I read a great story the other day about Tony Dungy, former coach of the Indianapolis Colts. He stepped into an organizational that was fraught with losing seasons. He was discouraged from the taking the job because there were too many bad things happening in the organization. He recalls being told that there was even a story of a witch doctor putting a curse on the team! The story goes that:
As Dungy reviewed this list of obstacles, he realized something important: the entire list was outside of his or his players’ control. He did not have the budget to recruit a bunch of superstars, and he didn’t have the ability to build a snazzy new stadium. They couldn’t control the weather across the country, and there was no way to get rid of the voodoo woman, whoever she was. Dungy was, in the language of the last chapter, facing things that he was “helpless to do anything about.” Nevertheless, Dungy didn’t succumb to the hopelessness that inevitably accompanies helplessness, and he didn’t tolerate an attitude of helplessness in others either. He immediately did something that all great leaders do, and there is no way to minimize the power of this one move. Essentially he asked one penetrating question: What factors do we control that will contribute to success?
He immediately went to work analyzing the statistics of the winning teams. He discovered that they shared three characteristics. They had lower turnovers (fumbles and interceptions), fewer penalties, and high-performing special teams (kickoffs, punts, punt returns). The first two characteristics have to do with what Dungy calls “self-inflicted wounds.” Giving the ball to the other team, or having mental lapses or emotional eruptions that get penalized—these are mistakes you cause yourself. The final category, special teams, is one that is often neglected, but when functioning well, they create the big plays that contribute to wins. Dungy’s strategy for winning boiled down to focusing on these three factors, all three of them totally within his and his players’ control. He led them to a turnaround, and then he carried that thinking on to the Indianapolis Colts, whom he led to the championship in Super Bowl XLI.Cloud, Henry. Boundaries for Leaders (pp. 125-126). HarperBusiness. Kindle Edition.
It’s worth sharing the whole story, right!?
I hear too many people blame things out of their control. I don’t know why they do this. But there is always an excuse. And so they walk around depressed, frustrated, angry, and anxious! And honestly, it’s draining.
By training, I do short term pastoral counseling which is goal oriented. I ask a set of questions to help the person focus on what they can do, what their options are, and how they’ll choose to address it. But sometimes, people don’t want solutions. Their reaction is to blame, to make someone else responsible for their pain and frustration. The essence of blaming is to literally make someone else responsible for their problems.
Why does someone choose to blame instead of taking personal inventory of what they can do to improve their situation? Here are some ideas:
- it’s easier to make others responsible for our issues
- we avoid looking at ourselves because it’s hard
- it’s a defense mechanism and go on attack mode
- self-reflection and awareness is hard work
- we lie to ourselves and others
- we avoid personal growth
Blaming is not holding ourselves responsible and believing that we are helpless, thus hopeless.
How do we address our cycle of blaming others? Do like Dungy: look to see what things you can control for results. Some of that may include being willing to learn from others, accept responsibility, practice self-awareness, build stronger relationships.