Personal Responsibility 101

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Consider the following factors that workers commonly list when asked to brainstorm issues that get in their way at work: 

  • resource constraints— insufficient information, people, material, or tools
  • limited time—too much work, co-workers not doing their part, constant change,
  • company policies, rules, regulations, and procedures
  • complacency—“that’s the way things have always been done around here”
  • competing priorities, and too many low priority distractions
  • interruptions
  • conflict among team members
  • unavailability of managers and leaders  
  • unclear lines of authority
  • too many managers (I answer to too many different people)
  • inconsistent message from various leaders. 

I’m sure you can you think of recent examples of many of these. Think of one example you’ve experienced recently. It is very easy to focus on the extent to which that factor outside your control constrained your options and left you feeling powerless. Right? 
Now, let’s conduct a little exercise. First, thinking about that moment, ask yourself:

  • What did YOU do? (Usually the answer is “nothing.”)
  • What could YOU have done differently in retrospect?
  • What were your options?
  • What thoughts, words, and actions could you have taken? 

Next, ask yourself:

  • Can you anticipate this factor getting in your way in the future?
  • What will be outside my control?
  • What will be inside my control? (My own thoughts, words, actions)
  • What options might I have?
  • What concrete steps will I take to make the greatest contribution I can? 

We call this set of questions “response power.” Learning to use “response power” is a very powerful way to learn and grow when it comes to taking greater personal responsibility. The idea is to think about those times when it feels like “there really is nothing YOU can do” and then reframe those situations to focus on the fact that there is always “something YOU can do.” 
Bottom line: Focusing on that moment of feeling powerless and finding answers to these questions is the key to teaching young employees how to increase their sense of personal responsibility. 

About the Author

Bruce Tulgan is internationally recognized as the leading expert on young people in the workplace and one of the leading experts on leadership and management. Bruce is a best-selling author, an adviser to business leaders all over the world, and a sought-after keynote speaker and management trainer.

Since 1995, Bruce has worked with tens of thousands of leaders and managers in hundreds of organizations ranging from Aetna to Wal-Mart; from the Army to the YMCA.  In recent years, Bruce was named by Management Today as one of the few contemporary figures to stand out as a “management guru” and he was named to the 2009 Thinkers 50 rising star list. On August 13, 2009, Bruce was honored to accept Toastmasters International’s most prestigious honor, the Golden Gavel. This honor is annually presented to a single person who represents excellence in the fields of communication and leadership. Past winners have included Stephen Covey, Zig Ziglar, Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, Ken Blanchard, Tom Peters, Art Linkletter, Dr. Joyce Brothers, and Walter Cronkite.

Bruce’s most recent book, The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Challenges (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2014) was published in September, 2014.  He is also the author of the best-seller It’s Okay to Be the Boss (HarperCollins, 2007) and the classic Managing Generation X (W.W. Norton, 2000; first published in 1995). Bruce’s other books include Winning the Talent Wars (W.W. Norton, 2001), which received widespread acclaim from Fortune 500 CEOs and business journalists; the best-seller Fast Feedback (HRD Press, 1998); Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: Managing Generation Y (Jossey-Bass, 2009); Managing the Generation Mix (HRD Press, 2006) and It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss (Jossey-Bass, 2010).   Many of Bruce’s works have been published around the world in foreign editions.

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