Take Responsibility For Decisions

Something we have all heard for as long as me can remember is people admitting to a mistake or saying sorry because they did something stupid or made a bad decision. Now people wouldn't be human if they didn't make mistakes but I often wonder why we make so many stupid mistakes and then try and make ourselves feel better by saying things like, oh I don't regret my mistakes because I learn from them. Most of the time this comes across as an excuse or an unwillingness to take responsibility for your actions. 

However if you are someone who genuinely want to be better or not make as many mistakes then I have a suggestion. Instead of being impulsive or doing stupid things, maybe start taking responsibility not for the end result but rather the decision making process. If you get into this habit you will find that you make less mistakes and the ones you make are easier to live with. 

I read an article sometime ago that gave an example of where you hired a new staff member and they underperformed, you took time to train and move them around but somewhere probably a year or two down the track you have to let them go. However if you took responsibility for the decision to hire them to begin with you may have put that extra few hours into testing the applicant to see just how suitable they were and save the expense and time you paid later. 

There were a few points mentioned to keep in mind:- 

(1)  Separate the initial decision-maker from the decision evaluator. Once you’ve made the initial choice to go to the restaurant or hire the employee, you’re no longer in a neutral position to decide whether to keep investing in that course of action. Since you’re biased in favor of sticking with the slow restaurant, the old car, and the underperforming employee, it’s valuable to delegate the decision to someone who can take an unbiased look at the facts.

(2)  Create accountability for decision processes, not only outcomes. Many leaders like the idea of holding people accountable for the results they achieve. That way, employees have the freedom to choose different methods and strategies, and we don’t have to monitor their work along the way. The problem with this approach is that it allows employees to make faulty decisions along the way, convincing themselves that the ends will justify the means. Research demonstrates that long before outcomes are known, asking employees to explain their decision processes can encourage them to conduct a thorough, evenhanded analysis of the options.

(3)  Shift attention away from the self. Once you’ve learned that an initial choice didn’t pan out, your focus immediately turns to your pride and your reputation. Research shows that if you consider the implications of the decision for others, you can make a more balanced assessment.

(4)  Be careful about compliments. When we praise people for their skills, it can go one of two ways. It can reduce escalation by protecting the ego, allowing people to feel good enough about themselves that they’re comfortable acknowledging a mistake. But it can also increase escalation by inflating the ego, causing people to become cocky: they couldn’t have made a mistake. Which way does it go?