• Monique Elwell

Always Solve, Never Blame

Updated: Apr 6

I was watching Brené Brown’s Call to Courage video the other night. She talks about how you cannot be brave without being vulnerable. In tech, we take risks. That means you make mistakes. When I’m in an environment where my board, coworkers, boss, etc. don’t allow me to be vulnerable, I take fewer risks. And it’s the risks that get you to score big in the tech space.


I’ve seen all too often that when organizations have a culture of blame, bad things happen. These include:


1. Hiding problems (which become even bigger once they come out!)

2. Manipulation, taking sides.

3. Inability to get to the root of the true problem.


We believe that it’s important to take risks and seek unique ways to solve problems, so one of our values is “Always Solve, Never Blame.” This can be very hard to actually achieve, because you’ll want to blame someone. It’s so much easier. Even if you don’t blame anyone at all, someone will immediately go into a shame state and take on the blame as soon as you state, “Houston, we have a problem.”


I realize that it starts with me. If I screw up, I will tell the group, “This is what I did wrong. Now let’s talk about how we can fix it.” When the boss sets the stage, you’d be surprised how many other staff members will be vulnerable and admit what they felt they did wrong and their solutions for it. Often, I find the answers lie not in someone doing something wrong, but rather problems with:


1. A shift in the market (what we did before isn’t working anymore).

2. A problem with Process. (I didn’t know that I needed to inform you after that happened.)

3. A problem with Communications (When you said this, I thought you meant that.)


Many years ago, Storyvine had a department with two new employees. I was clear in communicating to them what their budget was for a specific project. A few months after the project was completed, I received invoices for 2x more than was budgeted!!! In trying to understand how this happened, we got everyone in the room, including a vendor, and walked through what happened and how to make sure it never happened again. Mostly it came down to communication issues. For example, our vendor was holding invoices back thinking it was helpful to me for cash management. (The opposite was true.)

At the end of the meeting, one of our employees said that was the first time he was ever in a meeting where there was no finger pointing; where instead we really got to the root of the problem and how to move forward. That’s when I knew I finally got this value right. It definitely took me years to get to a point where I could admit my own mistakes, but it’s worth it.

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