Accepting Credit and Blame, or How to Get Out of the “Employee” Mindset

Sep 25, 2013

Accountable people follow through on their promises, and they don’t blame others if unforeseen circumstances trip them up. They honor President Harry Truman’s favorite expression: “The buck stops here.”

To what extent do you refuse to blame other people or external factors when things don’t go right?

Accepting personal responsibility is challenging, even for otherwise competent professionals.

Case in point: before every speaking engagement, I send my client a 10-question email survey to forward to 15-20 random audience members (the responses help me tailor my comments to the group and make sure I’m addressing the correct issues). One of the questions is, “What is the No. 1 thing you would have to change about yourself to become more productive?”

Excuses, excuses, I’ve heard many excuses

To me, the most insightful answer is that everyone has an answer. And I’m sure you do, too. (Did you answer that question in your head after you read it?)

I’ve heard every excuse in the book. Here are some actual reasons people have given:

  • I don’t have the right training.
  • I don’t have the right tools.
  • The lighting is bad.
  • I’m too cold (or I’m too hot).

Just when I think to myself, “Now I have heard it all,” I’ll see something even more unbelievable a few weeks later. I try to be polite, but some people simply need to be told to stop making excuses, get off their duffs, and be an adult! (Have you ever secretly wished you could say this to a co-worker, subordinate, spouse, or friend?)

In other words: take responsibility for yourself, your actions, and your results.

Get the training you need. Take the day off. Go to a class and pay for it yourself. Buy the iPhone yourself. Bring your own printer from home and plug it in. Buy a lamp. Bring a space heater. Bring a fan.

Employer thinking vs. employee thinking

This way of thinking — what I call “employer” thinking — is the hallmark of an accountable person.

It’s fairly easy to spot the difference between the “employer” mindset and the “employee” mindset. Some people don’t understand how every action they take affects the profitability of the company. They see their employer as little more than an ATM machine and a job as just a job. On the other hand, employees who have the “employer” mindset treat your business as if it were their own.

Which one are you? Are you someone who will take personal responsibility, fend for yourself, find creative ways around obstacles, and maintain a can-do attitude? As an employer, I’ll do everything I can to hang on to these folks!

Or will you just be more of the same — nothing new that adds value. This type of worker is entirely dispensable and, a dime a dozen. In tough times, they’ll be the first to go.

An accountability action step

Employers are looking for the star performers with absolutely no patience for excuses, mediocrity, and finger-pointing. Determine what’s tripping you up and get out of your own way.

Focus on adding value, rather than just doing the tasks outlined in your job description. Taking responsibility for yourself will take you out of the “employee” mindset and move you toward the “employer” mindset, where you’ll want to become the best you can be.

This was originally published on Laura Stack’s The Productivity Pro blog.

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