We’ve all had things go wrong at work and at home and the paradigm through which we interpret such situations says a lot about us as individuals. I think about it as ‘bad luck’ versus ‘bad choices’.
“Bad luck” is just that – a happenstance of fortune over which you, the innocent victim, had no part. Bad luck implies circumstances beyond your control – that it was “fate” that landed you in a predicament. It says less about your character and more about the general unfairness of life and the world in general. Or does it?
Most people view “bad luck” as another way of saying that it wasn’t your fault – that you had “no control”. Reflecting on my own experiences, my instances of “bad luck” seem to have had far less to do with fate and far more to do with my own choices. Take a few moments and reflect candidly on your own misfortunes and ask yourself what part you played in setting yourself up….then ask yourself how YOU interpreted the incident – was it bad luck or bad choices?
Personally, I’d prefer to be the victim of bad choices over bad luck. While it’s true that you are 100% responsible for your choices, you are also 100% in control of whether you make such choices again. With “luck” you don’t get those kind of numbers – it’s all random and it is all beyond your control. Thus, if you caused your own grief through your own choices, that means you can also AVOID said-grief in the future. When we are responsible for our own bad situations, the good news is that we are also in control and simply chose not to make the smarter choices.
As an executive, you can use this exercise to understand the level of accountability in your own teams. When things go wrong, do your managers suffer from bad luck or bad choices? A strong leadership team knows they are in control of their choices and will act accordingly, taking ownership of both their successes and failures.
Listen to your managers as they discuss (or lament!) their own bad situations and see how they interpret the incident. Seek to empower and promote those who “are the victim of bad choices”, especially if they own up to and LEARN from them. This way, you will promote accountability and leadership that learns from (and OWNS) their mistakes.
© 2013, Mark E. Calabrese