Archive for Personal Responsibility

Leadership Lessons From Mom!

All of us have a background and history. Many of the lessons I learned about leadership were really common sense child-rearing lessons passed on from one of the most remarkable people I know, my Mother. With Mother’s Day approaching I thought I would share a few with you.

Respect Everyone: No one ever truly knows anyone, what they’ve experienced, what they’re going through now, or who they are internally. Showing respect recognizes everyone partakes in struggle and triumph and deserves respect.

If You Can’t Share it With Your Grandmother, You Shouldn’t Say it, Write it or Do it: This is especially true now, be impeccable with all communication. Words tossed in rudeness, anger, haste or without thought will always come back to bite you in the butt. In this day of high-speed internet and Social Media, it’ll bite immediately, and it could cost you your job or force you to repeat it in court!

Be a Cheerleader: No, not a pom-pom shaking acrobatic one (unless that’s what you love to do), I mean cheer on the success, efforts and opportunities of others, just like you would your own child. Being happy for others rather than resentful feeds your soul.

Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously: Sometimes life is absurd, period. People react and are reacted to in ways unexpected. Situations don’t always work out as planned and one needs to redirect. Laugh! Find the humour and the gems of wisdom within the unexpected. You will be all the healthier for it and you’ll make more friends!

Clean Your Own Room First: Before you go criticizing others, take a good look at your own life. The day you can say everything in your own life is perfect, you are exactly who you wish to be and you have no tasks left to perform, go criticize someone else. Until then, collaborate, help, take part and learn the art of allowing, influencing and encouraging others in their path! We live in the same house!

Clean Out Your Backpack: Pay attention to what you choose to hang onto. Holding onto negative emotions, old resentments, anger and frustration is no different than choosing not to take that full milk container out of your backpack, after a while it begins to stink and rot and it ruins things!

Use Your Stuff: My mom lit her candles, used her good dishes and wasn’t afraid of polishing silver or using white table cloths. The deal is, you have it so use it! You are born with and have developed many gifts, talents and strengths worth sharing. You’ll find joy in using them!

Mom taught more lessons than that and I can guarantee you, I wasn’t always a quick study! The beauty of having a mom who models great leadership is that she’s willing to be repetitive, probably to the point of frustration at times! Lucky me that she still continues to persist in providing the lessons in life that, for some, only experience will drive home. Thanks Mom, for being remarkable!

(Original Post was written May 3, 2009. Update, my mother passed away on January 22, 2014 making these lessons ever so much more precious to me now!)


Personal Responsibility – Part 2 – Dealing with your own!

In Part 1 of this series, we were introduced to the idea of Personal Responsibility and an understanding for areas in our lives where it is best applied (everywhere). We ended with the understanding that a company cannot put full accountability measures in place in order to ensure all employees take personal responsibility for their actions, but they can make it known what they will or will not tolerate.

Companies that are accepting of deflection and avoidance of personal responsibility will generally see it running rampant. Why, because it is a learned behaviour. The interesting thing that happens when you take more than one or two people and gather them into a building is the behavioural diversity which occurs and then later melds to create a behavioural culture. Multiply that into corporate numbers of employees and your leader will have his/her hands full in order to manage the varied behaviours that will be represented. Ultimately, the top gun and their executive will be required to define the acceptable behaviour within their organization and sometimes they fail to understand the significance of this responsibility.

When allowed to run rampant, poor behaviour is not only a learned behaviour brought in from outside the organization, but also becomes a learned behaviour from within. Managers with poor behaviour, in practice, train and hone poor behaviour within their teams until it becomes the “culturally accepted” manner in which business is done within the company. The same pattern exists with companies whose management exhibits exceptional and excellent behaviour. The managers’ employees, if brought up organically through the company, then continue learned behavioural patterns from their management unless the chain is broken. Breaking the patterns involve a huge undertaking most often triggered by two key events.

  1. Company Leaders, starting at the top, are concerned about specific behaviour and take action to ensure they communicate the undesirable behaviours not to be tolerated and set expectations of acceptable behaviour.
  2. A new leader is employed by the company to shake things up and create a newly defined culture.

Both tasks challenge the very behaviours with which employees are familiar and one can expect change will not be welcomed by most. The importance of making change cannot be underscored, because managers who choose to combine poor behaviour with a lack of personal responsibility will pull attrition rates right down the pipe and this is turnover most companies can ill-afford.

