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SHOW DATE: MAY 15, 2013

“It’s not my fault.”  Admit it: you’ve said these four words countless times.  Sure, sometimes you use this phrase as an excuse, but sometimes it’s true. After all, it’s not your fault that Brandy, the new admin assistant, forgot to get a confirmation from the client, right?!

Wrong. If you want to be truly successful in your career and get that promotion you’re convinced you deserve, then you need to be a real leader. And leaders are people who take on great responsibility—not just for what they do, but for what happens all around them. In other words, if you want to achieve success, you need to embrace a new mindset—one that requires you to be 100% responsible for everything.

Think this all sounds impossible? It’s not. Keep reading and we guarantee you’ll get it… and maybe even get that promotion, too.

First of all, let’s look for signs that you’re not being responsible enough in your career.  Do you ever say any of the following phrases?

  • “That’s not in my job description”
  • “Don’t blame me for that”
  • “I’m doing the best I can”
  • “That’s one of Sarah’s duties”

If you say any of the above, then you’re not being responsible enough at work. And chances are, you’re being one of two classic archetypes:

  1. The Blamer: The blamer always tries to shift responsibilities, obligations, and blame onto others.
  2. The Excuse-maker. This person always has a great reason why something didn’t happen, and it’s always a factor outside his/her control.

Bringing this mindset to work isn’t just unproductive; it’s also stopping you from being as great as you can.  Yes, it’s scary to take responsibility for everything around you. It feels like it’s a quick way to get in trouble and have your head on the chopping block.

But that’s not the way it works. If you really embrace the idea that you are 100% responsible for everything that happens—whether in your control or not—then you will become powerful.  You will stop creating excuses and start creating solutions.  And when you do that, the workplace improves, your team does better, you are recognized as the driving force behind positive change, and you get promoted into the position you deserve.

So here’s how the practice of being 100% responsible plays out in action. Here are three scenarios, each with a description of how the responsible worker responds:

Scenario 1: You’re late to work because of bad traffic.

Someone who is irresponsible says, “It’s not my fault it’s late.  The traffic was terrible.  I can’t do anything about that.” But if you’re 100% responsible, you recognize that you can do something about it:  Even if traffic is only bad once in a while, you decide to leave 10 minutes early every day just in case.  Sure, you’ll usually get to work 10 minutes early.  But that means you’ll be the first person in the office every day. And you’ll never be “the late guy.”  The boss will notice these facts, and you’ll be rewarded.

Scenario 2: Your teammate often misses deadlines, so the team is always in trouble

Think you can’t be responsible for your teammate’s work? Think again. You can start sending her friendly reminders. You can check in on her. If you’re worried about being one of those guys—the kind that is always too involved in other’s business—you can adjust your approach. For example, BCC people in emails so you’re not publicly humiliating the slacker teammate. Or you can start seeing her as a slacker and start seeing her as someone who is struggling, which will lead you to offer help. Showing that you care about the worker—not just the product—could lead her to open up and express what the real problem is. That will lead you to developing solutions instead of making excuses, and that’s what gets you promoted.

Scenario 3: A tornado wiped out every possible route to work.

OK, so there are some “acts of God” that you truly can’t control. But you can still respond to them as someone who is responsible. Instead of taking a “well I can’t help it when a tornado comes through” approach, show that you feel responsible and be proactive. Imagine getting a call from someone who apologized profusely for not being able to get to work because of a natural disaster. You wouldn’t blame them—you know it’s not their fault—but you would hold them in high regard for feeling bad about it instead of feeling like an entitled victim.

Finally, the other great thing about being 10% responsible is that it makes you irreplaceable.  Once people see that you re responsible fro everything—from always being on time to being the one who ensures the printer never runs out of toner—they will realize they can’t live without you. That’s the kind of job security everyone wants to have…and the kind of person who climbs the corporate ladder faster than everyone else.

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