Shun Fugimoto was a perfect example of employee responsibility.
“Monteal 1976 – After severely breaking his kneecap during the floor exercise, Japan’s Shun Fugimoto ignored his injury as long as possible, knowing such news could shatter the confidence of his teammates. The injured gymnast continued to the pommel horse routine, miraculously scoring a 9.5 out of 10. He then faced the rings, which would be his final event of the day. Shun performed extraordinarily, ignoring consequences of dismounting from eight feet off the ground.
Upon completion of his routine, he hurled himself into a beautifully executed triple-summersault dismount. When his feet hit the floor, the pain sliced through him like a knife, but he kept his balance. Gritting his teeth, he raised his arms in a perfect finish before collapsing in agony. He was awarded a 9.7, the highest score he had ever recorded on the rings. After winning the closest gymnastics team competition in Olympic history, Shun received the gold medal, but only after insisting he could make his own way to the podium.”
Source: Olympic Information Center
A Perfect Example of Employee Responsibility
In my management and leadership seminars, I often use Shun Fugimoto as an example of how one’s courageous behavior can inspire others to follow and excel. And indeed it does.
But it’s also an illustration of what it means to take responsibility for the promises one makes. The pain of such an injury is excruciating. Shen could have quit and no one would have blamed him. But by the very act of competing, Shen had made a promise to his team mates, his coach, his fans and to himself that he would do everything in his power to win and quitting would mean he would have failed to keep that promise. So in his mind, quitting was not an option.
I think of Shun when I hear people make excuses and blame others for their failure to fulfill a promise, whether it’s a commitment to meet a deadline, a promise to arrive at work on time, or the responsibility to control costs on a project.
So with that mindset, when an employee fails to keep a promise, how should a manager handle the discussion to help the employee take responsibility to fulfill it in the future. Especially if the employee is intent on blaming someone besides himself for the problem.
“Accounting wouldn’t give me the numbers in time.”
“I got caught in traffic.”
“My baby sitter didn’t show up.”
“The system crashed.”
“The materials didn’t show up to the job.”
“Jane in purchasing is impossible to work with.”
The list goes on and on.
What makes this challenging for the manager in these situations is that more than likely, all of these excuses are true and valid. But, the failure to perform still exists. So my advice is to accept that the excuses are true, but still insist on employee responsibility by focusing on the future and what the employee will do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Him: “Accounting wouldn’t give me the numbers in time.”
You: “Let’s assume they never will again, how will you make sure you complete your reports in a timely manner in the future?”
Her: “I got caught in traffic.”
You: “Traffic is always heavy at 7:30AM. How will you make sure you get here on time in the future?”
Him: “My baby sitter didn’t show up.”
You: “Well, baby sitters do that from time to time, but your being late in those circumstances impacts our business too heavily for me to accept. How will you make sure you are always on time, regardless of the baby sitter?”
Her: “The system crashed.”
You: “That happens from time to time and we’re having it looked at. What’s your back-up plan if it happens again?”
You get the idea.
I’m trying to imagine what Shun Fugimoto would say in any one of these circumstances. My guess is “do what it takes to fulfill your promise and stop blaming others.”