Skip to content

How to Stop Throwing Your Team Under the Bus (Even If They Keep Messing Up)

under the bus

My guess is that as a leader you hate it when your team messes up.

Who doesn’t?

The real test of your leadership and character comes not when your team gets it right, but when you or they screw up. Your team will absolutely make mistakes. And so will you.

All the time, I hear people talk about how frustrated they are with their team.

How do you handle that?

I’ve seen way too many leaders throw their team under the bus when they blow it or their team makes mistakes. Why? They want to make themselves look good.

I saw it again recently. A leader I know was going to miss a meeting with me.

In his text, he said, “Sorry. My team messed up my schedule.”

On the one hand, I’m sure that’s true…his team did mess up.

And I felt some empathy for him. I feel the instinct to cover up my mistakes too. I feel the urge to blame anything or anyone and avoid responsibility as well:

Nobody told me about that!

He always forgets that!

Just so you know, that’s not my fault.

Wow, I can’t believe she missed that. 

Hey I’m so busy I don’t get involved in the details and clearly my team bungled that. 

All of that is natural. And all of that is a mistake. 100% a mistake.

My respect for that leader went down that day. His excuse was a classic bad move.

Imagine how his assistant would feel if she read that text.

When you throw your team under the bus, not only do they lose, so do you.

I promise you, leaders, making others look bad never makes you look good.

Making others look bad never makes you look good. Click To Tweet

So how do you stop throwing your team under the bus?

1. Stop Assigning Blame. Admit It Was Your Bad

You know what great leaders do when they make a mistake or their team does?

They take responsibility for it.

Here’s what you say if you miss a meeting, no matter who’s fault it is:

Hey, I am so sorry I missed that we were supposed to meet. That’s my bad. 

I don’t care if your assistant forgot to tell you, or your calendar malfunctioned.

If you’re the leader, you’re responsible.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of leadership is realizing that while everything may not be your direct fault, it is your responsibility.

So stop assigning blame and start assuming responsibility.

Don’t like assuming that kind of responsibility? That’s easy to fix. Stop being the leader.

While everything may not be your direct fault, it is your responsibility. If you're the leader, you're responsible. Click To Tweet

2. ReAssign the Stupid

I’ve heard more than a few leaders vent about how many stupid mistakes their team makes. I’ve heard a few leaders call members of their team stupid.

Well, if your team is making stupid mistakes, guess whose fault that is?

Yours.

You recruited them.

If your team isn’t performing at the level you want them to, that’s on you. You haven’t led them beyond their current performance.

If your team is making stupid mistakes, guess whose fault that is? Yours. You recruited them. Click To Tweet

3. Decide You’ll Cover For Them

In battle, soldiers owe their lives to people who cover for them.

Leadership is not that different.

Your job as a leader is to lead and protect your team. Covering for the team is actually what a great leader does.

Think about people who covered for you. My guess is you feel both deeply grateful for them and deeply loyal to them.

Your team will feel the same way about you if you cover for them.

4. Affirm Publicly, Correct Privately

Covering for them doesn’t mean you avoid the issue, far from it.

Instead, affirm your team publicly and then correct privately. Have an honest conversation. Address the issues that need to be addressed.

Perhaps it’s them. Sometimes it’s a systems issue…the process you’ve set up doesn’t work anymore. When your team is messing up regularly, it’s almost a systems issue.

If you want to fix the problem, fix the system.

5. Admit Your Own Mistakes

One of the best ways to get your team to quickly own up to their shortcomings is to admit your own.

While this is hard, the leader should be the first to apologize, the first to admit they blew it, the first to draw attention to their own issues.

One of the best ways to get your team to quickly own up to their shortcomings is to admit your own. Click To Tweet

The vulnerability of the team rarely exceeds the vulnerability of the leader.

If you want your team to be more honest, start by being more honest yourself.

And if this is difficult for you (it was and sometimes still is for me), see a good counselor or therapist. Healthy leaders are the best leaders.

The vulnerability of the team rarely exceeds the vulnerability of the leader. Click To Tweet

Ready to Lead Better?

So maybe you’re one of the leaders who’s so busy working in your business that you don’t have time to work on your business. There’s just no margin. You can’t breathe, and as a result, you’re not really thinking.

Ready to change that?

I can help. I’ve helped over 3000 leaders free up hundreds of hours each year and often 3 hours a day to do what they feel they never have time for.

My High Impact Leader course, is my online, on-demand course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.

It’s perfect for leaders who feel like they never have enough time in the day to get it all done.

Many leaders who have taken it are recovering 3 productive hours a day.  That’s about 1000 hours of found time each year. That’s a lot of time for what matters most.

Here are what some alumni are saying about The High Impact Leader Course”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing the course again. It has absolutely made an impact in my life and family already that I can’t even describe.” – Joel Rowland, Clayton County, North Carolina

“Just wow.  Thank you, thank you.” Dave Campbell,  Sioux Falls South Dakota

A game-changer.” Pam Perkins,  Colorado Springs, Colorado

Curious? Want to beat overwhelm and have the time to reflect, rest and reinvent yourself?

Click here to learn more or get instant access.

What Do You Think?

Leaders who refuse to throw their teams under the bus always have better teams. Cover for them.

What’s been your experience with this?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

Leaders who refuse to throw their teams under the bus always have better teams. Click To Tweet

Leave a Comment





This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.