Doing so will have a positive impact on performance, productivity, and morale. Is this simple? Yes. Is it easy? No. Is it critical to the success of your team? Yes.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey, and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning, and enjoy the journey.

Brian Willis

Register yourself, and your team for the Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop to get everyone on the same page regarding leadership and culture. If you are interested in hosting a live Dare to Be Great workshop reach out to me at