In our last blog, Taking personal responsibility – going back to leadership basics, we described how people’s personal power is diminished when they don’t take personal responsibility for the impact of their behaviours and actions and the results they cause. This results in some people feeling minimised and marginalized, who then become anxious, largely as a result of being isolated and lonely, as well as from worrying about losing their security and freedom, and finally, from having to deal with the instability in their working environments. This catapults people to disengage from the important conversations, job functions, key relationships, workplaces, and in some instances, even from society. Because many managers and leaders lack the basic self-awareness and self-regulation skills to control the only controllable in uncertain and unstable times, is to choose how to respond, rather than react to it. We achieve this by developing self-awareness and self-regulation skills and by creating the line of choice between stimulus and response to take personal responsibility for maximising the results of our mindsets, behaviours, and actions.
We have a unique moment in time to help people develop the self-awareness and self-regulation skills required to shift their defensiveness through being compassionate, creative, and courageous toward helping managers and leaders unfreeze and mobilise to exit their comfort zones. To take intelligent actions that catalyse and cause positive outcomes and deliver real solutions to crises, complex situations, and difficult business problems.
Why do people avoid taking personal responsibility?
People typically avoid taking personal responsibility for reasons ranging from simple laziness, risk adversity, or a fear of failure. They may also feel change fatigued, overwhelmed, or even victimised by the scale of a problem or a situation.
Usually, people will avoid taking responsibility because they don’t want people to blame, shame, or envy them for a mistake, a failure, or even for a misunderstanding. This is because in some way they feel as if they have been made “wrong” which is an unresourceful state that no one wants to feel because it impacts people viscerally and causes them to become immobile. They will also, avoid taking responsibility when they are feeling fearful of retribution, opposition, or the pain of punishment for what may have happened, even if it may not have been their “fault” which again causes them to be passively or aggressively defensive, as means of protecting themselves and staying safe.
Resulting in a range of different automatic defensive, and a range of non-productive reactive responses including:
- Avoidant behaviour, is where feel victimised and targeted, people passively “wriggle” and the buck gets passed onto others, and the real problem or issue does not get addressed or resolved.
- Controlling behaviour, is where people ignore their role in causing or resolving the real problem or issue, and aggressively push others towards their mandate or solution, denying others any agency.
- Argumentative behaviour, where people play the binary “right-wrong” game, and self-righteously, triggered by their own values, oppose other people’s perspectives in order to be right and make the other person wrong.
Creating the line of choice
At Corporate Vision, we added a thick line of “choice” between “personal responsibility” and “blame, justification and denial” to intentionally create space for people to consider taking more emotionally hygienic options rather than:
- Dumping their “emotional boats” inappropriately onto others, even those they may deeply care about, when their values get triggered,
- Sinking into their habitual, and largely unconscious default patterns when facing complex problems, and then continue delivering the same results they always have.
- Not regulating or managing their automatic reactive responses (autonomic nervous system) to challenging situations, without creating the vital space to pause, be conscious, and reflect to think about what to do next.
To enable them to shift towards taking response-ability (an ability to respond) and introducing more useful options for responding in emotionally agile, considered, constructive, inclusive, and creative ways to the problem or the challenge.
Noticing that when we, or others we interact with, do slip below the line to notice whether to “camp” there for the long term or to simply choose to make the “visit” a short one!
Doing this demonstrates self-awareness and self-regulation skills enabling people, and teams to take personal responsibility. This initiates ownership and a willingness to be proactive, solutions, and achievement-orientated – all of which are essential qualities for 21st-century conscious leadership that result in innovative outcomes that result in success, growth, and sustainability.
Shifting your location – from “you, they and them” to “I, we and us”
Developing the foundations for transformational and conscious leadership involves:
- Supporting people to acknowledge and accept that the problem or challenge is not “out there” and is within their locus of control or influence.
- Shifting the “Maturity Continuum” to enable leaders and managers to be both independent and interdependent.
- Creating a line of choice to think, act and do things differently.
- Calling out people when they slip below the line.
It involves supporting people to let go of their expectation that “they” or someone else, from the outside, will fix it, and supporting them to adopt a stance where:
- “I” or “we” can and are empowered to do it,
- “I” or “we” are responsible for getting above the line,
- “I” or “we” can choose a different way of being, thinking, and acting intelligently in this situation.
Developing conscious leadership
At any time, everyone is either above or below the line because it is elemental to the type of conscious leadership we all need to survive and thrive, in a world where people are seeking leaders, managers, and working environments that require interdependence.
To operate in the paradigm of “we” – we can do it; we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.
We cooperate together by creating the line of choice where we call out to ourselves and others when we slip below it, to get above the line as quickly as possible.
Where interdependent people and communities combine their efforts, and their self-awareness and self-regulation skills with the efforts of others to achieve their growth and greatest success by increasing:
- Transparency and trust,
- Achievement and accountability,
- Diversity and inclusion,
- Experimentation and collaboration.
All of these are founded on the core principle of taking personal responsibility, which is an especially crucial capability to develop self-awareness and self-regulation skills in the decade of both disruption and transformation.
Bravely calling out self and others
When we take responsibility for managing our own, “below the line” reactive responses, by habitually creating the line of choice, we can bravely call out ourselves and others when we slip below it.
Because when we don’t call ourselves and others we interact with, we are unconsciously colluding with their emotional boats, default patterns, and automatic reactive responses, which inhibit their ability to effect positive change.
When we safely awaken ourselves and others, we can get back above the line quickly and choose different ways of being, thinking, and acting intelligently in the situation.
Alternately, people aren’t taking personal responsibility, they cannot innovate, or be accountable, and they will fail in their jobs, and their teams, and fail to grow as individuals and as leaders.
In fact, developing self-awareness and self-regulation skills is a key attribute of emotionally intelligent and conscious leaders, who can safely and bravely disrupt themselves and their people, in the face of ongoing uncertainty, accelerating change, and continuous disruption.
This is the second in a series of blogs on the theme of taking responsibility – going back to leadership basics.
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