Steps to Management Success – Step 40: Accept the Responsibility, Regardless of the Outcome

Written By Rick Frishman Published March 31st, 2010


Accept the Responsibility, Regardless of the Outcome

President Harry Truman had a famous sign on his desk, which read, “The buck stops here.” Well, every manager would do well to develop the same attitude. Mistakes happen because people (and processes) are imperfect—and even though the error may not be your direct fault, if it happened on your watch, accept responsibility.

Nothing is more demoralizing or toxic to an organization than managers who seek to hog all the credit and divert all the blame. Honestly, how would you feel working for such a manager? Enough said!

WHAT IT MEANS: Leadership may not be as complicated as we make it. The bottom line is pretty simple: conduct yourself the way you’d want those under you to. Share the credit with everyone who helped you, and even if you actually did the lion’s share of a particular task, don’t trumpet that fact. Most important of all, admit your mistakes; never blame others.

ACTION PLAN: Review the last mistake you made that you were called on the carpet for. Did you accept full responsibility or did you attempt to dodge and finger-point? Would you have handled it in a different way now, in light of this rule? Many people have a very hard time ever admitting that they’re wrong. As objectively as possible, ask yourself if you are one of them.

EVEN BETTER: Accept that mistakes will happen, and—leading by example—show that the emphasis should not be on blame and punishment, but rather on learning. Who did what is less important than considering what might be done to keep the mistake from happening again. Also, don’t kick a good employee when she is down. People feel bad enough when they screw up. It might be very motivating and “remoralizing” to take that person aside and recommend that she not get too worked up over the error. She is still a valued member of your team. It’s a lesson—perhaps a painful and/or expensive lesson—but it was, after all, a mistake. You will both learn from it, and you will move on.

(Excerpted from: 10 Clowns Don’t Make a Circus. . . and 249 Other Critical Management Success Strategies by Steven Schragis and Rick Frishman)

Roger Due

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