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Own Your Own Sh**

Okay, it’s a little edgy, but there are few expressions that pretty much say it all in just four words. If I’ve offended anybody, my apologies, but honestly, what’s the good of sharing lessons from my past if I can’t call it like it is?

I won’t deny the pandemic has created a series of almost impossible challenges. At the same time, I’ve noticed it’s the latest excuse for late deliveries, challenges in people keeping appointments, and in general, people not staying faithful to their promises.

I get it, and it’s not easy trying to run a business today. But this is also the time to not slow down on relationship building, communicating, and keeping in touch with your clients, regardless of the outcome.

Here’s an example – I was part of a corporate environment at Polaroid for 17 years when it was a powerhouse of a company. Later Hasselblad and Rangefinder Publishing were added to my work experience. I’ve worked with hundreds of people in the industry, and my most favorite is people who took responsibility for their decisions and didn’t pass the buck when things didn’t work out.

At Polaroid, it was almost impossible to find anybody who took responsibility for anything except being part of the committee that made the wrong decision. Companies that operate that way are so often doomed to failure. Some might last longer than others, but at some point, you need leaders who take the heat when things are tough, as well as enjoy the glory.

Imagine how disarming the following scenario is: You’ve got a “screamer” who’s upset about something your company did. You decide to play offense and contact the customer. “I know you’re unhappy with ______, but I’m calling to tell you the problem you had was ultimately my fault. I’m calling to let you know the buck stops here. I want to find a way to resolve this for you.” Then just sit back and listen.

Even the most upset customer is going to be more supportive and optimistic, talking to the person who’s taking the blame as well as the responsibility to put a smile back on their face. Will it work every time? Of course not, but it’s a winner 95% of the time, and I’ll take odds like that any day.

Whatever the challenges are – own them! Be the one who never passes the buck or points to somebody else.

I had a huge problem at Polaroid when I was the regional manager in Chicago. It was with the Kentucky Driver’s License program, and I failed to have coverage for one week for service. I wound up writing a memo to my managers, taking responsibility for the mistake but also including how I would fix it.

I remember one person saying to me, “Cohen, you’re the only person who I know that can step in sh** and come out smelling like a rose!” It wasn’t that I did anything unique; I just owned my bad decision. No excuses, nothing to sweep under the rug – just honesty.

Remember, most people never got fired for just making mistakes, but they did get canned for not owning them!