On your way up the ladder of success, you will encounter situations where things don't always go well. Most people think in a cause and effect mindset, which goes along the lines "if something went wrong, then someone is to blame..."
Blame is like poop, the more that sticks to you, the more you will stink, and the less appealing you will be to others. What others think of you has a big impact on your success at working with others.
To many people, you are guilty until proven innocent. To be blamed for something is a stigma that will haunt you for a long time. For example O. J. Simpson was blamed for murder and although he was not convicted, he is presumed guilty. Or if that example does not work for you, please consider the story of Lindy Chamberlain who lost her child to a dingo, but was falsely accused of murder.
No matter how many years you spend doing good, and it is like a clean white shirt. When some blame sticks to you, that shirt is no longer clean, it will never be the same again.
BART - or Blame Avoidance & Redirection Techniques, is what you need. Imagine yourself as teflon, and nothing sticks to you. Or imagine you are a kung fu master and people are throwing spears at you as you deftly avoid them all. At this point a healthy dose of paranoia is good, since in many cases they are out to get you. If they can't pin you for something it often comes back to them, so they are earnestly going after you.
Make good use of excuses. Have a look here for some ideas. Do not wait until the fecal matter hits the fan to look for an umbrella, have an alibi prepared in advance, and perhaps a backup one too. Be careful not to be seen as always giving excuses. If you overdo it, then it can be seen as a weakness. Try to appear to be part of the solution, rather than the problem.
Some of my favorites are external events, beyond anyone's control, such as the weather, the foreign exchange rates, the economy. They are faceless and you can't cross examine them to find a flaw in the argument.
If all you do is try to dodge the blame, it is like wearing a wedding dress, and playing catch with water balloons filled with grape juice. The balloons will keep bouncing around until one bursts and then someone is going to get messy. It could very easily be you.
You want to make sure that blame goes elsewhere, and that it stays there. Anywhere away from you is good. To be really effective, that has to be planned in advance.
These are good for speading blame around when things don't go well. They can be called task forces, action groups, steering committees, etc. It is hard to pin the blame on an individual, especially if you take care not have you name on any action items. Action items are like grenades in the hands of a four year old. If at a later date, something big goes down, then someone can say that you were responsible for that action item, and it is like you have the grenade in your hand after throwing away the pin.
When someone has to take a fall, you need to make sure it is not you. When the grenade goes off, you have to have someone to dive on top of it for the sake of the greater good. If they don't jump, be prepared to give a subtle push at just the right moment.
You need to set up your scapegoats in advance. You do this in the background, as covertly as possible. Have more than one, in case the first one finds an alibi, then the second one comes into play. If possible, try to use someone who does not report directly to you, or some of the blame might still rub off on you as their supervisor.
A good choice is people who are not there, such as:
- Your predecessor
- Someone who is on leave
- Someone who died recently