“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself.” ~ Jim Rohn
When was the last time you complained about a person or a situation? When have you had anything turn out differently than you wanted, either at work or at home, and you found yourself blaming someone else for the outcome? Come on, be honest. I know I’ve done it and still catch myself doing it. It’s likely that you have blamed or complained at one time or another. It’s a common response and one that most of us learned as a part of growing up. Yet, how would your success in life be enhanced if you took full responsibility for your results?
The Power of Choice
In every moment, you have a choice. Recognizing that you are always at choice and that you are responsible for your results leads to personal empowerment. Think about it. If you believe that your results are in the hands of external circumstances, then you give away your power to create what you want in every aspect of your life, including your work as a leader. While studying Jack Canfield’s Success Principles, I chose to develop an on-going practice of incorporating the principles into my life. Principle #1 – Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life – sets the foundation. Understanding this principle intellectually and fully embracing it are two different things. I am still a work in progress on this myself and I continue to integrate it a bit more each day.
A Leader’s Story
Here’s a simple example of not taking full responsibility. John was asked to take on a new, exciting project. In order to free up the time to devote to the new assignment, he delegated another important project to Tom, a member of his team. Tom is experienced and has the skills needed to handle the project. So, John spends a minimal amount of time outlining the project and expects that Tom has what he needs. Three weeks later, John gets a phone call from a very unhappy customer who is checking in on the delegated project and wants to know why they haven’t received the agreed to deliverable. The customer, who highly values dependability, tells John that they are going to seek a new vendor for future projects.
The Responsibility Formula
Many years ago, Dr. Robert Resnick introduced Jack Canfield to a simple formula that illustrates 100% responsibility remarkably well. The formula is E + R = O or Event + Response = Outcome. Let’s look at this example through the lens of E + R = O.
In this situation:
E = John had an opportunity to take on an exciting new project which required a delegation of something else on his plate to free up time.
R = John selected an experienced person, Tom, to take on the delegation and spent a small amount of time passing the project over.
O = An important deadline was missed and the company lost future business with the client.
Clearly, John wasn’t happy with the outcome. He has two choices when he encounters an outcome he doesn’t like:
- He can blame the event (E) for his lack of results (O). So, in this example, he could blame his boss for the timing of the new project that caused him to have to delegate in the first place. He could blame Tom for not delivering on the delegated project. Perhaps he finds a way to blame the economy, the weather, his dog, etc. You get the picture. There are many influences that can impact results or outcomes but if those influences determined success, then no one experiencing them would succeed. Yet, there are countless examples of those who experienced similar circumstances and were successful. So, the event itself does not lead directly to a particular outcome.
- John could change his response (R) to the event (E) until he reaches his desired outcome (O). In the future, for instance, John could take a more deliberate approach to delegating an assignment. He could set clear expectations and ensure alignment, build in periodic check-ins, work together to develop a plan of action, ask Tom where he feels he needs support, etc. In any situation, John can control his response. So when the choices you make don’t lead to the results you want, you can seek to understand what occurred. Then, you can determine what steps to take to get back on track versus blaming or complaining. Also, as events occur, you can proactively determine the outcome you’d like to achieve and respond accordingly.
Call to Action
While this principle may be easy to understand, it is not easy to implement. It’s an on-going journey of paying attention to the results you’re producing and what responses have led to those results. Ask yourself:
- What did I do or not do that led to that result?
- What do I need to do differently next time to get the result I want?
Since taking 100% responsibility can feel rather daunting, start with 5% more. Ask yourself, if I were to take 5% more responsibility for my leadership effectiveness, I would… and jot down your answers. Then, put an action plan in place to follow through on your commitment. Over time, this will naturally become a part of who you are.
Join me in the practice of integrating this core principle into your life and watch your results.