It happens, you go into a situation and needed to make a call on something. You only have a couple of avenues to go and you decide. Then it happens, the decision you made is the wrong one and things didn’t work out well. It happens, everybody has done it in one form or another. What happens next is key.

In my last blog I talked about accountability now I want to talk about accepting that accountability and owning it.

When things go well at work some people will gladly raise their hand and say “That was all on me”.  Personally I think that is a bit selfish, most work done now involves multiple individuals, indirectly or directly, to get it done. It should always be team first, in my opinion. What I find interesting is when things go wrong for the individuals who pat themselves on the back and how they react. In my experience those individuals will lay blame on others, even when it was them that made the decision.

“It didn’t work because the others didn’t understand what I wanted done.”

“<insert name here> messed up.”

“There was nothing I could do”

It is so easy to blame others and make them look bad. I get it, I used to do the same thing early in my career.  What changed for me is a comment I got from one of my leadership mentors: “own it”. At first I thought of it as something that would help me become a good leader, and it did. Over time though I find it has a much broader scope. I started telling all my directs and teams to “own it” as well. I didn’t care if they made a bad decision what I cared was that they saw the mistake, took control of it and learned from it. We are not machines with a decision matrix, we are human that have way too many variables that are involved with most decisions at work that we make our best guess most of the time.

Sometimes the decisions are made and there are outside forces that make it go south. I would still take ownership of what I did, state what I didn’t foresee and ensure that I would keep what happened in mind the next time I was in the same situation.

Being accountable for the decision should be less stressful then playing the blame game.

Now I know that after you read that either your eyes rolled or at “pffft” sound was made. Hear me out on this and you will see what I mean.

Say “oh s***” only once (maybe twice)

Going back to my main stress relief, Jiu Jitsu there is something I always bring up when I teach a technique. I call it the “oh S***” moment. It is the point when your has made a mistake and you begin to capitalize. Some of my students when they compete, same with me, will have that moment where we say it to ourselves and get beat. What myself, our main instructor and the other instructors instill is learn from what happened and not dwell on the loss. On the mat there are so many variables that are in play, the opponent, the referee, the noise in the gym, the wait to get the match going etc… In the end though it is you stepping on the mat and your decisions on how to approach the match that matter.

Same in the work environment it is up to you. Now there are group decisions or consensus done to make choices, yet although it is a group setting each individual should still take the accountability for what was done. What is important that if things go bad everyone has learned from it and will have a different thinking process next time.

Taking the higher ground and have a plan

With ownership also comes taking the higher ground, and having a plan to get past the situation. Even if you have a boss (see how I said boss and not leader? I will get into that later) that is angry with what was done and doesn’t really help the situation, you can hold your head up knowing you have a way to get past the new obstacles. Always have a plan B ready, you don’t have to have one done when you make the first decision just be prepared. I have gone into situations where I had to come up with alternate plans, sometimes it takes me a few minutes or it takes a couple of days it is all matter of what is going on.


It is all about support. To me a boss will just get angry, muscle their way past the situation and play the blame game. A leader will support the decision and appreciate that you have a course of action, and if they don’t agree with it they will work with you on a path that you both can agree on.

There is a story out there about a VP that made a decision to sponsor a project that cost millions of dollars. It was a long project, it was way over budget and in the end it was trashed. The VP was called into the CEO office where he thought the worse. The CEO talked about the project then gave him a new direction to follow. The VP said thanks and mentioned that he was prepared to clean out his office. The response he got was not that surprising coming from a good leader.

CEO “did you learn from what happened?”

VP “Yes,”

CEO”Good, then why would I let you go after spending millions of dollars on your education”

You never lose, you learn. Making bad decisions happen, it is how you and your leader react that will make set the tone for success.


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