When you blame past employers, bad management, and late clients for your shortcomings, employers notice. In fact, successful leaders — from real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran to San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich — say a lack of accountability for one’s actions is a big red flag that will turn their “yes” into a “no, thanks” when they are recruiting clients and new team members.
In an interview with Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Corcoran said that when she hears entrepreneurs say “The shipment never came in!” or “The guy didn’t do this such and such,” she hears these as excuses. It makes her less likely to invest in their businesses.
When you say ‘that’s not my fault,’ it’s a red flag for employers
“It’s another version of ‘Oh, poor me,'” Corcoran said when explaining why people who offload blame are red flags. “The minute I hear that, I go right to my wall where I have all my entrepreneurs and frames, beautifully matted, and I hang that picture upside down. And why do I do that? Just to remind myself that I shouldn’t spend any time with that person, because they’re never going to succeed.”
Corcoran said her most successful business are run by resilient entrepreneurs “who are so good at taking a hit and getting back up.” Becoming a resilient employee doesn’t mean you’re impervious to failure. It means that you take that failure and learn from it. You don’t brush off critiques with “That’s not my fault.” Instead of shifting accountability to other people, you own up to your role.
A character deficit
For Popovich, who has led five NBA teams to championships, he sees blaming others for your shortcomings as a character deficit. When he is interviewing young recruits, he said he asks himself, “Has this person gotten over himself?” If you attribute all of your failures to external factors, he believes the answer to that question is no.
“If I’m interviewing a young guy and he’s saying things like, ‘I should have been picked All-American but they picked Johnny instead of me,’ or they say stuff like, ‘My coach should have played me more; he didn’t really help me,’ I’m not taking that kid because he will be a problem one way or another,” Popovich said in an interview for “Forces of Character: Conversations about Building a Life of Impact.” He added: “I’ll find somebody else, even if they have less ability, as long as they don’t have that character trait.”
Taking ownership for your actions is the determining factor for your future success on his team, according to Popovich. He said he wants to know what’s behind your bluster, because if you cannot enjoy someone else’s success and if you spend all your time talking about yourself, you’re not going to be a good team player.
Whether you’re competing to play sports professionally or you want someone to invest in your idea or your career, you need to recognize that how you tell the story of your career is as important as the story itself.
Your future employer wants to know more than your individual career highlights and achievements — above all, they want to know how well you’re going to fit in on his or her team.