How to Advance Your Leadership Out of the Blame Game

AdVance Leadership » How to Advance Your Leadership Out of the Blame Game

Welcome to Friday 411, Issue #009. The gap between a good leader and a great leader is as small as 25%. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll advance your leadership out of the blame game.

In 2015, the Seattle Seahawks were inches away from winning their second Super Bowl. With only 26 seconds to play, the Seahawks had a second-and-goal on the 1-yard line. Marshawn Lynch, a Running Back, had led the team by rushing for 102 yards against the New England Patriots. The expected call would be for Lynch to pound the ball into the end zone.

Instead, Pete Carroll, Head Coach of the Seahawks, called a passing play. Quarterback Russell Wilson dropped back and gunned a pass toward Ricardo Lockette. Patriots defender, Malcolm Butler, stepped in and intercepted the pass. The Seahawks lost the Super Bowl.

After the game, Pete Carroll said, “That’s my fault, totally.” Carroll didn’t throw the interception. Carroll wasn’t even on the field. But as the team’s leader, he was responsible for the outcome of the game.

1 Insight

It’s human nature to look for someone else to blame. In a previous newsletter, we introduced the Responsibility Diagram with three layers of authority:

  • Ownership
  • Influence
  • Subordination

Good leaders understand their areas of authority. They step up and take the fall for anything within their sphere of ownership. We call this taking 100% Responsibility. If you haven’t advanced in your leadership to consistently hold yourself accountable for everything in your area of ownership, read no further. Start with building the habit of owning your own attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, choices, actions, habits, perceptions, and stories you tell yourself.

If you’ve mastered taking 100% responsibility, it’s time to move on to the next level in your leadership—taking 125% Responsibility.

To understand what taking 125% looks like, move to your area of influence. In this area, you cannot take responsibility for others’ attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, choices, actions, habits, perceptions, and stories they tell themselves. But you can take responsibility for the outcomes.

Pete Carroll could not control what the players on the field did. He could only influence them. Even so, he could take responsibility for the outcome of the game.

In the same way, the parent of a preschooler cannot control if their child decides to bite another child. But they can take responsibility by reconciling with the injured child’s parents. A sales manager cannot control if their team follows expectations. But they can take responsibility if the team fails to meet monthly sales goals.

125% Responsibility means that leaders take full responsibility for their team’s losses. However, they give full credit to their team for the victories.

What do you think Pete Carroll would have done if the Seahawks had won the game? If he was a great leader, he would have attributed the success to his players. He took responsibility, but he would not have taken credit.

When a preschooler comforts a bitten child, his parents would not take credit for their child’s compassion. The sales manager of a team who met their monthly sales goal would not take credit for their achievement.

A side note about the term, “125% Responsibility”— When we’ve introduced this concept to groups, there is always at least one team member who pushes back on the name of this idea. This is typically our most literal-thinking, logical-reasoning, mathematics-minded person who gets caught up in percentages. They miss that 125% Responsibility is an abstract concept and linger on trying to figure out the possibility of taking 25% more over 100%. Maybe we need a new name.

By building the habit of taking 125% responsibility, you will notice several side effects:

  • As you stop looking for others to blame, your stress levels will decrease.
  • As you take control of outcomes, your feelings of helplessness will decrease.
  • By acting in a more selfless manner, you’ll experience healthier relationships.
  • By claiming failures and praising accomplishments, you’ll build trust in your team.
  • As you model 125% Responsibility, those around you will rise up and take ownership of outcomes as well.

1 Action

This week, watch for an outcome in your area of influence. If it’s a win, praise it. If it’s a loss, claim it.


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