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Why it’s Your Fault All of the Time

You are working as a team to find a solution to a problem. Your supervisor has designated you as the leader of the group and given you a deadline of Friday for completion. A key member of your group decides to phone in sick on Thursday after a night of partying. They have not finished their part of the project.

When you present your report, your boss points out the weakness in the solution. It’s all based on your teammate not showing up for work on Thursday. What would you say or do?

According to the policies in training organizations such as West Point, it is your fault. You would be expected to step up and say to your supervisor, “I failed you and the team.”

But why would you say that if your failure was because of the absent colleague?

The simple answer is because it then makes you look for solutions and be action oriented instead of maintaining a “victim” posture.

Now, it’s not just you as the leader that needs to take this stance. Everyone in the group needs to understand why it is their responsibility that the presentation was less than acceptable and they own the failure.

If you knew the person wasn’t coming in for work on Thursday, why wouldn’t the team step up and find a way to accomplish his tasks? The goal of the team is to win and just as a victory is shared by all, so is a failure.

Think of what you see when you watch a sport team lose in overtime, or on the last play of the game. Do they blame the kicker who missed a field goal in the dying seconds, or the goalie in hockey who let in that winning goal in overtime? Great teams and great leaders all own the team failures.

In politics and government agencies, we see many examples of the failure of leadership to understand this concept. The person who is caught stealing millions of dollars from student athletics in London Ontario is sent to prison, but no one else owns the problem. No one else is held accountable. The Director of Education “retires” to a life teaching at a University, but never acknowledges his own failure. The elected Board Officials also refuse to take ownership for this failure.

You can start now helping your child become a great leader. As I state in my book, expose them to win-lose situations, and when they lose, teach them to own that loss. It will motivate them to work harder, sacrifice more and work as a teammate, not an individual. Blaming the coaches or referees is not something you should teach them to do. Learning to say, “I failed, I lost and this is what I am going to do about it,” is the healthiest action to take.

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