Professor Robin Stuart-Kotze PhD from Behavioural Science Systems Ltd.( founded in 1972 by Dr. Stuart-Kotze) cites the following statistics in his article “Bad Behaviour Isn’t Necessary”:

“Statistics show that while 25% of people who are subjected to this type of behaviour leave their jobs, that’s not all that happens; 20% of the people who witness the behaviour also quit.”

The behaviour we are focusing on in this series is the Avoidance of Personal Responsibility. The lack of Personal Responsibility in the leadership of an organization is nothing but detrimental to the organization in performance and morale.

If you are a leader, it’s your job to put ‘accepting personal responsibility’ top of the list of appropriate behaviour within your organization. The CEO and subsequent executive must decide for themselves what kind of behaviour is acceptable and what kind is not. The job is then to begin putting performance measures into place which will inhibit the practice of those behaviours which are deemed outside of appropriate behaviour for the company. Making a well-defined change-management plan is vital, remember, measures can only go so far, the leadership of the company need to continually convey messages of what behaviour they will and will not accept.

The best way to accomplish a change toward cultural personal responsibility is;

1. Ensure all promotions and career advancement are measured specifically to lead people’s behaviour toward what the company deems acceptable.

2. Set clear expectations communicated throughout the company of what is acceptable and what behaviour is not at all tolerable.

Don’t just “talk” it, walk that talk and measure it, promote the kind of people you would be proud to have as your company representatives, release those who cannot meet company expectations and be clear you are creating a performance management system which is well-rounded – not just based on margin.

As an employee it can be devastating to work with a leader who deflects personal responsibility and worse yet, points fingers and blames others to claw their way to the top. Often within companies, poor behaviour is responded to with equally poor behaviour because it is culturally acceptable to do so. In the matter of responsibility avoidance a company becomes its own worst enemy by promoting and supporting those managers who practise it.

What does an employee do in tough times when they are lucky to have a job yet find themselves in a company where Avoidance of Personal Responsibility is running rampant?

The reality is such that if you feel you cannot affect change while in a subordinate position, what you CAN do is make a point of putting checks and balances on your own behaviour to ensure you don’t go down that same path. Make a commitment to standing firm on your own values and being the kind of leader you would be proud to follow. To start, you can look at ways you might be avoiding responsibility yourself, then you need to determine why you do it.

Dr. Robin Stuart-Kotze describes responsibility avoidance as performance blocking behaviour in his article Dealing with Performance Blocking Behaviour – Your Own. Performance blocking means you’re putting a block in your performance and that can definitely be career limiting.

Here is what Dr. Stuart-Kotze says about Performance Blocking Behaviours:

“…absorb valuable time and energy, slow down growth, increase costs, cause valuable people to leave, and create a climate of low commitment to achievement. Performance Blocking behaviours are in almost all cases emotional reactions to external forces – threat, frustration, stress, anxiety, uncertainty, etc.”

“The main causes of Responsibility Avoidance behaviour [within an organization] are:

· fear of failure

· fear of having one’s actions and decisions challenged

· fear of the risk of responsibility

· feeling trapped in a job one doesn’t like or want to do”

In an effort to curb performance blocking behaviour, Dr. Stuart-Kotze suggests individuals learn to recognize when they’re “feeling frustrated, anxious, nervous, threatened, powerless, helpless, slighted, unappreciated or angry” and then deal with why that emotion is stirred within them.

While it’s hard work to change personal behaviour it’s certainly not impossible. A detailed awareness of what emotion is felt and an understanding for the belief system behind that emotion will help a person determine where to start on the road to taking responsibility.

Here are a few suggestions for how to ensure you are working hard to take responsibility for your actions:

  1. Make of list of the items you think you may be avoiding when it comes to taking responsibility for them. (Hint: use the list of emotions Dr. Stuart-Kotze lists above)
  2. Better yet, Dr. Stuart-Kotze suggests you find a co-worker you trust to help you determine if you are exhibiting any performance blocking behaviour, and in this case those which lead you away from taking personal responsibility.
  3. Especially examine those things for which you are either blaming others or that leave you feeling victimized.
  4. Examine each item carefully and ask yourself, “What was my role in this one that produced the outcome realized?” Be honest with yourself about your part in getting to the undesirable outcome and keep all focus away from anyone else. Do this with each item in your list.
  5. Own your action. Define how you could manage it differently to reach a different or better outcome. Ignore your desire to focus on what someone else should have done, acted or said. Pay attention to what YOU could change.

