Sometimes at work we get presented with problems that we don’t want to deal with. It reminds me of when I was in the school and I would look down to avoid eye contact if the teacher asked a question I wasn’t prepared to answer. Similarly this can happen at work. A problem occurs and everyone wants to look away because they feel unprepared to offer a solution. These challenges are intimidating; and because nobody else wants them, I suggest that you should run to them.
After speaking with successful leaders and listening to many leadership presentations, a theme I’ve identified is that they learned the most when dealing with a crisis or project that nobody else wanted. Which begs the question, how do you deal with these events?
The answer is by taking accountability. Really this is true whether you are coping with a crisis or any workplace mishap. When you fully own a problem and you hold yourself accountable to the results, you learn fast. With your reputation at stake, it’s unlikely you’ll repeat mistakes and you will invest more energy into a successful end result. Therefore when leaders give the advice to run to challenges, it makes perfect sense to me.
Sadly, as a problem emerges many people do the opposite of taking accountability – they start finger pointing. I cringe when I see this. In contrast, I am inspired by and absolutely respect the people who say – it doesn’t matter who is at fault, right now let’s focus on finding a solution. In this way, they help people put down their guards so that a collaborative effort can get underway to relieve the immediate issue.
To instill this discipline in yourself I recommend the following actions:
1. Own results, especially when they are bad – A leader I met early in my career used to say that when the shit hit the fan he was the umbrella that protected his team. That’s not to say he didn’t turn around and pursue coaching and corrective action, but he also didn’t sacrifice his employees so that he could save face. He owned their mistakes as he owned his own mistakes and he is well respected for it.
2. Take action when others are still – Don’t let stagnant behavior dissuade you from taking action. If you know what to do and are motivated, forge ahead. Others will notice and follow your lead. Nobody comes to work wanting to do a bad job, but sometimes they don’t know how to move forward and this prevents them from finding the answers they need to deliver success. You can show them the way.
3. Work around roadblocks – When a person, technology or other object becomes an obstacle, get creative. Look at your network to see who else you can work with, and look at other projects that may have experienced similar hardships. Frequently in life, patterns repeat, the answer you are looking for may already be available but not in the place you are looking.
Following the 3 steps above will demonstrate to others your commitment to personal accountability. If you learn from it and follow through with corrective actions, running to a difficult situation can lead to a huge reputational win.