It seems as though we live in an age when nobody is capable of taking responsibility for anything and it’s easy to blame everyone else for our problems. Our politicians are an easy example. The economy, the environment, climate change, water quality, healthcare, and anything else you can name is always the fault of the other party or another country. For anyone who doesn’t think this filters down all the way into your business and your home, think again. Leadership is always from the top down. Now, don’t take that to mean you can blame politicians for workplace problems or your children’s behavior. It’s time to teach personal responsibility to your employees, your children, and yes…yourself.
The latin phrase ‘mea culpa‘ translates loosely as ‘through my fault‘. Let me tell you the story that inspired this post. This morning I was driving my 2 youngest to school, as I normally do, when my 11 year old son realized he wore his snow boots but forgot to pack his sneakers for gym class. His first thought was to create blame by saying, “I was in a rush and couldn’t remember everything.” When I pointed out that he spent time sitting at the kitchen island listening to music and should have had plenty of time to pack all he needed, he became sullen.
MEA CULPA – This is where I need to take some blame. My response was punitive, not supportive or instructional. Instead of pointing out what he did wrong, which it could be said that I had a right to do as a parent, I should have set a better example by using a coach’s questioning process such as;
- You chose to blame someone or something for rushing you. Let’s turn that around. Who was responsible for remembering your sneakers?
- Was anyone else actually rushing you?
- What could you do next time to help you remember?
- What can we do to fix this today?
This type of process helps a person take back responsibility and release the habit of casting blame. Most people, who cast blame, feel that it gives them power by transferring responsibility to others. In truth, taking responsibility gives you power and casting blame gives it to others. Think about it this way, did my son hold power by blaming someone for rushing him or give that other person power over him causing him to forget his shoes?
The next time a child or employee comes to you with an excuse as to why something couldn’t be done, look at where the blame is being cast and ask if that is truly where it belongs. I would bet that 9 times out of 10, it belongs in our own hands and when we recognize that, we command the power to make changes and get the job done. When we give that power to others by casting blame, we give up the power to create solutions.
And, of course (leadership from the top down, always), look deeply at how we speak to others as leaders. Are we using phrases that accept responsibility and create power, or are we setting the example of giving it all away. The harsh fact of leadership is that our children and our employees will do what we do, not what we tell them to do.
If you found value in this article, please share. If you would like to me speak with your staff about leadership and responsibility, I would be honored to do so. Let’s make 2017 the year of taking back the power by demonstrating better personal responsibility. Mea Culpa!