We have talked about making decisions and and choosing what we believe is the best thing to do or say either personally or for the team we are leading. But sometimes leaders make mistakes so how do leaders handle that? Leaders take “responsibility”. If they make a mistake real leaders do not start pointing the finger and blaming others. They admit when they are wrong, apologize as is needed and then try to make things right. In other words they “fix it’.
It is very easy to get caught up in the moment when we have made a mistake and start pointing fingers. But when we begin blaming others we really start diminishing the strength of the team or at the very least of those around us. If we are a leader we would be best to follow the advice of Peter Drucker who said: “The leaders who work most effectively…never say ‘I’…They don’t think ‘I’. They think ‘we’; they think ‘team’…They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.”
How does taking responsibility impact people around us? It creates a trust in you as a leader, it allows others to feel comfortable in risk taking and most important they know that the leader will share the success of the team with crediting everyone. With that sort of trust others in the group are willing to take responsibility for any mistakes they make also. I am reminded of the thing my father told me when I was young. He told me that when we point a finger at others, we have to remember that we have 3 other fingers pointing back at us. Blaming others accomplishes nothing and fixes nothing.
Making good choices and taking responsibility for our work and what we say and do builds great teams. As I tell all of our students, “The most important team we are on is our family.” So do you take your jobs, chores, and work you do seriously? Are you responsible to get things done? Do you show you are responsible for the mistakes you make?
As I discussed sportsmanship with our classes one thing came up that I found very interesting. Sportsmanship is very much like empathy. When we look at what we do through the eyes of others, when we put ourselves in their shoes we know immediately if what we are doing demonstrates sportsmanship.
I know that when I think about who I like to compete with it is those that don’t complain if they lose or gloat when they win. They don’t yell at me if I make a mistake, and they don’t make fun of me. They won’t push me and always try to make things fair. Now if they are the things that make me feel good about playing with someone, then I want to be sure to do the same for them. (that is empathy)
This is a great time to teach our children about empathy using sports or games. They can see and feel it and that experience will have the greatest impact on them.
We don’t always get it right. We do mess up. We say things we want to take back and do things that are not safe or fair and they do hurt others. We may make a big mess of things at times. Benjamin Franklin said, “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” Have you found yourself sometimes wishing you didn’t say something or do something due to momentary lack of self control? Of course – all of us have.
Just recently in a meeting of about 60 people I called out unnecessarily the faults of a group of individuals. I thought I was doing it in a kind yet reminding sort of way, only to realize as it came out of my mouth that it did not come out the way I wanted it to. It took me months to overcome that slip, to regain the confidence of the group. These things happen, but the question is what can and should we do?
Saying “I am sorry”, is so powerful when done in a sincere manner. When we say those words we are taking the responsibility for the words or actions that we took. Whether the act was by accident or a bad choice we must first take the responsibility and then make amends. To apologize can take a great deal of courage and self control. It could be that what we said was not wrong it just may have been “the wrong thing at the tempting moment”, and we may be embarrassed by our action. We may be scared too. If we are a small child and we know we have done something that hurt someone or that is not in line with our family rules / principles, we may be scared and it will take a lot to admit we are wrong and work on making things better.
I might suggest that how we do this is just as important as doing it. Whether we are kids or adults, looking the other person/s in the eye and admitting our mistake and then asking how we can make things better takes a great deal of strength – but in the end our ability to do so and to listen to the feelings of others will have a great impact on the relationship of all parties. Teaching our children how to do this by role playing and by example is key to this aspect of self control.
Recently I read a book about success. The very first or second thing in the book was the question, Do you take responsibility for your life? I thought this was interesting from the point of view that we hear individuals young and old who want to push off that responsibility from themselves onto anything else. Then there is the thought that there is no in-between. You either take responsibility all of the time or you don’t.
When we take that responsibility is when we can begin to have success in life, because we recognize that the results we have achieved, good or bad, are the results of the choices we have made.
The same is true with the question of dependability. Dependable individuals make mistakes. But when they do they do 3 things.
- Take responsibility
- Make it right
With the world filled with individuals who are quick to say, “It’s not my fault”, “It’s not my job”, “I forgot”, and every other excuse in the world, it is great to be around people who take the responsibility and in lieu of trying to lay blame, look for ways to solve problems or take on challenges that need attention.
That is what dependability is about. Being honest with ourselves and others, being dependable even when it is not comfortable, not making excuses or laying blame, is the way we act as leaders and we gain the trust of those around us.
When a child is learning to walk, we cheer their every attempt. Finally after many “failures” they gain a single step and then all of us cheer wildly. One day in a Tiger Tot class one of the siblings just about a year old took his first step. All the moms were cheering right in class. The young child takes all this in and keeps trying until finally walking is no big deal.
But sometimes as parents when the child is older we try to lessen the suffering of not reaching a goal or success. We might do it by taking the blame on our selves or by punishing the child hoping that he will learn not to make that mistake again. In the end when we make to big a deal about failures or mistakes, we are not helping them keep from making the same mistake again.
In fact what we may be doing is ensuring that the child may not want to risk again. They feel the need to cower and hide from opportunities that could, possibly, maybe, end up in a mistake. They may be afraid to explore their own dialogue. In fact they may end up being driven by external forces in making decisions about what is right for them to do. Once any of us look at the external forces for making a decision choosing what we are willing to risk, our confidence suffers.
We are now open to being swayed by whatever the latest fashion or trend is and not taking the time to ask ourselves, “What is the right thing to do,” “for me” not anyone else just me. As parents our responsibility is to let the child know how remarkable it was that they made the attempt and point out the good that came from it, including the the things they did well within their failed attempt.
We must be careful not to dwell on the mistake, but to celebrate the successes and move forward. Allow ourselves or our children to work out how to overcome the adversity.