What NOT To Do When You Screw Up

I’m a tough guy to work for.

I don’t have unrealistic expectations. I don’t scream and yell at people. I don’t belittle people. I’m not a micromanager. I’m not an absentee leader. I don’t play favorites. I’m not a jerk. I’m not many of the things people associate with being tough to work for.

The reason I’m tough to work for is I hold people accountable and people don’t like that very much.

Our world, at least this country doesn’t operate from an accountability perspective too often. We talk a big game, but rarely do we live to the creed.

For most of my career, there have been two camps of people who have worked for me, those who loved working with me and those who hate it.  The common thread among the two groups is those who love working for me embrace accountability, coaching and personal growth. Those who don’t like working for me, hate being called out. Nothing is their fault. They don’t like being held accountable and I am the asshole boss who actually expected them to own their shit.

People don’t like owning their shit, and unfortunately, that’s most people reading this.  I’m sorry but, it’s true.

Let me share the inspiration for this post, because it’s not an uncommon experience for me. Although, this one is a gross example, it similar to the types of experiences I have with people.

A few weeks ago “Andy” sent me this Inmail via Linkedin:

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Could this communication be any more cookie cutter? Who talks like this? NO ONE!  But, impressed with his “enthusiasm” I responded. I love people who take the initiative. I like to give everyone a chance.

Here’s my response;

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I want to know the person behind correspondence.  Take note people. A professional note doesn’t mean a white washed note that is completely void of any connection to your personality, who you are and what makes you different.

As hoped, he responded with a much better email;

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Yes! This was much better. His personality came through. His story was a good one. I could see how he might be able to add value to A Sales Guy Recruiting.

If you’re going to interrupt someone you don’t know with an email or LinkedIn InMail, do it this way.

After reading this, I sent Kira, my admin, a note asking her to get him on my calendar. He earned 15 minutes of my time.

This is where the story goes sideways.

Andy and I were scheduled to meet via phone on Friday this past week. He didn’t show. No call, nothing. I had Kiki reach out to him and ask if he wanted to reschedule or if he could still talk now.


No response, nothing. Until  . . . 2 am Saturday morning when he sent this:

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No sorry, no acknowledgment of missing the meeting, NOTHING. Just a request for me to call him. Really?

Now, in the world of the don’t offend, most people would have not called him back. He would have lost the opportunity. That would have been it. It would have just died on the vine. But, not in the Keenan world.

I didn’t know why he missed the call. He seemed like a go-getter, a results kinda guy in his earlier email, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and called him about 9:30 Saturday morning.

I called him and he didn’t answer, but he called me back right away. After the quick pleasantries, I said;

You have 5 minutes to get me on your good side.

His response:

I’m not going to sell you on me. I just closed a big deal with xyz company. I don’t need the work, but was interested in what you were doing. You guys seem to be doing some good stuff.

I pressed him on the fact that that was an interesting response considering he reached out to me then he didn’t show for a scheduled meeting. He became increasingly irritated with me and my insistence to resolve his no-show before we continued the conversation. He continued to argue why he doesn’t have to prove anything to me and that he was busy and he’s good, etc.

After a few minutes of him becoming increasingly agitated, the call ended.

But then, he calls back.

He apologizes for his behavior. He said he was caught off guard and should have known that I would operate that way based on his research. I commended him on calling back and expressed that I never believed he wasn’t good, or couldn’t do the job. I just wanted an explanation on why he didn’t show for a meeting he requested and why he didn’t acknowledge the fact he didn’t show up. It was on this request he lost it again, telling me he doesn’t owe me an explanation and that he’s good at what he does. He continued arguing that I was telling him he wasn’t good and that he doesn’t know what he’s doing and that he’s not busy etc. None of which I said, nor inferred.

Eventually, he says he’s sorry for missing the meeting yet still offers no explanation. He tacks on he said sorry a while ago. Which he didn’t.

As calmly as I could, I attempted to let him know that I believed he was good, that I gave him the opportunity to talk because he seemed talented, but without acknowledging why he just stood me up and didn’t own it, I couldn’t continue the conversation.

He did not like that. Not one bit.

The moral of the story here is simple. Own your shit. If you fuck up. Own it. Don’t put it on other people.

Our society and too many work cultures, in order to avoid conflict, don’t hold people accountable. We avoid the discussions. We don’t ask for explanations. We don’t expect people to own it. Instead, we default to passive aggressive behaviors.

Personal accountability is THE most important trait one can be good at. Everything stems from our ability to self-reflect, to self-analyze, to understand who we are, what we’ve done, how we do it, how good we are or aren’t and more. When we don’t or can’t self-assess, growth and learning are virtually impossible.

Get some thick skin. Get confidence in who you are. Know you are fallible and will mess up and own it. Just because you don’t own it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and that no one noticed.

It’s not everyone else, it’s you!  Own it!