Learning to take responsibility for our actions is perhaps one of the most challenging lessons we have to learn as human beings. We have no problem taking responsibility for our achievements but it is a lot more difficult when we get it wrong. As leaders, this is even worse as usually our actions are more public so taking responsibility for them means admitting to people (usually more than one) that we got it wrong. This is a difficult thing to do however avoiding responsibility means making excuses. Sometimes we get so good at these that we almost convince ourselves that it was someone else’s fault. Contrary to what you might think, I believe taking responsibility builds trust and actually opens the door to opportunity.
Admitting our mistakes builds trust with others as often they already know who is at fault, and avoiding taking responsibility diminishes trust in a relationship. As humans, we are all going to make mistakes and admitting them is a very simple but powerful connector between individuals and also between a leader and their team. Who would you trust more, someone who took responsibility for and admitted their mistakes to you, or someone who kept their mistakes to themselves and never talked openly to you about them?
Taking responsibility actually opens up possibilities for us. If we make excuses or avoid a problem or mistake we have made, chances are that we won’t learn from it as much as we could. It is probable that we will modify our behaviour, as even if we don’t admit we are wrong, we will still likely feel that way (which is not a nice feeling to carry). Taking responsibility means that we can review the decision/incident looking to identify what went wrong and why. To add even more value to this process, taking responsibility allows you to invite others to review with you so their perspective is obtained. It is during this process that opportunities often open up. I recently heard of the CEO of one of the top tech companies in the world, when asked if he could rewrite history what mistakes would he wipe so it would be as though they never happened, he replied, "None of them as that would be to rob me of some of my greatest learning."
Maybe there are some things in your life or business that you’ve almost convinced yourself, aren’t your responsibility. It may be a good time to review your position as you could be denying yourself the opportunity to build trust or increase learning.
I hope that you all have a great Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year. I hope you are able to take some time over the festive season to reflect on what has gone well for you this year and what hasn’t gone so well in order to make 2019 the year you want it to be.