World-class soft skill # 3: Taking self-responsibility
Taking self-responsibility and acknowledging that it’s up to you and no-one else to make things happen does not guarantee that you’ll succeed in the world of work (mainly because nothing does), but it will certainly put you on the right track.
Think about this next time that you watch an Olympic event on TV.
The athletes you are seeing compete were not the ones who were sitting by the side-lines waiting for someone to give them the skills and strength that they needed to make it to the Olympics. Each and every athlete who made it to Beijing 2008 is there because day after day they worked very hard to earn their place. Admittedly natural talent and genetics has a place at the Olympics (not every swimmer has size 14 feet like Phelps) but for the most part you’re looking at the individuals who recognize that it’s up to them – and no-one else – to train hard, stay focused, and persevere.
Granted the world of work is not as cut-throat (or as sweaty) as an Olympic event but when it comes to delivering results and making things happen, taking self-responsibility is one of the most powerful things that you can do.
Here are some clues:
- Do not play the blame game. Have you ever worked with someone who plays ‘hot potato’ to deflect responsibility for their well-being? I have. And it’s rather amusing (and sad at the same time) to see them in action coming up with all kinds of excuses to explain why their lives suck. They blame their parents, their friends who take them out drinking during the week, their education (or lack of), the economy and on and on. What do these people think is the worse that can happen if they simply own up to their situation and start taking the steps they need to change things around? Just consider what Dara Torres did to get herself back in shape at 41 and be faster than when she was 21 swimming in the 88 Olympic games.
- Take control. When it’s up to others to make things happen for you – and they don’t – it’s very likely that you’ll end up feeling frustrated. Even if at first things don’t work out for you when you’re in the driver’s seat, think about how awesome you’ll feel when you make it because of your own efforts. Just take a close look at Michael Phelps’ face next time that he wins a gold medal.
- Take full responsibility for your performance. We all have good and bad days. Just think about the US gymnastics team leader Alicia Sacramone’s two ‘atypical’ falls that cost the team the gold medal. But in reality, what’s the worse that can happen if you face the music and admit that you’ve made a mistake? The mishap already happened and the likelihood is that in reality others will forgive you (and may even forget about it). The honorable thing to do is to admit that you’ve blown it, just as Alicia did on national television. In my book it’s not necessary to ask for forgiveness or to dwell on your mistake. It’s much more important to contain the impact of your mistake and to learn from it so that you don’t repeat it.
Feeling inspired? I am. I think I’m ready to write another post!