Best Way to Get Others to Take Responsibility

“How can I get them to take responsibility?” is the #1 question I receive from all audiences worldwide. My answer is counter-intuitive. I say “Practice responsibility yourself.” By that I mean: apply the Responsibility Process™ and Keys to Responsibility™ that I just taught you. And most (but not all) look at me like I’m completely nuts. Since they assume they are responsible then it’s those other people around them who aren’t! And I’m suggesting the questioner might want to take responsibility for that problem (“problem” being defined as choosing to surround themselves with—lead, parent, work with, etc.—people they find irresponsible).

How rude of me to invite them to face that possibility.Responsibility Process™ poster

Then I ask the questioner if I can push on them a bit. They usually say “Sure” with some nervousness. I ask “where on the Responsibility Process™ poster is the assumption ‘I’m surrounded by irresponsible people; they are my problem’?”

The uncomfortable answer is “Lay Blame.”

It is no fun to ask the #1 question in any audience and then find out you are asking it from a position of Lay Blame…

But that is why there is so much work to do to get the Responsibility Redefined™ message around the world.

The truth is you can’t make anyone take responsibility for anything. And that includes yourself. But you can invite and allow yourself to step up to responsibility, especially by tapping into your Responsibility Process™ using the Keys to Responsibility™. And by doing so, you create what I’ll call a responsible space or zone around you in which good things can happen. When you raise the standard for yourself all sorts of benefits accrue.

Consider this excerpt from an email sent by a new fan of Responsibility Redefined™:

A new phenomenon I am beginning to encounter. I’m seeing the Responsibility Process™ that I practice manifest in a reciprocal way. I’ve heard you say the best way to get others to practice responsibility is to do it yourself. In the past 24 hours two people have stepped up to be responsible. One has been neglecting volunteer duties. Out of the blue this person stepped up to “claim” her job. I willingly let her do this.

The other person is kind of a client… the client is actually a government entity and this person is part of the government entity, but not really “the client.” She has stepped up to take responsibility for tasks that I typically do as a project manager. She has a background in media and understands some key needs for location production. I have been pleasantly surprised that she has willingly assumed this responsibility and allowed me to focus on some tasks that only I can do at this point. I have willingly let her do this.

I have an intuitive feeling/belief about this, but I am not sure where this fits in the Responsibility Process. The idea is this: in order for others to take responsibility, I have to ALLOW them to do so. Perhaps the distinction here is “Allow” vs. “Force.” This is so exciting to me because these are the key words I use in training horses. “Allow” the horse to find the way; do no try to “make” the horse do something.

But all I have done during the past few weeks is begin to practice, albeit on a very rudimentary level, the Responsibility Process. Neither of the two persons mentioned above have any knowledge of what I have been learning from you.

I’ll continue to ponder this, but would appreciate your insight. My conclusion is that practicing Responsibility Redefined somehow creates an environment for others to fulfill their responsibility. Perhaps I could say that accepting responsibility involves practicing the process as well as allowing others to practice also.

Thanks again for listening. And thanks for being a mentor.

Applying this lesson is easy but counter-intuitive: Next time you find yourself wishing that someone in your life would step up and take responsibility, ask yourself if you are willing to own that problem. You can’t solve any problem you aren’t willing to first own.

Think about it.

(Here’s a related post)

Posted in Leadership, Responsibility on 06/06/2008 10:39 am
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