Contrasting Success Factors – Accountability vs. The Blame Game

“Take accountability… Blame is the water in which many dreams and relationships drown” – Steve Maraboli

I’m a little behind in my blog posts this year, probably not the best way to showcase attributes of successful people. I’ll take the blame on that one and chalk it up simply to letting my schedule get overwhelmed. That’s not what successful people do. Then again, successful people take ownership for their actions, don’t they?

I find it amazing how quickly we make excuses or tend to point fingers when things go wrong. I don’t know if this has become a cultural phenomenon, but it sure feels like an epidemic. When things go wrong, we immediately look for someone to blame. Someone who didn’t do their job. Someone who failed to see the warning signs. Someone who simply dropped the ball.

I have a routine I have done every morning now for years. On the way in to the office, I flip between CNN and Fox News, largely for entertainment purposes. I guess I could tune my SiriusXM to the comedy channel, but I find more humor in these two networks. To be fair, they sprinkle in a little bit of news here and there, but most of it is one sided color commentary, and often it’s an amazing example of the blame game on steroids.

That’s just one example. You want another? Watch ESPN’s post game analysis of any major sporting event. Let’s blame the refs. Or the coaching. Or the fans. God forbid we let the players take accountability.

But you don’t even have to turn on the radio or TV to see the blame game in action. I see it nearly every day at the office. Orders that go unfilled because the recruiter didn’t find the right person. We blame the sales person because they didn’t push the candidates hard enough. We blame the client because they gave us crappy business. Time and time again, we find some reason to justify why we failed, and often we don’t stop to look at our own actions to find fault.

“Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” – George Washington Carver

When did we stop owning our actions? Why do we always feel compelled to find fault in others, rather than accepting the responsibility ourselves? The victim mentality never wins, because it fails to recognize the impact of our own actions on the outcome. Left to the extreme, it’s a defeatist attitude – and you can’t be successful in that mindset.

That’s not what successful people do. They own their mistakes. They take responsibility for their failures. And by owning their actions and the resulting outcomes, they are able to adjust, revise, and improve, paving the path for success in future efforts. They look first to themselves and ask whether they have done all they can personally to ensure success.

When it comes to leadership, these same individuals go a step further. When things go wrong on their team, or with their organization, they take a disproportionate amount of the responsibility. The buck stops with them. They raise their hands and shoulder the blame before any can be cast by others. This action not only gives the team the air-cover to self-diagnose and improve, but it also builds trust and confidence throughout. Team members feel supported and empowered. And in the long term, these teams are often much more successful.

It’s really that simple – you can either spend your time as the victim, pointing the finger at everyone else, or you can be accountable, own your actions, and in turn, control your future. The former rarely leads to success, the latter often defines it.

Where does your finger point?

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