The Minister of the Pen: Blame-gaming

Emperor Haile Selassie was an interesting guy. He ruled as emperor of Ethiopia and as a descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba he had many names: King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Lion of Judah.. and many more including his natural name, Ras Tafari (yes, his worshippers would later be known as Rastafarians).

One of the interesting things about Haile Selassie is that he had a “Minister of The Pen”, who headed up the “Ministry of The Pen”. One of the most important duties that the Minister of The Pen carried out was to put the emperor’s words, instructions and decrees in writing, which would then become official law.

Whenever Haile Selassie made a decision that turned out for the good, the people of his country would celebrate the emperor’s divine wisdom. And when a decision did not turn out so good the people would complain that the Minister of The Pen must have misheard and misinterpreted the emperor as he put his words in writing.

Obviously, being Minister of The Pen wasn’t an easy job to have. Kind of like being a sound or lighting engineer at a show: when things go well, no one notices. And when they don’t everyone notices.

That brings me to Accountability vs Blame: the most important thing to remember here is that they’re not the same thing. Whether you’re a CEO, manager, co-worker: accountability is not assigning blame. And blame is not holding accountability.

What do you do when you need to hold someone accountable? What does your co-worker or manager do when you need to be held accountable?

Accountable is the buck stops with me and I need to do what’s necessary to learn, support, co-ordinate, try a different approach. Accountability is building a team that trusts, individuals who learn and companies that get better at what they do.

Blame is the buck never stops with me and I need to let everyone know who’s wrong for the job, that I need different people, better tools, more resources, and to remember to never try that person again. Blame breaks good teams down and ends with people jumping ship from stale, dying organisations.

Who’s your minister of the pen?
Who’s work are you taking credit for and giving back blame in return?