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Posted on Jan 27, 2017

8 Ways To Raise The Bar On Being Responsible

8 Ways To Raise The Bar On Being Responsible

Do you consider yourself responsible? Do those who rely on you consider you responsible?

Most people consider themselves responsible some of the time, and not as responsible as they could be at other times. The same can be said of organizations.

Businessman-with-hand-over-heartAs a core value, some of the best corporate descriptions I’ve seen of Responsibility include:

  • You can count on us.
  • We do what we say we will do.
  • Keeping our word and delivering on promises.

Responsibility is one of the 17 Common Values found across Fortune 500 companies. Other terms often used in conjunction with this value include Accountability and Commitment.

When looking at how well an organization holds true to this value, here’s what I’ve discovered:

Those inside and outside an organization view the organization as being responsible some of the time, and not as responsible as it could be at other times.

Unlike All-In Commitments I wrote about previously, being responsible is not like flipping a switch. It’s a value that constantly needs to be fostered and encouraged.

So what can a leader of an organization do to improve the frequency and intensity of being responsible?

8 Ways To Raise the Bar on Being Responsible

No matter how responsible an organization might consider itself to be, and the people in it, there are always ways to improve.

Making-responsibilty-a-prioirtyEven if everyone in a company claims they embrace the value of Responsibility, here are eight ways to raise the bar:

  1. Set clear goals. Amazing things begin to happen when everyone understands who needs to do what by when, and most importantly WHY. It’s about creating a shared understanding of expected results or goals and the benefits anticipated from achieving them. To keep everyone focused on the right priorities along the journey, goals need to be clearly defined and articulated – often.
  2. Be open to new ideas. While being responsible is about following through on a commitment, it shouldn’t limit the creativity on HOW things get done. There’s good reason for the proverb: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Don’t just be open to new ideas, seek them out. Responsibility demands we solve old problems in new ways (and vice versa).
  3. Determine limits. There are always elements outside of a leader’s control. Being responsible is about doing everything within their power on that which is under their control. Leaders also need to be aware of false responsibility, assuming responsibility for something (or someone) that’s not part of their leadership mandate. But responsible leaders always look beyond their immediate area of responsibility at what’s in the best interest of the organization (going back to setting clear goals).
  4. Start small. Great responsibility comes with building momentum. By achieving success with a few, smaller tasks, competence is proven and confidence builds. This generates positive enthusiasm and energy to move to bigger tasks. Over time, areas of opportunity and responsibility expand. This applies to individuals, groups, leaders, and the organization as a whole.
  5. Be consistent. Responsibility has no legs without predictability. The reason for setting up defined processes and encouraging routines, and why standards exist, is to create predictable outcomes. To be responsible for something means others can reliably know what to expect, when, how, and where it was promised.
  6. Seek feedback. Every leader and their organization have blind spots, those negative (and goal threatening) elements only visible to others. By proactively seeking feedback from others, inside and outside the organization, it’s possible to reduce and even eradicate blind spots BEFORE they surface or become major issues. Responsibility also means being open to constructive criticism. It might be unpleasant to receive (at first), but treating feedback as gold is the best why to improve on responsibility.
  7. Put relationships over results. The focus may be on delivering expected results, but if the road to the goal is strewn with “dead bodies” then any sense of responsibility has been abandoned. Every journey to a goal includes hard choices. Being responsible means weighing the impact of decisions on relationships vs. results. Thankfully, this is rarely an either/or question. Responsibility is about looking at how to achieve agreed-upon goals while preserving relationships.
  8. Remain humble. Mistakes will happen. Deadlines will be missed. Unforeseen problems will arise. Egos will get bruised. If at all possible, avoid the blame game. Being responsible includes acknowledging failure, and even more importantly, learning how to forgive. A little humility goes along way to learning how to forgive others, and ourselves. This in turn earns the trust and respect of others to have another opportunity to be responsible.

And the benefits of doing all this?

Raising the bar on the value of Responsibility benefits everyone in an organization, from individual employees to managers, from the leaders to the organization overall. Paradoxically, greater responsibility brings greater freedom, in choices and opportunities. A higher level of responsibility also increases trust and respect from others, both inside and outside an organization. This in turn increases productivity and further enhances results.


What other ways would raise the bar on being responsible?