Ask not of others – demanding of others what you demand of yourself

Responsibility comes from two words, ‘response’ and ‘ability’ and is, in a literal sense, your ability to respond.

Think about what happens if you are unable to respond to a need – a need in yourself or a need in others. It makes you feel resentful, bitter, maybe spiteful and gives you a jaundiced view. That’s the feeling of powerlessness. So, not taking responsibility makes us feel powerless.

Then, it must follow, that taking responsibility – creating ourselves in the context of responsibility – makes us feel powerful. It makes us able to see our part in the outcome of whatever we’re working towards. It makes us stronger.

It also must follow that shirking responsibility – by finding blame, making excuses or being in denial – makes us weaker. And that takes us back to the resentfulness and bitterness of two paragraphs ago.

“But I can’t be responsible for all the things!” I hear you say.

Yes, you can.

If you’ve read my post, Responsibility – putting the ‘I’ in accountability you’ll know that you can be responsible for something without being the person who performs the task that you’re responsible for. Once you free yourself from the actual ‘doing’ you can be responsible for all sorts of things that you wouldn’t have to time to do by yourself.

“But what if they don’t do it as well as me?” I hear you ask.

First, make your expectations clear. In Design for success – structures for accountability we talk about SMART requests where you make your requests Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time bound, in order to make your expectations crystal clear. Now it’s just a matter of making sure that your SMART request reflects your high standards.

If you don’t get SMART about your requests, you will be able to get people to work to your standards for a while – by driving the process with your own willpower – but your strength will wane, and standards will fall. You will also notice that your people will get frustrated because they feel like you are shifting the goalposts all the time. So be clear, up front, about your requirements from the start.

Second, accept that people may not do things your way. Don’t be a person with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and end-up with everyone else’s work on your desk, just because you can’t let go.

Repeat this for all the things for which you are responsible.

The reason for all this is that I want you to feel the freedom and power that comes from being an agent of your own destiny – from taking responsibility.

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