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The importance of taking responsibility for our mistakes

When I speak with young entrepreneurs, one of the first topics I cover is responsibility. The reason I mention it so prominently, is that the decision to accept responsibility and then back it up with action, is a prerequisite for commercial success.

take responsibility

What we learn, when things go wrong

If you want to really know a person’s attitude to responsibility, you need to see what they do when they make a costly mistake. The way they choose to deal with it will usually fall into one of two broad categories.

Here’s what we find:

  1. Some people make a mistake, take responsibility for what they did, then work to put things right. Their reputation grows as does their self-belief and confidence.
  2. Other people make a mistake, dodge responsibility, then walk away – leaving you with a problem they created. Their reputation plummets and they miss an opportunity to grow.

Paying the price

Those who avoid responsibility end up paying a hefty price. You see, it’s impossible to have that mindset and still grow in any meaningful, positive way. When they make a mistake, particularly a big mistake, they look for someone or something to blame. There’s no growth there. The growing only happens when they accept responsibility, dig deep, deal with the situation and THEN learn from it.

The legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali, once said he only learned how great he truly was, when he was knocked down for the first time and decided to get back up again. The same is true of everyone. People only really know what they’re are made of, when faced with adversity. By dodging responsibility, they never develop the mental toughness to rise to the next challenge, which creates a cycle that persists until they decide to break it.

No one needs that kind of reputation!

Of course, failing to take responsibility and walking away from problems they created also seriously damages their reputation.

Social networks allow people to share experiences faster and with massively more people than ever before. Those who have that irresponsible attitude to business, soon learn that it doesn’t take long before their marketplace, co-workers and competitors find out.

People still value the same things

Whilst the technology we use in business has changed massively over the years, the nature of people has remained the same. The marketplace still places a huge value on; trust, courage, integrity, leadership and honesty. We can demonstrate all of those values, by accepting responsibility for our actions.

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s how we deal with them, that counts.

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Jim Connolly

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18 Comments

  1. This is so true Jim.

    I had a supplier let me down last new years eve and it lost me thousands in sales. He said he was sorry but did nothing to put it right. I complained and he still did nothing. I put it on Facebook and local businesses supported me by boycotting his company. He then decided to do something about it, when it was too late. No one wins when you deal with irresponsible assholes.

    Thanks for sharing this so others can avoid my problem.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Andre. I have had a similar challenge recently, though I don’t know if they are planning on fixing things, as they screwed up just before Christmas and are only back to work today.

      I love that quote from your comment: “No one wins when you deal with irresponsible assholes.”

      Very true, sir.

    • @Andre I hope your situation has been fully resolved.

      @Jim This has been a very timely post for me for many reasons. Thank you.

  2. James, this is a very important post.

    One of the defining factors behind every leader is the acceptance that the buck stops with them.

    I wish those who lack the basic human values would get the hell out of business and stop polluting us with their irresponsible, cowardly behaviour.

    Thanks,

    Jackie X

    • Hi Jackie. Thanks for expressing your point so clearly. You are quite right, leaders always accept responsibility – that the buck stops with them.

      I thought about your coward remark and you may have a point. Irresponsible people get pushed around and usually have a lifestyle, which supports that.

  3. I agree. Everyone makes mistakes; it’s how you deal with it that defines you. This includes whether or not you correct your behavior/methods/process in order to avoid repeating the mistake.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Bridget. Firstly, welcome to the blog. You make a superb point about the decision to learn and improve or carry on repeating the same mistakes.

      It’s a choice.

      Thanks for the feedback.

  4. Love, love, LOVE this one Jim.

    You’ve been essential reading over the holidays. Thanks for showing up for your readers. We appreciate it.

  5. When we make a mistake, we should take the responsibility. If We try to blame others for our mistake, things will remain unresolved. The fact is we are human beings. So mistakes are natural. We should concentrate on finding the causes behind it and how to avoid those mistakes in future. Only then our dreams will come true. Thanks!

  6. Seth godins been writing about grit lately and how people who are handed wealth or born into wealth never develop it. I think this has lots to do lack of responsibility.

    Thanks for a timely post though I wish i’d read it a year ago.

    • Good point, Louis. I wrote a post a couple of years ago about my upbringing as the son of penniless immigrants. I used to say it was amazing that I managed to achieve anything of note given my background.

      I then discovered that my poor childhood was a HUGE asset.

      Thanks for the feedback and welcome to the blog.

  7. Great post Jim. I believe that life dishes the same things out to us until we get the lesson on how to master it. Fight! don’t flight. Conquer your challenges thereby allowing yourself to grow as you mentioned in this post.

  8. People who take the flight response will spend their lives running. Accept responsibility and make the necessary changes. Failing is not falling down, it is staying down or running away.

  9. Tough one this. It’s so easy to look for scapegoats. Taking full responsibility is so important if one wants to succeed in business. Better yet, cut back on making mistakes :-)

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