The attraction of owning it

I was recently asked to consider, as an employee, what I look for in an organization.

I can be shallow at times and my immediate thoughts were: a good cook, great dancer, and an ability to gauge and react appropriately to my moods….uh, I mean, good perqs, willingness to have fun, and flexibility in my schedule.

My filter was working that day and I only thought those things.  What I said out loud (thankfully) was: accountability, communication, and openness.

Do they sound like buzzwords? A bit mothership-ish?  Perhaps, but I stand by them.

Let me reassure you.  I do not have the inclination to write a blog post that covers all  three points.  It’s way too reminiscent of writing an essay and frankly with my tendency to go off on tangents, and an inability to create articulate closing paragraphs, this would be waaaaaaay too long.

So let me focus on the one that resonates the most with me: accountability.

I am a fairly perceptive person and I also have two teenagers, so I am also very familiar with the art of dodge and detract (“Why do you always think it was me that ate the last of the cookies and put the bag back empty?!”  “Nobody told me that I was supposed to feed the cat?”  “I missed the bus because you didn’t wake me up early enough” “The teacher didn’t tell us to do that”)

So when it comes to professionals who won’t accept responsibility or be accountable, I have very little patience. After all, unless I have a picture that you made out of macroni and pipe cleaners tucked away in my basement, I have no instinct to tolerate your shortcomings.

Alright, let’s just get it out there.  We all make mistakes.

We all give the wrong answer, provide inaccurate information, miss a scheduled meeting, forget to do something, or hit Reply All.  Everyone has done these things, but not everyone is willing to admit it.  Well, at least not without making up some elaborate excuse, or worse, blaming someone else, for it.

Repeat after me: I fucked up.  Sorry about that.  (And if possible) I will correct it.

That’s owning up to what you have done.  Now take it one step further…how about owning what you have said you would do and be held responsible for the outcome.

For managers this means that you are not only accountable for your work, but also for the deliverables of your team.  Sound daunting? It can be, but that’s why they gave you the cubicle with direct exposure to natural light.

So when your boss asks you for an update and you realize that someone on your team hasn’t done their part – do not dodge and detract…do not point and blame…accept and admit that you did not follow-up, fix it, and then move on.

And when that really, really innovative program you pushed for and launched finally crashes and burn…do not blame IT…do not blame the consultants that you overpaid to tell you it was a “best practice” (which is essentially the professional version of “all the cool kids are doing it”)…do not fault senior management for not properly supporting it, and last of all…do not suggest that the project team wasn’t committed.  Own it, learn from it, and move on.

When it comes down to it, accountability is probably one of the best ways to attract and retain people.

Because you could cook me the best meal, go all Footloose on the dance floor, and let me sit and read for hours, but none of that would be worth having to listen to you complain about how everyone is out to screw you over or how it’s never your fault.


2 thoughts on “The attraction of owning it

  1. Word.

    I wonder if those who are loath to admit mistakes are prone to do so because they also have hard time forgiving others? I like the expression “magnificent failure”, since it’s got a hint of positive reflection and growth in it, and is born out of really trying for something. Everyone should be able to reflect on a few magnificent failures of their own.

    • You bring up a good point about not being able to forgive others; however, I think that for many it`s a defense mechanism – a way to avoid conflict and to hide the lack of confidence in themselves and their abilities.

      I can completely relate to the idea of “magnificent failure“ and thing it is a great way to explain the value to risk and growth.

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