The Responsibility Is Yours, Or Is It?

"The price of greatness is responsibility."

                 — Winston Churchill

Passing the buck, abdicating responsibility, however you want to cut it, it is killing us in their country and the world. Nope, this won’t be political. Just truthful and honest.

Since you and I can’t just snap our fingers and fix the world or even the nation we live in, let’s start with what we can. How do you deal with your responsibilities? Also, how do your people deal with theirs? As a whole, most people choose apathy or pass the buck instead of stepping up.

We really need to look first at why. There are two reasons for not stepping up and being responsible.

  1. Most people haven’t had their responsibilities made clear to them. Confusion generally makes people default to doing nothing.
  2. They know better. Why? Because, whether by policy, or by culture, if they do step up and try to take responsibility in a situation or for a task, any failure is responded to with severe punishment and ridicule. Who in the world wants to deal with that reality?

So then, what is the solution to this debilitating and all too common dilemma? Yup, you guessed it! It’s you! The leader!

  • People do and emulate what they see in practice. From the top down. Therefore, this kind of change really is begun at the top! You need to be the change your people need AND be really public about taking responsibility yourself. There is power in this, so don’t ignore it!
  • Define responsibilities, beginning with yours. Do this for everyone. Why? So you can kill the state of confusion that is killing you. People do well with structure, to a point. Show everyone WHAT they are responsible for. Now give them the freedom to determine HOW they need to get there. If people do well with structure, they thrive with responsibility! Try it, you’ll like it!
  • Be the culture smith and shape your culture in this way. Unless a mistake or a failure is really life or death (aka, really really bad), then don’t shellac someone for their small failures! As a matter of fact, practice the opposite. You can use these experiences to learn from. What does this do culturally? It frees your people to try new things and go in new directions without the constant fear of retribution.

Think about it this way. What will happen if you don’t address this and take responsibility, you actually deserve what you already have. But, if you do set these things in motion, imagine the way your people could be affected! Hmmm. They’re only waiting for you to take responsibility...

"Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses."

— George Washington Carver



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Comment by Rick Seigmund on June 22, 2012 at 7:49am

Thank you Peter!

     That is exactly the point. By far, this is the culture of almost every company and organization that exists right now. And it is killing them, and their people. It can be different.....

Comment by Peter A Ferguson on June 22, 2012 at 7:07am

What I have seen often is companies trying to run a campaign of values and behaviors when what is really needed is to create a culture of personal responsibility. I've seen Mission Statements - usually vague or too lengthy to easily understand and memorize - posted nicely on walls in frames and other creative ways, but not owned by the employees in their hearts. I was at a job interview with the head of HR and another senior person and I asked them what the mission statement of their company was (it was framed just behind their heads). They could only tell me about 3-4 of the 8 bullet points. Decision by committee does not equate to employees embracing the mission.

Until every team member is clear of their mission, it is difficult to expect them them to additionally accept any responsibility to accomplish it.

Great post!

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