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By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O.

Recently we have been hosting agency-wide feedback sessions exploring responsibility and accountability in our culture. We have been imagining the results of our work as we move away from blame and shame when our actions don’t have the outcome we’d hoped for. Instead we are getting to the hard stuff.

That’s right, I am suggesting that blaming, shaming, punishing and moving on is the easy way out. We as leaders lay our heads on the pillow at night thinking we have done something that helps improve care or make our work safer, but it doesn’t work! In fact, research shows it has never worked.

Perhaps we do it because it’s all we know, and we do live in a blame-addicted society. Perhaps we do it because it feels good to blame, shame and punish when we ourselves are hurting. Or perhaps we do it because we often don’t know what else to do. We fall back on assuming “human error” or “bad” judgment and we continue to behave in ways that attempt to “fix the human.”  The human being is the constant in the human service business. You cannot remove human error, just as you can’t always predict human judgment in a complex system. But you can learn to understand what made the person’s behavior absolutely logical and rational to them at that moment in time. By understanding those system influencers, not only might you strengthen the work of one, you stand a chance of helping others.

At Heritage Christian, we are working to create a culture that shapes responsibility through learning. We are improving by responding to how work is really done rather than creating policy based on how we imagine the work to be done. We know that people carry even greater responsibility for the outcome of their work when they themselves can point to and learn from all of the context that helped to create the outcome. When we imagine the collective impact of this hard work we see improved communication and trust. When we stop blaming and shaming, we see greater investment in the work we do. We see improvement even within imperfect service systems. We see a broader path for success. Onward!

 

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