Achieve Your Goals by Taking Responsibility for the Other Guy’s “Mistakes”


Whenever you are depending on contractors, government organizations, or outside services, things can go wrong. When they do there is a great tendency to point a finger and find fault with the other guy. Here are some tips that will help your company improve and be more likely to get what you want in the future. This is not an idiot-proof plan but it is idiot resistant.

First, foster a company culture based on aim and gain instead of blame and complain. Keep in mind what you want and focus on how to get it. Don’t be distracted from your goals when the other guys make mistakes. Point a finger at yourself instead and ask how you can improve your approach to reduce the possibility of a recurrence.

Make the discovery of solutions a fun game for your people . The winner discovers and closes the loopholes that you would never have guessed someone would jump through. It starts with “You wouldn’t believe what they did this time” and goes to “Wow, here’s 5 things we discovered we can do right now to reduce or prevent it in the future.”

Don’t allow misunderstandings to get suppressed or covered up. They’re gold. Celebrate them. Tell your people to view them as precious opportunities to improve your business, reduce frustration, and achieve your goals. Be sure to publicly praise the person who improves your processes.

Second, become Miami CSI. Start with a forensic investigation. Look objectively at what happened. Ask lots of questions. How was the request made? How was it delivered? Was it written or verbal? How many layers did it have to go through in the other organization? What were the assumptions of both sides? Were there any time limits established? What were the documents involved? Email? Contracts? Procedures? Policies? Checklists? Sign off sheets? Signs? Tags? Labels? Job descriptions? Scripts? Notes, etc?

There is pretty much always a document or lack of one at the bottom of  every unexpected and counterproductive behavior. Identifying those documents is job number one when it comes to tightening up your own act and reducing the possibility of a recurrence. Sometimes it takes a rewrite, sometimes a whole new document.

Aim at your own documents and gain improved performance from those other organizations you depend on. Being apparently redundant or remedial can put some folks off, but ultimately it may be just the ticket to make your requests and expectations understood. See the event as an opportunity to improve your business processes, add to your checklists, and tighten up the clauses in your contracts.

There’s a good reason why your pilot has a check list to take off and land safely. Your own checklist will get longer with every misunderstanding, false assumption or mistake. So get smart about “stupid”, clean up your own backyard, and do what you can do to make your company more “idiot resistant.”


About Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey

Starting in a laundry room with no money or industry knowledge, they built the iconic Best-Selling Barefoot Wine Brand - without advertising. In 2005, they monetized their brand equity and now offer proven business principles and real world experience. Visit our YouTube Channel →

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