When you saw the title of my post, did you immediately think of negative connotations? Taking responsibility for mistakes is what usually comes to mind. However, I like to think of all the positive outcomes instead. If you become the lead on a project, it is natural to then take on the responsibility for it; whether it is a success or a failure. If you would like the opportunity for reaping the rewards of success, you also need to take the risk that you will take the heat if things go badly. If you want to improve your chances of promotions and pay raises, then also taking on new tasks and responsibilities go with the territory. No one is going to give you perks if you don’t take ownership of your role and the functions/tasks you are responsible for.
The second interpretation of the statement is also negative, things happen to you because of extenuating factors or other people. You apportion blame to others and not yourself. This is a dangerous habit to get into, if you aren’t honest with yourself you will never learn and correct deficiencies which may be holding you back.
It is a well known fact at work that my desk has many different piles on it, yet I have perfectly functioning filing cabinets all around me. I could take the time to beautifully label folders and file them neatly away, which weirdly I do for certain things, but others languish on my desk. I am to blame. People tease me and encourage me to organize, but I have not yet done it. Whose responsibility is it to keep my desk free of clutter? It is mine of course, yet it isn’t a priority to me, and therefore it remains undone. From time to time I do tidy up and file, but the day has not arrived where I have a spotless desk. I take full responsibility, and if I couldn’t locate documents when I need them I would take action. But currently my 7 piles (yes, I just counted them!) function well.
My example was very innocuous – my desk is really not going to affect anyone other than myself, but I could have chosen a number of examples which you could relate to. You meant to email someone and forgot, the email message becomes lower as your inbox fills up, and you fail to reply in a timely manner. When the individual contacts you again how do you respond? Do you pretend you didn’t receive the first message or do you own up that you were too busy and it slipped your mind? Everyone can understand that sometimes life catches up with you and you can’t complete tasks or forget things. Nobody is perfect, so it is acceptable to own up and admit fault when it happens. The individual on the other end will probably appreciate an honest answer and may respect you more for telling the truth. Likewise, if you are the other person don’t rake the transgressor over coals, accept the truth and move on.
If there is an individual at work who you find difficult or unpleasant you also need to take responsibility. You do not need to be friends with your work colleagues, but you do need to have a cordial working environment. Have you placed blame on others “If only they wouldn’t do…”? You cannot change other people, but you can change yourself and how you respond to various stimuli. Is there a way that you can improve the situation and, if so, why haven’t you done it yet? Alternatively, have you looked at things from their perspective? It may surprise and enlighten you! If you do the responsible thing, you may find that the difficulties subside and your environment becomes more congenial.
Different examples could be being late or missing meetings; missing deadlines; going over budget; failing to complete tasks. Are you able to state “mea culpa,” take the repercussions and move on with grace? On the flip side, you could gain a reputation as being reliable, being on time, bringing projects in under budget, completing tasks to an exceptional level but, if you aren’t showing willingness to accept responsibility, it may not enhance your image. It certainly won’t help you win a promotion as the higher you climb the more responsibilities you shoulder.
I would like everyone to take responsibility for their careers. Jobs shouldn’t “happen” to you, each of us should actively decide what we would like to do, and then do whatever is necessary to ensure it happens. Sometimes, I feel that people feel trapped in their current roles and become bitter and angry, but they are choosing to remain.
If you want to do something different, begin to make small changes which will eventually have big effects. Take classes, read books, changing the way you view opportunities maybe all it takes for you to reach that seemingly unattainable goal. Think about your current job. Are you happy? Does it align with what you enjoy and your values? Is it what you want to be doing? Are you satisfied that you are compensated what you are worth? If you answered no to any of these questions, what are you doing to improve your situation?
There are so many different ways in which we can take responsibility but all of them are important. Start small and get bigger, you may find that you have increased confidence as you improve your work quality or learn new things. The only person who can limit you is yourself. If you want to be successful, what are you doing to ensure it becomes a reality and not a dream?