How does taking responsibility lead to success?
In the current Harvard Business Review interview Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame spoke of his return as CEO. The article “We Had to Own the Mistakes” by Adi Ignatius begins:
By the time Howard Schultz stepped down as chief executive of Starbucks, in 2000, the coffee chain was one of the world’s most recognizable brands—and on a steady trajectory of growth. Eight years later Starbucks was suffering from a rough economy and its own strategic missteps, and Schultz felt compelled to return to the CEO seat. His previous tenure had seen promising growth, but now he faced a challenging mission: to lead a turnaround of the company he had built.
HBR: We thought we knew the Howard Schultz story. You had a vision, built a successful company, and moved on. But then Starbucks ran into trouble, and two years ago you had to return as CEO. How hard has it been to get things right?
Schultz: The past two years have been transformational for the company and, candidly, for me personally. When I returned, in January 2008, things were actually worse than I’d thought. The decisions we had to make were very difficult, but first there had to be a time when we stood up in front of the entire company as leaders and made almost a confession—that the leadership had failed the 180,000 Starbucks people and their families. And even though I wasn’t the CEO, I had been around as chairman; I should have known more. I am responsible. We had to admit to ourselves and to the people of this company that we owned the mistakes that were made. Once we did, it was a powerful turning point. It’s like when you have a secret and get it out: The burden is off your shoulders. [Emphasis added]
When a person acts responsibly they assume accountability for where they are along the journey of life. Personal authority is accepted regarding one’s life which leads to improved decision-making. A sense of ownership is required.
How do you know if you are not taking full responsibility?
Listen to your words.
When you hear yourself blaming, complaining, excuse-making, or taking on a victim-view this indicates you are avoiding responsibility. Think of these as indicators or a “yellow light” urging you to slow down and STOP.
- Stop and Breathe (Yes, take that deep, cleansing breath now)
- Think about what you are thinking:
- Who am I blaming for this situation?
- Why am I complaining…really?
- How am I making excuses for what’s going on in my life right now?
- What affect is this feeling of helplessness having on me? Why do I think I’m a victim in this situation?
- Open yourself to other viewpoints using questions
- Probe for truth
Instead of blaming, complaining, excuse-making, or assuming a victim mentality when you stop, own it, and look for truth in the story you will gain freedom to choose your future.
If you take responsibility for your past then you can take charge of your future. The alternative is to leave it in the hands of your past. Much like forgiveness, taking responsibility frees you to move forward. Taking responsibility for your life releases hope for tomorrow.
In the case of Starbuck’s CEO this is a loyalty building strategy for all their customers: the internal (employees) and external (consumers) customers.
Taking the story at face value, it is refreshing to hear Howard Schultz living this principle. Listen to him testify to the effectiveness: “…it was a powerful turning point.”
What a payoff for accepting responsibility!
Where do you want to accept responsibility?