A Lesson In Career Accountability From Cam Newton. Hint: It’s Not Fashion

Buccaneers Panthers Football

Expectations were high for Cam Newton coming into 2019. The 2015 NFL MVP has more offensive weapons around him than at any other point his career.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner, couldn’t contain his excitement in training camp, “Cam is obviously a very complete player and he understands he has a lot of talented guys around him.”

Fans in Charlotte and pundits around the league were predicting a powerful offense and a throwback year from the incredibly talented quarterback.

It has not started as expected.

Two home games, two losses. The latest setback was a nationally televised defeat at the hands of the lowly Tampa Buccaneers. The Panthers have not scored a touchdown in the first half of a game in 2019.

After the game, reporters relentlessly probed for reasons.

Is he playing through injury? This would be a fair excuse, given his off-seasons shoulder surgery and an ankle injury that kept him out of a stretch of training camp.

Today In: Leadership

Is it the play calling? Fans are frustrated with play selection, wondering why the Panthers are not throwing the ball downfield with talented young receivers on the team.

Why isn’t Newton running the ball? Rushing is what makes Newton so difficult to prepare for. He might be the most physically imposing quarterback to ever play the game. Last night, he rushed twice for 0 yards.

Newton was having none of it in his post-game conference.

“You’re not going to hear no type of reasons why tonight didn’t go as planned. I have to be better. No matter what physical condition I’m in. No matter what, foot, shoulder – I didn’t get the job done tonight, man. I wish I could say something else, but that’s the facts.”

Cam Newton

This accountable response helps his team focus on the future. Had Newton alluded to execution issues by his teammates, play-calling from his coach or a nagging injury, the circus would show up in Charlotte.

Reporters would twist his comments and insinuate bigger problems for the Panthers. Teammates and coaches would be dragged into a conversation about the past that would culminate with Newton apologizing and taking the blame anyway.

“It’s time for me to do some real soul searching, because I had opportunities tonight and didn’t get the job done.”

Cam Newton

Excuses Create More Work For You And Your Team

Imagine you have to attend an important meeting.

You prepare intently, leave home early, arrive in advance and make small talk with other attendees.

The meeting starts and ten minutes later, someone shows up late. What is your gut reaction when they walk through the door?

Most likely, you are annoyed. In some small way, you feel disrespected. How they respond will go a long way in how that feeling continues.

“Man, traffic was horrible this morning.”

Given that you woke up early just to account for potentially bad traffic, how does this response make you feel? The manager who called the meeting isn’t buying the excuse.

“We work in Manhattan. Were you surprised that traffic was horrible?” Inevitably, this person will continue to dig a deeper hole. “Of course not. I took an Uber and the first driver cancelled. The second driver showed up and took the wrong route.”

The disruption of this individual being late is exacerbated by the lengthy excuse. A clearly annoyed manager can’t let it slide and feels the need to make a point.

“Is this the first Uber you ordered?”


“So, you are aware that it is likely that an Uber driver might cancel. It is also likely they might take a poor route, if not given specific guidance.”

“Yes. I’m sorry for being late. This is on me, and I regret making the people in this room wait.”

To lock in the lesson, the manager finishes with, “Why didn’t you just lead with that?”

Indeed, this individual could have put the mistake behind him by simply apologizing to the group, and being accountable. Once you admit your role in an obvious failure, there is typically nothing left to debate.

Own Your Mistakes And Move On

Any manager worth their salt will stop you in your tracks when you start to make excuses.

If you play the victim card, how can anyone be certain that you will learn and improve? By pointing your finger elsewhere, you accept that this failure will continue in the future.

Your manager will not be the only person annoyed by your lack of ownership. Remember that your teammates are facing the same challenges, and finding ways to overcome those obstacles.

When you point to an excuse that was not an issue for a teammate, you lose their respect. Worse, you lose their trust.

You start to develop a personal brand as someone not to be counted on. Inevitably, your team will return the favor and become less accountable to you.

This ends with your performance deteriorating. You will be passed on for promotions, receive less pay than your peers and risk losing your job.

When you are involved in any failure, own it. Even if you are a member of a losing team, own the portion you could have handled more appropriately.

This ends the conversation and helps you focus on the future.

Just don’t wear Cam’s outfit when you take the blame. You can’t pull it off.


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