Secret Sauce Sunday: The Day My Leadership Journey Began
Secret Sauce Sunday’s are my opportunity to invite leaders who I respect to share ideas that have changed their leadership. This post is by Abe Klassen, President of MC3 Manufacturing in Ontario, Canada.
I was sitting at my desk on a Saturday afternoon on a warm summer day. Everyone else was at home enjoying leisure time with their families while I was stuck at the office fixing their work.
I was resentful and angry at the junk I had to go through and fix. I blamed my team for keeping me there on Saturday afternoon.
I learned that the responsibility for being there was entirely mine.
I had been a “leader” for years. But that Saturday was the beginning of my leadership journey.
Sometime after that Saturday a wise person told me, “You need to trust your team ….” She was spot on.
Learning to trust transformed my leadership.
Learning to trust forced me to take 100% responsibility for my team’s performance. In the past I thought responsibility for my team was a 50/50 proposition.
The pile of junk on my desk was my responsibility, not theirs.
Taking responsibility forces me to address people issues.
Some people on my team were simply not trustworthy. For example, tolerating people on your team that have character issues – that they choose not to address – forces us to change the way we lead. It negatively impacts our entire team.
Learning to trust taught me that we succeed or fail together.
When something goes wrong, we usually want someone to blame. It makes us feel better but it creates a vicious cycle.
I’m learning to allow people to fail, even encourage it. When we fail together, we learn and move on.
Celebration is easier now that I’ve taken 100% responsibility for my team. One person’s progress improves the entire team.
Surprisingly, taking responsibility includes letting go! Whenever possible, allow and expect team members to own their own decisions. Don’t make every decision. Don’t sign off on everyone else’s decisions.
The people you trust can be trusted to own their decisions, create progress, and fix their mistakes.
I’ve learned that expecting team members to take ownership and deliver performance while I hover over their shoulders is ludicrous.
I’ve also learned that letting go requires courage and determination.
When I took responsibility, and learned to trust, I realized that – more often than not – a member of my team was better qualified to make the decision than I.
Trust has shown me that I’m not nearly as good at making every decision as I thought.
I noticed when I took responsibility for the team, they started trusting each other more. I address issues in a timelier manner now. They realize that their performance matters.
I’ve also found that taking responsibility has given me greater freedom.
I wrote the first draft of this article from my cabin on a Friday morning. I’m able to do this because I have complete trust that my team will keep the business running while I’m away.
Even though I’ve been in leadership positions for many years, my leadership didn’t begin until I took 100% responsibility for my team’s performance.
What’s your takeaway from Abe’s post?
What does it mean for leaders to take 100% responsibility?
The most helpful book I read in 2017 was, Power Questions, by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas. Learning to ask questions has really helped me improve as an internal coach.
My background is Industrial Design. I have co-founded and operated various businesses over the last 22 years related to the metal fabricating industry. On weekends I enjoy cooking for my family. My greatest passion is hunting at our cabin in northern Michigan.
*I suspend my 300 word limit on Secret Sauce Sunday.
“I’m learning to allow people to fail, even encourage it. When we fail together we learn and move on.”
My organisation is all about getting everything right first time, 100% of the time, so there is never any impression to the customer than anything ever goes wrong. Failure is “not an option”. No one would care if we learn when we fail, because we’d better not fail! How (is it even possible?) do I support growth and learning?
Hi Mitch. Getting it right 100% of the time counts for brain surgery and flying airplanes. But even pilots and surgeons practice in situations where they learn from failure. Pilots have flight simulators and surgeons have cadavers.
To Mitch’s comment…
I think the product or service should be 100% right when it’s delivered to the customer. But, it takes many steps and numerous iterations to achieve that level of consistent performance.
To Abe’s article…
I was resentful and angry at the junk I had to go through and fix.
I think leaders are responsible for establishing high standards, setting the example, helping people improve, and holding people accountable. Yes, people need to fix there own junk. Letting them off the hook allows them to keep producing junk.
I face this situation every semester with some of my college students.
Thanks Paul. Your comment got me thinking about what happens when take on other people’s work. I think they learn to keep giving us their work.
The exception to this is when a reliable colleague needs help. I think we should help. The issue is consistent irresponsibility.
If we see consistent lack of responsibility, it’s our own fault.
“Your comment got me thinking about what happens when take on other people’s work. I think they learn to keep giving us their work.”
Dan, am I correct in thinking the solution to this is to, as Paul wrote in his initial comment, is to send the work back (constructively, supportively) for their correction.