Credit for success belongs to my clients, and blame for failures belongs to me

What I've learned in 15 years of consulting: “Remain unmoved by praise or blame.”

Credit for success belongs to my clients, and blame for failures belongs to me
Photo by Julian Hochgesang / Unsplash

It feels great to take credit for a job well done. Consulting is a job where that never happens. You can’t let it happen. Here’s why:

An effective consultant is someone whose mere presence…

  • Helps a client identify problems in their business.
  • Helps a client solve those problems.
  • And—here’s the important part—helps a client take credit for any/all success.

Producing bravery; producing conditions for success

You can use this perspective to inspire bravery, by saying to a client: Hey. Let’s try this together. If it works, you get the credit. If it doesn’t work, I’ll take the blame.

Or you can internalize it, and be the only person in the room who’s not worried about outcomes. Many a project is doomed to failure because everyone’s fixated on whether or not it’ll succeed.

Often in a consulting arrangement, I have time/budget to try one or two approaches with a client—and those will fail. Great! If I’ve done my job, the client will have the next couple approaches lined up and the methods and skills needed to give them a try without me kicking around. They can succeed after the consultant is gone.

“Remain unmoved by praise or blame”

This is not new a new perspective. It’s not specific to consulting.

Instead, it comes from being the kind of person who is attentive to the situation and the other people in it, rather than being the kind of person who’s worried about the past (with stories of how things got broken in the first place) or the future (and terrors or failures it may entail). By being—and here’s the cliche, but it’s what the cliche means—being in the moment.

Here’s Upaya Zen Center’s samu gatha (a chant shared before starting work practice). You’ll find me reciting it before joining your meeting, and, when I have the presence of mind, before I do the dishes:

“May this work be done in a spirit of generosity,
Not driven by ego, greed, or delusion.
May kindness sustain us and prevail in conflict.
And compassion guide us and lead us to understanding.
May we rejoice in the successes of others.
And remain unmoved by praise or blame.”


  • Always take the blame, share the credit.
  • This lets you not worry about outcomes or future activities...
  • ...Which helps you pay attention to what's happening today.
  • “Remain unmoved by praise or blame.”