How can you best protect yourself as a leader when you experience intense workload, key members from your team are missing, your direct reports start complaing about you and your leadership style, and issues start escalating? How to best play the ‘blame game’ or avoid it completely?
Great question about a difficult topic. Everyone who is a leader will go through tough times with too much work and too few resources – and often a sense of insufficiency. In those times, trust within the team or from the outside will be running low.
The most important action is to restore trust. It is not about protecting yourself as a leader, nor is it about playing a blame game, or any other game, for that matter. It is only about restoring trust.
How do you restore trust? It starts with authentic discussions that are deep, not superficial. As the leader, you need to initiate those discussions. They can happen 1-on-1 with members of the team, and they can happen in group.
There is an elephant in the room, and it needs to be lifted up on the table and discussed openly. This can be a painful moment, especially for the leader who probably is at least partially to blame for it. But it has to be done. Once the elephant has been openly identified and discussed, people can direct their attention on actions that will deal with the elephant. Slowly but surely, if good actions are taken, trust will be restored and the team can start operating well again.
This was a quick and generic response to your question. Each situation is unique, and you will need to think through how you best deal with what you have at hand. Acknowledge the true problem openly, agree on concrete actions to alleviate it, and in that way slowly build back trust. When that happens, the team will again start to accept the leadership of their boss.