You Can’t Take Credit if You Won’t Accept Blame

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

It’s Monday, and you know what that means. Okay, you know what you would like that to mean. Back to bed for another hour or two is what I’m thinking. I actually slept pretty well for a change, but only if we’re grading on a curve. You know, like when the teacher said, “Everybody failed this test, so I guess I have to give you all a C.” Like that ever happened. We just got extra homework.

I had a couple of teachers who could accept credit for the whole class getting it wrong. But that didn’t happen very often. Most blamed it on excessive talking and the entire class, including the teacher’s pet, not paying attention. Oddly enough, that was a great life lesson because it prepared us for the rules of accountability in the “real” world.

And we all know how those rules work. It’s like an old country song written from the perspective of a truck. “There’d be no truck drivers if it wasn’t for us trucks … no double-clutching, gear-jamming, coffee-drinking nuts.” Okay, it was a little cute. In one line, the “truck” laments, “If we’re on time he takes the credit, when we’re late I get the blame …”

If you’re nodding your head right now and thinking about anything other than that old song, we need to talk. Because either you’ve been subjected to that philosophy, or it’s your mantra. And I get it. Accepting responsibility for failure is never an easy thing to do, especially if there’s somebody else you can blame. “What do you expect when you work with morons?”

Sadly, we’ve all heard that excuse a few times too many. And to be fair, I’ve worked for some great people over the years. People who, when things go wrong, step up and say, “I must not have explained it correctly. Let’s figure out what went wrong and fix it.” People like that, you’ll follow to the ends of the earth. That’s why they’re called leaders.

But I’ll never forget the day a manager called me into his office to complain about shipping delays that were caused by something my team was not allowed to touch. Yet still, he still gave me a stern warning that, “If we don’t start shipping something in the next two weeks, I won’t be here anymore. And I won’t be the first to go!”

That same manager admonished me when I spoke with him about declining morale. “This company does not have a morale problem … YOU have a morale problem!” He wasn’t referring to me personally, but to the guys who worked for me. If they weren’t happy, it was my fault. Got it. “Can I make some changes, then?” “Not if you want to keep your job!”

We’ve all worked for people like that. When I was in the Navy, we called it “hiding under their shoulder-boards.” It was a reference to those little gold bands on an officer’s shoulders. The more bands they had, the more damage they could cause and the less any of us could complain. Thankfully, most learned a thing or two about leadership on the way up. Most.

So, here’s the question. What kind of leader are you? When things go right, do you puff out your chest and tell everybody how great you are, or do you acknowledge those who helped make it happen? And when things go wrong, do you accept responsibility, or pass the buck? Not just on the job, but in life. You know, where it really counts.

If you want an honest answer to that question, ask your kids. Or just look at how you interact with them. When they mess up, do you look for fault in them, or yourself? There could be any number of reasons they didn’t do as expected. And make no mistake, at least half are factors they control. But where does that leave the other half? Ah, now it’s getting real.

And odds are, if you’re that way with others, you’re the same way with yourself. Any mistakes you make can never be your fault – something or somebody else must be to blame. That’s the only possibility, because you do everything right and would never make such a bone-headed mistake. But beyond the bravado, you know the truth. We all do.

Excuses may hide your flaws (for now), but they also block your ability to rise above those shortcomings. Success isn’t about doing everything right the first time. It’s about learning from our failures so we can grow into the person we need to be. One who not only has the ability to succeed, but for whom success is the only natural result.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

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