“Own it or it will own you.” This was a phrase I used recently as I was working with a team around them taking responsibility for themselves when dealing with conflict. I recently read two great blog posts by John C. Maxwell relating to this subject. No “Blamestorming” allowed and Responsibility: The First Step in Learning. From the Blamestorming article, Maxwell offers this: “Taking responsibility for your life, your actions, your mistakes, and your growth puts you in a place where you are always able to learn and often able to win.” And from the Responsibility article he offers: “When you take responsibility for yourself, you take responsibility for your learning.” I would add that when you take responsibility for yourself, you take control of you. What does that mean? Well, let’s go back to, “Own it or it will own you.” There are a few thoughts that come to mind around this statement.
First, if one does not take responsibility for himself, his circumstances control him and his actions. I have a good friend that has a great piece of guidance for his employees. When one of them becomes controlled by his circumstances, he will say, “Looks like you are in the passenger seat. What needs to happen is for you to get into the driver’s seat.” What a great way to look at that circumstance. If one does not take responsibility for oneself, others will control his/her life. Blaming other people, other things, and/or circumstances is like handing the steering wheel of our emotions to someone else and allows them to drive us in the direction they want. Most of the time that direction is not the one we want to follow. If we take responsibility for our life and choices, then we take control of our emotions that go with the circumstance. This is not to say that when we take responsibility for a mistake or poor choice that we will not suffer the consequences. However, those consequences do not define us as a person. When we do not take responsibility for the action, then the consequences will have us believe our choice is more about our character than our choice.
Second, if one does not take responsibility for herself, she becomes a victim. How do I know when I am a victim? When I am making excuses for what is going on in my life. When one casts blame on her circumstance through her excuses, she is a victim and powerless to move in a healthy direction. Excuses feel like power. Momentarily, the discomfort one feels from her circumstances is numbed by excuses. It feels much better at first to blame someone or something. In the long run, the blamer is the victim and powerless. A victim mentality is so hard to remove ourselves from. It is so much easier to blame someone or something else for our circumstance. It can make us feel better. However, blaming really does not allow us to look at ourselves and where we need to grow. Blaming allows us to play victim and keeps us from looking at the possibility that we might be failing at what we are attempting. When playing victim, we are no longer in control. We have given the power to something beyond ourselves. It is easier that way until we realize we are not getting what we really want. Until we take responsibility, we are under someone else’s ownership.
Third, a lack of healthy responsibility creates inaction. Look no further than our country’s current situation regarding the political scene. I do not have to take a side here to see that the blame game is at its height during this current power struggle in our government. Notice how the lack of owning responsibility has created deadlock and inactivity; and the consequences are becoming widespread. When we do not take responsibility for our lives and circumstances, we create a gridlock in our world. Procrastination has some of its roots based on the inaction created by not taking responsibility for ourselves. How many times have you regretted the chances missed due to procrastination? What other opportunities have been missed by inaction? And…this turns back to the vicious cycle blaming and “victimitous”.
Finally, a lack of healthy responsibility creates a sense that we are “misunderstood”. When I do not take responsibility that I have not communicated well, I begin to feel like I am misunderstood. In all actuality, that feeling that “I am misunderstood” is a form of blaming the other person. It is likely I have not communicated clearly what is going on in me or my intentions, expectations and/or instructions. Before feeling “misunderstood”, maybe I need to check to see if I was clear in my communication.
Good leaders and managers take responsibility for themselves. By taking responsibility, they step into the driver’s seat and have power over their choices. Even when the choice was a poor one, taking responsibility is much more powerful that shirking said responsibility. Giving up responsibility gives power the excuse, etc. Taking responsibility keeps the power in our court. It allows us to make a different choice. It also shows a great example of how to stand in power.
Where are you giving up your power and sitting in the “passenger seat”? Which of the four above examples do you tend to follow? What can you change to regain your power?