Dr. Stuart-Kotze suggests that expressing your emotions in the heat of the moment is usually not helpful in the situation but putting your focus on how to improve a situation is. He notes that, “All too often, blocking behaviours are intended to delay things, to avoid facing up to things, to deny things, to project onto others what you are really feeling and doing yourself or to rationalise what you are doing”

Ideally, you want to evaluate if your reaction to certain situations inhibits your ability to deal with them appropriately or are limiting your career. Avoid lying to yourself. Avoid blame or finger pointing, and seek to find choices you can make, actions you can take and changes you can implement with a strong sense of personal responsibility. When you are ready to take action, try to ask yourself in advance if it’s an action you can live with while taking full and considered personal responsibility for it.

If you already take personal responsibility seriously and work in a company where it’s not valued by the management, it might very well drive you to frustration to stay – just make sure you don’t take a leap outside your value system! I don’t necessarily suggest you quit, but you do need to be honest with yourself. If you can’t fit your values into the values of the organization, be kind to yourself and your career then carefully build your exit plan. Have patience and stand by your values while also keeping a keen eye out for opportunities at a company where the culture does support your value system.

If you are struggling to define your career fit, Strategic Sense Inc. has a Career Directions program to help you, contact us at: for more information

Strategic Sense Inc. Specializes in working with Executives of companies who care about their people and know their business is driven by the people within their employ. Leadership, Communication, Strategy, Plans of Action.

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Personal Responsibility – Not Just A Buzz-Phrase!


Part 1

We’ve heard it used in the political arena (one party requesting the other party to adopt it); we’ve heard it used in the media, and we ask why it no longer seems to exist in our society. We talk about it when we see large companies receiving government financial bail-outs then squandering the bail-out dollars on lavish offices and private jets. We’ve all worked for companies where some individuals display a flagrant and unashamed lack of it.

So, what is personal responsibility?

Taking Personal Responsibility is when we take responsibility for ourselves and our own actions.


I believe this means responsibility for all your choices in:

· relationships

·  life direction

· career

· how you feel  and react to events

· how you feel and react to people

· where your life has landed

· working toward future goals


Personal Responsibility does not only come into play after an action but also before and during every action and taking personal responsibility has positive effects in our lives.

· We stop being a victim of the world

· We earn respect both from others and for ourselves.

· We grow up and realize we are the catalyst for the creation that is us


I believe in personal responsibility!

I believe that life doesn’t just happen to us, that we have the potential to create our own destiny and we can do that as individuals and as a collective depending on the choices made. In the end, we must own the choices personally. That ownership forces us to accept we have and own the power for our lives. It forces us to engage in better decision making and planning for ourselves and it helps us to create and forge better relationships with others.

As the leader of my own life, it’s my job to take responsibility for any actions that have lead me to be where I am right now – good or bad! The beauty of this statement is that each and every thing I have ever done has brought me to this very point in my life which means each and every thing I can do in the future has the potential to bring me to a different place, if I so choose.

One of the most difficult experiences to manage in a company is when an employee, or worse yet a manager, lays blame for their lack of success on others.

“It’s because of <insert event or name here> that I was unable to make that sale…close that deal…complete the project…etc.”

“If it wasn’t for <insert event or name here> I would have been ____…owned ____…accomplished ____…etc.”

We’ve all heard the litany of excuses and the feverish pitch of blame tossed around by someone deflecting responsibility and most of us have even partaken in the avoidance of Personal Responsibility once or twice ourselves. What does it accomplish? Nothing positive!

Many companies work diligently to create accountability measures to ensure employees and managers alike are held responsible for the work they have been entrusted to do. The reality is, no accountability measures can replace personal responsibility, because personal ownership of ones actions go far deeper than a company can reach.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this post!

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Strategic Sense Inc Specializes in working with Executives of companies who care about the people and know the business they do is being done by the people in their employ. Leadership, Communication, Strategy, Plans of Action.