To illustrate our next Leadership Principle, let’s return to an anecdote from a previous blog post. You are assigned a team at work to design a presentation for a new product. Jerry is put in charge of graphics, but doesn’t deliver on his duty. Who is ultimately accountable? Not you, just Jerry? No, the presentation was your responsibility, as well as Jerry’s, and the fact that it’s incomplete means you all failed. In business, you have to own every part of your company, every decision you make, every product you turn out. For better or for worse.
Winston Churchill once said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” In life and in business, you must act with the awareness that you are 100% responsible, 100% of the time. If a report doesn’t get out to the client on time, you’re responsible. If you don’t budget properly, you’re responsible. Contrarily, if your business is booming and both your employees and your clients are happy, you’re responsible. You own every part of your business, and though individuals in your company fulfill various roles, you’re ultimately responsible for the work they do (or don’t do).
It’s easy to take ownership of your business ventures gone right, but what about those gone wrong? Even CEO’s of huge corporations struggle with regret. Keep reading.
Real Life Examples
Mickey Drexler, the CEO of J. Crew, admitted that a mistake happened when he was at Gap while it was undergoing a “rapid expansion”, increasing its real estate holdings—a business move he didn’t agree with, though oversaw. Years later, Drexler says: “I didn’t fight the board hard enough to stop it. I should have fought harder.” Drexler blames himself for “giving in" on something with which he did not agree.
Similarly, Lee Iacocca, former chairman of Chrysler, is able to recall the biggest blunder of his business career, which he says was hiring someone from General Motors Corporation— someone who has never run a division—as Chrysler's president and chairman-in-waiting. Iacocca blames himself. “I didn't do my due diligence,” he says.
Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, asserts that his biggest mistake was trying to phase out Netflix's once revolutionary DVD-by-mail rental service more quickly than customers would have preferred.
And Thomas Stemberg, co-founder and former CEO of Staples, regrets once making a big business decision based on cost factors rather than consumer preferences, which, ironically, wound up costing him.
What do you notice about these “mistakes”? Each of the business owners uphold our Principle, and don’t put the blame on anyone but themselves. Though sometimes difficult to swallow, they claim ownership of all facets of their business: the good, the bad and everything in between.
To sum things up
In life, and in business, you have to own your actions and your thoughts always. The way to achieve anything, to have a successful and flourishing business, is to own everything you do and say. To stand by your word, your action, your company. You are ultimately held accountable, and the sooner you realize that, the better.