I broke the lawn mower when I was a kid.

I have to admit, I hated that thing, but I wasn’t thrilled when I realized that I had accidentally done some pretty serious damage to it while mowing the grass.

I had a motto at that time in my life, “Hide it, deny it, and if you have to fight it.”  Perhaps you had a similar pre-teen/teenage credo.  And it worked well for me.

To fix the problem, a friend and I attempted to weld the broken pieces back together with a lighter.  I’m sure you can imagine how effective this was in solving the problem, so “hiding it” wasn’t looking great (apparently I didn’t understand the principles of welding at the time).

I certainly wasn’t going to bring it to anyone’s attention, so I prepared my “deny it,” which consisted of deflecting attention onto my two brothers.  Growing up in a house with three boys was great, there was always someone else who could be to blame.

“Fighting it” in this case would have been to argue that the lawn mower wasn’t broken.  It didn’t seem like I’d win that argument as it is hard to deny a broken axl.

Since the three-pronged strategy wasn’t going to work, I had to take responsibility for my actions and own up to the accident.

That was the start of my understanding of responsibility and accountability. 

And as an adult, I have moved beyond this teenage credo, but I know that this is not a given for everyone.  Have you ever tried to work with or even talk with someone who is still holding on tight to a motto that probably served them well as a teenager?  They do everything possible to deflect your attention here or there, they justify, argue, make excuses, it’s an exhausting conversation.

Top performers know that the buck stops with them.  They don’t play the “hide it, deny it, fight it” game and instead own up to their mistakes and learn from them.  Encourage the people you work with to step up to their responsibilities.  And, of course, the best way to do this is to lead by example.


John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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