There is a school of thought that says we should take responsibility for everything, 100%. Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles, is one supporter of this theory.
Can we always take 100% responsibility?
Even when it is clearly the actions of others that have produced the undesired results?
The answer is yes, we can.
The great thing about taking responsibility is that it’s empowering. It gives you the ability to avoid feeling like a victim, to own a situation.
Your taking responsibility does not excuse others for their ill behaviour or misguided choices; what it does is give you some of your power back. When you take ownership of your role in any given situation you become an active participant and not a passive bystander.
It is easier to lay blame, sometimes that could be our default response but it doesn’t achieve much and it can have a long-term negative effect on your team, particularly the person you are laying the blame on.
As leaders, it is our responsibility to share the credit and take the blame. That’s what good leaders do. It is a clear sign that you are in control and ready to step up when things don’t go according to plan. Most strong leaders would prefer to take responsibility and control of a situation than passively accept that the person they are handing responsibility to are steering the course.
After all, when you take responsibility you have the ability to review the role you played in producing the outcome. You will develop and grow from identifying where you may have made a poor decision, or neglected to check up on something. You can’t control the behaviour or decision-making processes of others so if they are solely responsible then you are giving them full control of the situation and outcome.
So how do we take responsibility when we are unhappy with an outcome that others have produced?
This is the technique I use:
I begin by consciously avoiding bringing blame to the table. No matter how foolhardy I believe someone has been, it’s simply not an option. This doesn’t mean that others are not held accountable, it simply means it is not about blaming and shaming. Blame involves criticism while feedback means sticking to the facts and working towards improving the ways things get done.
Reviewing the situation from my perspective, how would I do things differently? There are usually a few answers there that would tell me how I could have avoided the outcome and how I can take responsibility. Did I delegate to the wrong person? Did I not spend enough time on due diligence? You can see where I’m going with this line of thinking. There is always a way we can take responsibility. In fact, as a leader, we should.
By using the gift of hindsight we can benefit and grow from our mistakes. We can also allow our team members and contribute to their leadership skills. You will be leading by example and showing them how to take responsibility for their actions. Everyone will benefit from the exercise.
“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” — Theodore Roosevelt