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Own it. Then Fix It!

Own it. Then Fix It!         

by Greg Kozera- Shale Crescent USA

It seems like a long time ago in a career far far away. I was working for a Service Company on the Project Team for one of our large customers who was doing a major expansion. As part of this Team I got to sit in on my customer’s company meetings. This particular meeting is memorable to me even now many years later. An expensive mistake had been made. Fortunately no one had gotten hurt. The VP who was in charge of the project was running the meeting. He severely criticized the young engineer who had made the mistake in front of the entire group of over 25 people. I felt sorry for the kid. I also knew that the young engineer did exactly what his manager had told him to do. I stared at the manager and thought. “Surely he is going to step up and tell the VP it was his decision not the young engineer’s.” The manager just sat there with his head down and let his employee take all of the blame.

I lost all respect and trust for that manager. I recall thinking, “I am going to make sure that anything he tells me to do is in writing.” The VP was a good guy and a friend but he disappointed me by violating a cardinal rule of leadership. A leader should never criticize anyone publicly. Praise should be given publicly. Criticism should always be done in private.

If the manager had owned the problem and taken responsibility for it he probably would have had to bear the wrath of the VP but he would have gained the respect of his subordinates and the rest of the Team.  He could have fixed it by finding a solution to avoid future problems from his group and apologized to the VP publicly. A positive atmosphere would have been created moving the Team forward. 

Although not that day, the truth came out. The engineer went on to a great career. The manager who was on track to become head of the department, ended up being assigned to “special projects” where he didn’t have anyone to manage. The expansion project then went on to become an incredible success. It was completed ahead of schedule with no injuries and exceeded all expectations for production and cost reduction. The VP retired a hero.

At some point, we have all made a mistake, had a setback or failure in business, athletics or in our relationships. We can’t change what has happened. We can choose how we will deal with it. The best thing we can do is to own the problem by taking responsibility for it and then fix it as best we can. We can’t fix anything we don’t own. If we blame the government, our spouse, our employees or bad luck, we have given lady luck and others ownership. We will be waiting for luck to change or others to fix our problem. Taking ownership for our mistakes or a failure actually gives us a lot of power.

I love how Niall, our high school head soccer coach handles mistakes on the soccer field. Our players usually know when they have made a mistake or had a failure. They can’t hang their head or lay on the ground if they have been beat on a play. Niall, doesn’t scream at them, he just says, “Fix it.” They do.

Recently I decided to cancel a Shale Crescent USA event we were planning for several months. I owned the event. It was my responsibility. We have gotten very busy in the last 2 months. The number of prospects and leads we are working with has exploded. We are doing critical research and speaking at major conferences. With all we had going on it became obvious to me that we could not produce a quality event at this time. We had invested our time which always has a cost.  I decided it was better to cancel now rather than to give our prospects a poor impression of our organization or the Region. It hurt. We had to fix it by telling our supporters and event sponsors. They were understanding. It was a learning experience for me.

What about you? How do you handle mistakes, setbacks or failure? Do you blame circumstances, bad luck or other people? Do you own your mistakes, setbacks or failures? Do you stay down or do you get up and get back in the game? Do you learn from mistakes and then work to fix them? If you have emotionally hurt a spouse of a loved one how do you deal with it? Do you own your actions? Can you say, “I’m sorry.” and then fix it? Remember we can’t change the past but we can change how we deal with it. We can work to make it right. When we own our mistakes, setbacks or failures and take responsibility to fix them we take control of our future.

Our future isn’t behind us. It is ahead of us. We can make it a bright future by what we do each day.

© 2019 Shale Crescent USA

Greg Kozera is the Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA . He has over 40 years of experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and the author of four books and numerous published articles.