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It’s on you! Rethink responsibility

You were supposed to send out a president’s update to the board of directors. You missed it. IT WAS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.

Responsibility often sits in the same sentence as blame or fault. Ouch. The words carry a negative connation. No wonder we bristle when we hear them.

Let’s stop and rethink all this, shall we?

Imagine responsibility and fault as opportunities. Taking responsibility means being able to take action. Fault is a stepsister to accountability.

Action and accountability fuel innovation and help make us confident leaders, board members, CEOs and CFOs. They put us in the driver’s seat – the only seat for senior-level executives.

Here’s the thing: Disappointment shows up in business and in life. When that happens, the worst of times give us the push to make the best of times happen. A bit Dickensian, I agree. A modern twist: You are the most important person who can turn things around.

It’s on you.

Here are best practices for senior-level executives who want to turn responsibility into beyond-expected opportunities.


When a situation implodes, the match that lit the dynamite stick is often underwhelming communication. Ask: Did you communicate effectively and timely? What could you have said differently? Did you include or exclude the right people in the conversation?

Take hiring for instance. You chose Gary for your internal sales team. He’s engaging, came with a lineup of sales awards, and you are confident he will quickly assimilate to the company and show results.

A year later, it’s time for performance appraisal. Gary is not meeting your expectations. What went wrong? Was Gary aware of your expectations? Was Gary given clear goals and milestones? Did you have intermediate conversations with Gary at key milestones? Was Gary given the resources needed to do the job?

At the end of the day, is it Gary, the goal, or the market? Regardless, every time, communication will improve results or save you time.

If you’ve ever said to yourself: I’ve been wanting to say such and such to this person for six months, then it’s on you. Turn responsibility into an opportunity. Elevate your leadership going forward with communication. Say it timely, accurately and to the right audience!


Jiminy Cricket sings: When you wish upon a star/Makes no difference who you are/Anything your heart desires will come to you.

Jiminy oversimplified it (which is a nicer way to say he lied). You have to do more than wish. Wishing means you’re not clear on expectations or you think a situation will resolve itself with time’s magic wand or you wish people will read your mind.

As someone who counsels companies in best practices for

senior-level financial management services, I see businesses being so reactive. A company might start out with a plan, but ends up playing more to external circumstances. And they are managing crisis constantly.

Example: You just closed a huge project. You go into the boss’ office. You expect a pat on the back, an “ata girl,” a candy bar, something. You create this movie in your head of how this meeting will go and what your boss will say. Small detail is that your boss didn’t receive the memo about how you want the interaction to go.

Once you tell your boss the news, your boss says, “Great, but we still have a long way to goal to meet our target.”

You stand there wondering what just hit you.

The truth is you don’t know how your boss’ “movie” played out up to that point in the day. What if your boss had a horrible morning or if she just got a call from her teenager’s principal at school (and not in a good way)? Your expectations of an interaction shouldn’t diminish your accomplishment.

It’s either unrealistic expectations you set for yourself or other people. Stop trying to write a script for others.


Intentions make us human. “I’m going into that meeting and asking for a raise and promotion,” you say. Then, it doesn’t happen.

Yep, I get it. I remember a meeting I had scheduled with a CEO client one afternoon at 2 p.m. He goes to lunch and comes back at 4:30 rather, how shall I say it, “impaired.” As his head is spinning behind his closed office door, so was mine.

That day, my intention was to wow him with my recommendations. Guess what? That didn’t happen.

It’s easy to take another person’s actions personally and read into a situation that he didn’t care or appreciate my work. That movie inside your head just might get interrupted when life shows up. Objectivity wins over disappointment. So you had XYZ planned and something else happened. You reschedule. You move on. Rather than judge or take it personally, it’s on you to gain traction for your company’s business goals – whether things go your way or not.

Last Thought: Place Your Bet on Power, Not Control

In the war between control and power, I can tell you this: one exists, and one doesn’t.

We all want things to go a certain way. Control, however, is a myth. This can be a terrifying statement or a freeing one. You choose.

Just know that what happens along the path might be outside of your control, and that’s OK. Turn responsibility into opportunity, however, and you have the power of a Lamborghini. No one will pass you.

It’s on you to take the wheel.


Reframe responsibility and fault as your greatest opportunities.