Leadership e-Tip 4: What Are Leaders Responsible For?

As an associate with Integro Leadership Institute I would like to share these thoughts about leadership by all employees.

One of the biggest challenges every leader faces is personal responsibility. The organization holds you accountable for the results of your team, so what are the team members responsible for?

One of the guiding principles I live my life by is: I am responsible for myself. If I am responsible for myself, then each of my team members is responsible for themselves. I cannot control their behavior, so I cannot be responsible for them.

However, as a leader, I am responsible to my team. I am responsible to them for:

  • Creating a work environment in which they actually want to work–where they want to and can perform at their best.
  • Ensuring they have the resources they need to do their jobs.
  • Putting systems in place that produce excellent results and removing barriers to their success.
  • Coaching and mentoring team members when their performance is not up to the standard we expect.
  • Developing the talent in my team so we continually improve our performance.

When something goes wrong–when we don’t achieve a goal or someone makes a mistake–I have found that looking for a scapegoat doesn’t help. Problem solving works much better than assigning blame.

Ask the team:

  • What can we learn from this situation?
  • What are the opportunities that this situation creates?
  • How can we improve our systems so this doesn’t happen again?

Taking responsibility for getting the problem solved, even when you didn’t create it, helps your team members see that mistakes can be an opportunity to learn how to improve performance. You will also be setting an example to your team members that you expect them to be responsible as well.

Increasing Personal Responsibility in Your Team

So what are employees responsible for?

My view is that they are responsible for their own decisions and actions. They are responsible for their performance. But we know from basic psychology that people do not accept responsibility for their performance when they have no say in what to do or how to do it.

Many leaders feel anxious about letting team members have more of a say in how to achieve excellence. They fear their goals will not be achieved or that people will make mistakes, despite the overwhelming evidence that organizations that tap in to their employees’ talent and creativity achieve superior financial results.

In situations where you feel the need to take control of a situation, take the following steps:

  1. Stop and think. Is this a situation where you really need to make the decision? Have you asked your team for input on how to solve the problem or improve performance?
  2. In reviewing your day, ask yourself, “Have I been more focused on getting people to do what I want them to do, or on getting them to perform at their best?”
  3. Before contributing your ideas, encourage team members to contribute their ideas. Make sure they are not just saying what they think you want to hear, by challenging their responses: “Do you really think that is the best course of action?”

Resist the temptation to be involved in team problem solving unless you are asked. Let your team be aware that you are available for assistance or mentoring, but that you want them to take responsibility for deciding how to best improve performance. When you tap into the creativity and talent of your team members, you will be a much more effective leader. At the same time, once they take responsibility for their own performance, they will go to extreme lengths to perform at their best every day.

How would leaders of organizations that create an environment of personal responsibility and model it with all their employees answer the following questions:

  1. Is your organization succeeding at the level you would like in today’s competitive market?
  2. Are your people able and ready to anticipate and adjust for tomorrow’s business changes?
  3. Are your employees at all levels excited and engaged in the work they do?

Are you able to answer yes to all of the questions?

If not I encourage you to meet with me. I have been fortunate to serve many happy clients, and would enjoy being able to serve you and your organization some day.