Radical Responsibility- Black and white photo of a place setting at a table.

Radical Responsibility

A few weeks ago, we were out for dinner with friends, and three of us ordered spaghetti carbonara.

One of us ordered it without any changes. I ordered it with gluten-free pasta. The last person requested that the fried egg served on top be cooked well-done.

When dinner arrived, I questioned our server as to whether mine was really gluten-free because it wasn’t the usual gluten-free pasta they serve. She glanced at the food runner and said, “Is this gluten-free?” He said yes. I then asked her if she was sure because the pasta was different than usual, and she reaffirmed that it was gluten-free.

Not completely convinced, I cut into the egg on top only to find it was well-done. She was still adamant the pasta was gluten-free and said she would get me a new egg.

The woman who ordered the well-done egg cut into hers, and the egg was runny.

Then the food runner came with the rest of our dinners, and the final dish of pasta, which had the gluten-free penne I was used to, was on his tray.

Our server, now exasperated by the fact that each pasta served to each person was wrong, said, “I’m new. I don’t know what the meals are supposed to look like yet, so I trusted the food runner.”

If having the food messed up and the potential for getting sick wasn’t enough to upset me, her response was.

I politely told her, “You’re our server. It’s your responsibility to know.”

Radical responsibility means accepting responsibility for what you should know in the role you’re in.

Far too often, people blame others and pass the buck instead of accepting responsibility. If and when you see this happening in your business, make it stop.

The more senior you become, the more you are responsible for.

As the CEO, you’re responsible for everything going on in your company. Your managers are responsible for their own behavior, as well as their team.

No customer wants to hear an excuse. They want you to fix the problem without passing the blame along to someone else.

Here’s the problem with taking radical responsibility:

1) People with low self-esteem can’t do this well because instead of looking at the behavior, they look at themselves. Instead of saying I made a careless mistake, they internalize that as they are careless. When you learn to separate the behavior from the identity you associate with it, it becomes easier to make a change.

2) Leaders with poor communication skills and conflict avoidance struggle with accepting responsibility for their team because they don’t know how to address the behavior of the individual who caused the problem and hold them accountable. They find it easier to pass blame in front of the customer, “It’s the food runner’s fault,” versus “I should have verified with the kitchen.”

If you want to scale your business beyond just you, you have to learn how to take radical responsibility and hold your team accountable to your expectations.

A final thought: radical responsibility does not mean perfectionism. I have yet to meet a human who doesn’t make mistakes. We all do. It happens and will continue to happen.

Radical responsibility is how you handle mistakes when they happen.

Need help building a high-performing team? It’s one of the topics we will discuss in my new group coaching program. If you’re interested in meeting up with other high-performing business owners in person once a quarter for growth development and would like to know more, contact me for more information.


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Lisa Larter Bio Image of Lisa x400

Lisa Larter

Founder and CEO of the Lisa Larter Group, master strategist, author, speaker, podcast host, social media expert, consultant, and business coach. Lisa inspires entrepreneurs and business owners to see the possibilities for their organizations when it comes to strategy. She uncomplicates modern marketing and creates (and implements) strategies for businesses that are guaranteed to increase visibility, inbound leads, and revenue.

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