Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! Too many leaders are defensive. Pride or perfectionism causes them to blame others for problems and issues. If you want to be a great leader, this simply cannot happen. Even when they fail, great leaders believe in their abilities. Acknowledging and learning from mistakes allows you to lead by example and encourages your team to see mistakes not as the end of the line, but as the beginning of growth.
Committed leaders take responsibility for their actions and own their mistakes and shortcomings.
People are very observant and will see right through your cover-up or defensiveness. They may not call you out on it because you are the boss, but they will talk about it with others. If this goes unchecked, it will destroy your reputation and effectiveness as a leader.
Great leaders never look for WHO is right. They look for WHAT IS right!
Here are three things I want you to think about as you consciously take responsibility for problems.
1. It’s not about you!
Business is competitive, and it is tempting to cover your own butt when you or someone on your team makes a mistake. This approach may buy you some time, but people will remember how you behaved. Choosing to protect yourself is a destructive decision, especially for the long-game. Choose to look out for and take care of everyone in your organization.
Q: Have you ever worked for a leader who just wanted to protect themself? How did that affect your morale and productivity? How did other people on your team view that leader?
2. People are smart, and they’re depending on you.
People are more savvy and observant than ever before. Assume that you are always being watched and critiqued as a leader. Your team members will know when you tell a half-truth or an attempt to deflect blame. Too many leaders try to take detours out of tough situations, thinking people might not notice, when the most direct route is right through the problem, in clear view of your people. When there’s a tough situation brewing, they don’t want you to downplay it, protect yourself, or coddle them. They want you to lead.
Q: Describe a time when a leader downplayed the seriousness of an issue to you. How did it make you feel? What was the outcome of the situation? Do you think things could have been different if they had been more direct? Why or why not?
3. It doesn’t matter whose “fault” it is.
The fastest route to earning trust is choosing to own the issue. It doesn’t matter how big or small your role was in creating the situation you’re facing — as the leader, it’s your job to take at least part of the responsibility. You need to do so loudly, visibly, and as soon as possible.
When you own the problem, you can own the solution too. Enlist people to help so they can feel engaged in the solution with you. Instead of spreading blame, spread accountability. You will inspire others to hold themselves accountable for the issues too. This builds long-lasting trust and sets you up for prolonged leadership success.
Q: Why do you think it doesn’t matter who’s fault it is? Do you have difficulty taking responsibility when you feel like the situation is not your fault? Why or why not? Describe a time when you took ownership of a problem you did not cause. What was the outcome?
Choosing to take responsibility has four key steps:
Own the issue.
Deal with it swiftly, honestly, and as completely as possible.
Pledge not to make the same mistake twice.
And then move on.
Q: Which step of the process do you think is most challenging? Why?
Identify one issue where you did not appropriately take responsibility. How did it affect your team? Look back and see if you lost team members in the months that followed that issue. How did it affect your productivity? Look back at the data. Don’t just rely on your memory. Now consider how you could have approached the situation differently and create a plan for how you will respond next time you are dealing with an issue, even if it is not your fault.
What other ways can you build trust with your team? Sometimes it can be necessary to go back and apologize and be open about your decision not to take responsibility. Other times, you can build trust by making deposits in your people. Brainstorm 3 ways that you can build trust with either individuals on your team or your team as a whole. Make sure that you are making these intentional deposits every week! Building trust is not a one-time thing, it is a lifestyle.
One way that you can work on clearly presenting a situation without downplaying its seriousness is eliminating uncertain language from your vocabulary. Google “uncertain language.” You will probably find a list of words like, “sort of,” “maybe,” “possibly,” etc. Look at the list you compile. Do you find yourself saying a lot of these words when you have to have a serious discussion? Making yourself more aware of your language will help you be more clear with your employees and show them that you are taking ownership of the situation.