I’ve heard several hard-nosed disciplinarian leaders recently share their disdain with their people uttering the phrase “my bad”. It seems to be viewed by these leaders as a way to shirk off the responsibility of the necessary action and remove themselves from the accountability of it not being completed up to standard.
It usually comes off like this: “My bad? I know it was your bad. Who else’s bad was it? It wasn’t mine.”
I can see, and appreciate, this perspective, but I believe it neglects a few significant benefits that “my bad” can provide. It’s not all bad … there is actually some significant good that can come from “my bad”.
However, it will require a shift in our mindset.
Why Should We Care?
“My bad” simply means, it was my fault. It is meant to accept responsibility, not avoid it.
From this view we can begin to see the value in saying “my bad”. Owning our mistakes is clearly a much needed attribute of a good leader, and anyone pursuing excellence for that matter.
Great leaders take more than their share of the responsibility for mistakes, they take all of it. Everything that goes wrong on your team is your fault. It’s all your bad. If you aren’t willing to accept that, then don’t lead.
A leader’s job is to serve the team members. Make their job easier, improve their experience, and help them perform at their best. Accepting responsibility for their mistakes is part of serving.
I’m a basketball coach. If my team doesn’t execute something in the game properly, that’s my fault. Maybe I didn’t allow enough time in practice for it. Maybe I didn’t explain what I wanted well enough. Or, maybe I had the wrong players in the game. In any case, I could have done something better.
Of course the player should have remembered the play or followed through on his job and what he had been coached to do. But he didn’t. If he chose to not do it intentionally then you have a whole separate set of problems, but that’s not the norm. Most people want to do their best and want to contribute to their team. So, there must be a reason he didn’t. That reason is the responsibility of the leader.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
The application of this mindset requires us to know our team in order to balance accountability with support. Both are needed and possible with “my bad”. The key is knowing who needs what.
The diagram above is Jeff Janssen’s Commitment Continuum. It does an excellent job of breaking down the buckets most team members fall into.
On elite teams, there is no “My Bad”. Everything is OUR bad. Each mistake, mishap, and failure is viewed by everyone on the team as their problem. All contributed to it and all will own more than their share. It’s one of the things that makes elite teams elite.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.