Blame

“Karen, I dropped Becca!”

It was our son-in-law calling my wife’s cell.

It seems that “Becca Boo”—her painful but triumphant Sept 21, 2012 birth story here—had hit her head at the Denver airport where we had just dropped the Lindeen family for an evening flight home to Wisconsin. As fathers have for a millennium, Erik had been tossing Rebecca up in the air while she giggled and grinned—till she slipped through his hands.

THUD.

In response to Erik’s terse—and accountable—opening statement, Karen, the former RN, said, “OK, so, what’s she doing now?”

Becca was crying. That was good news since it beats unconsciousness. Karen chatted Erik through it and they ended the call.

Five minutes later her phone jingled again. Becca was now vomiting, a sign of a possible concussion.

Let me tell you what took place and what did not take place over the next couple hours.

What did happen:

  • Karen asked medical questions to help Erik and Kristin evaluate little Becca
  • A nurse waiting to board the same Southwest flight offered her expertise
  • The Southwest gate agent called for an airport EMT
  • The EMT asked medical questions while checking Becca’s vital signs
  • The EMT called for an ambulance “just to be safe”
  • The gate agent moved the Lindeen family to a flight the next day at no charge
  • The ambulance personnel focused on Becca, diagnosing her down the highway
  • Karen and I hammered out a plan for her to go get Erik and 3-year-old, Joshua, while I picked up teen Charlene from her Target job
  • Karen occupied Josh at the emergency room while Kristin and Erik waited to meet with ER personnel to ascertain Becca’s condition

She was fine. Phew!

The above summed up:

A team, unified in a common goal, engaged in pure problem-solving.

Now, here is what did not happen that evening:

  • Nobody asked, “Why would Erik do such a thing?”
  • Nobody asserted, “He should’ve known better!”
  • Nobody whispered, “What was he thinking?”
  • Nobody shamed, “What a foolish thing to do.”

The above summed up:

No finger-pointing, second-guessing, recrimination, criticizing, or judging. 

If you read Becca’s birth story, you know the lesson is about PERSPECTIVE. Becca’s new story instructs an equally simple but powerful lesson …

I always have a choice: 

Play the Blame Game or solve the problem.

In outstanding organizations—which includes families—people make the right choice. As we say in our QBQ! training program: “Problems are in the past. Solutions are now.”

Let’s each commit to focusing on solving problems in 2014, while skipping the blame. It will make for an exceptional year.

Now, before we get to our Application Questions, let me speak briefly to dads …

Every father reading this piece has been thinking, There but for the grace of God go I—because every dad knows that every dad everywhere loves to toss his toddler up in the air. Nobody knows why, it’s just what dads do.

All Becca’s dad would now say is, just make sure you catch them when they come down!

It’s okay, Erik, in the interest of total transparency, I dropped your wife once. :-)

For Application and Comment: 

Is my typical response one of blame and fault-finding—or problem-solving? The last time someone dropped the ball (or the baby), how did I react? If I need to grow in this area, what will I do in 2014 to change me?

If you’re not a QBQ! QuickNote subscriber, sign up here.  

About John G. Miller

John G. Miller is the author of QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, Flipping the Switch: Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability, Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional and co-author of Parenting the QBQ Way. He is founder of QBQ, Inc., an organizational development firm based in Colorado dedicated to “Helping Organizations Make Personal Accountability a Core Value.” A 1980 graduate of Cornell University, John has been involved in the training and speaking industry since 1986. He lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, Karen. They have seven children and three grandchildren.

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19 Responses to “Skip the Blame, Solve the Problem”

  1. Jon D Harrison

    This made me feel a little sick inside, as I have a near-3 year old, that also “slipped” out of my grip while we were playing (he was 9 months at the time). Fear and panic often contribute to individuals defaulting to blame.

    Thank God Becca is fine, and what a blessing to Erik – the finger pointing that can ensure only fuels guilt or resentment and defensivness in the parent involved in the situation.

    Reply
  2. Jason Hurley

    Great story, John. I feel like all the QBQ stuff is common sense, but it often times goes against my natural instinct and that drives me nuts! If I were in that situation, I’d like to think I’d try to solve the problem immediately, but I also feel like the Blame Game would be running through my head. It’s not fair, because especially in that situation, no one tries to create problems. They happen and they’re part of life. Lessons are learned because of them. And no one is perfect!

    Thanks for the perspective and I second Jon’s comment that I’m glad the story had a happy ending with Becca being fine!

    Reply
  3. Ethan Stovall

    “I dropped your wife once”. Nice.

    There is nothing more degrading during a conversation than continually blaming someone. On the other hand, explaining that we are not worried about “who did it” and that we are solely working towards a root cause will often get those at fault comfortable enough to open up and help identify the factors that caused the issue in the first place.

    God bless! Thanks for sharing these stories. It is good to be reminded often.

    Reply
  4. Elaine

    Great story on perspective and problem-solving. Really hard to keep focussed on this sometimes and particularly if the person “wot done it” is feeling guilty/panicked/scared. Helping them to keep calm and focus on “how are we going to solve the problem?” can take a lot of energy but is (imho) the only way to go. I am coaching my 7-year old – no BMW-ing (Blame-Moan-Whine, we “park” it on the drive. I think this was from another contributor on an earlier post and to whom I say a BIG THANK YOU!) and “”how are we going to solve the problem?” – it’s even rubbing off on my husband) As ever, QBQ team, THANK YOU for your inspirational, personal stories and wishing you a happy, healthy and drop-free 2014!

    Reply
  5. Lynn

    Thank goodness Becca is fine. One point I disagree with is Dads aren’t the only ones who through toddlers in the air. Sometimes aunts are known to do it, too. Finger pointing and the blame game only serve the ego of the people who didn’t make the mistake. It’s a knee-jerk reaction and takes no thought at all. What takes effort, is to stop and collect our thoughts for just a second before we say aything. My best practice is to stop for a moment, take a deep breath and ask myself “Is the next thing I say going to move us any closer to a resolution?” If it isn’t I don’t say it. There’s plenty of time, after the issue is resolved, to ask questions to get to the root and find out how to prevent similar incidents in the future. Have a safe and happy 2014!

    Reply
  6. John Lauer

    Thanks for sharing the story, it’s a good reminder of taking care of the immediate problem instead of letting our emotions get the best of us by blaming. I agree with Lynn’s comments “There’s plenty of time, after the issue is resolved, to ask questions to get to the root and find out how to prevent similar incidents in the future” and am curious if that was done and what the results were.

    Reply
  7. Karen Jacobs

    Great Story, even greater outcome! I know someone who dropped his baby boy and stopped drinking the next day. Life is good now for my friend and his son. Thank goodness that Becca and my friend’s little one are okay. There are too many scary things in life and we count our blessings everyday that we stay healthy and happy. Solving the “problem” for whatever it is the right direction to take!

    Karen

    Reply
  8. Ron Gumabon

    Hello John and everybody!

    Thanks for continuously sharing insightful stories. Hope to have many more and more power to you!

    Just wondering, How about if others not blaming the person but that person was blaming himself being an accountable person himself and acknowledging the mistake. What is the best word of encouragement or approach so that he can get over the feeling of guilt and can focus more on helping out to solving the problem?

    How to manage the guilt and the worrying and fear that can come with it like he might lose his job, or something like that?

    Thanks…

    Reply

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