Enlightened Conflict

shared responsibility

April 17th, 2017

 generation think attitudes collective individual share

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We tend to hold ourself accountable for things we never did.

Hearts we never broke. People we didn’t hurt.

Souls we didn’t crush. “

 

coral-vellichor

 

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All these years I’ve been looking at the wrong side.

 

(via madelinemharris)

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Ok.

 

Accountability, or responsibility, is always a good topic. And, yes, I am a big personal responsibility person. But in business, within an organization, being responsibleresponsibility tends to be more shared responsibility than simple personal responsibility.

 

Oh.

 

To be clear.

 

I believe there is a strong relationship between shared responsibility and personal responsibility. The stronger the shared responsibility attitude & behavior within leadership & mentors & role models the stronger the development of personal responsibility muscle occurs in everyday schmucks like me. Conversely, if you are surrounded with lack of shared responsibility examples <or even those who espouse ‘selectively chosen shared responsibility’> the value of personal responsibility diminishes to an individual, therefore, they see less value in exhibiting personal responsibility.

 

We don’t talk about this relationship enough.

Far too often we flippantly suggest “people should take responsibility for their actions.”

 

Well … no shit Sherlock.

 

But if your roles models or leaders are constantly passing the buck when the shit hits the fan to save their own bacon <and image> then what the hell … why would you not do the same?

irresponsibility made easy

Yeah.

Sure.

 

Everyone has to pull their weight and do their job and do what they say they are going to do … but very very rarely does an individual perform in a vacuum in a business.

 

This happens more so even in management.

 

It drives me a little nuts when I hear some leaders discuss “delegating.”

 

Somehow delegating equals “absolved of responsibility.”

 

This is stupid irresponsible thinking.

 

My belief that it is stupid thinking is rooted in some common sesne I am fairly sure the US Military says:

 

 

You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.

 

 

In other words … you can give others the power to do things … you can delegate … but, no matter what happens … if something goes wrong … the final responsibility always lies with the one who has delegated authority.

 

Sticking with the military as my guidance … this means if your business has an initiative that has gone SNAFU <“Situation Normal: All Fucked Up”> the blame … and the ultimate responsibility for the mistakes <fuck ups> falls … uhm … up.

The leader assumes responsibility.

 

This is shared responsibility.

 

In other words … this is leadership.

 

Yeah.

 

Once you become a business leader past a mom & pop management style business you have to face the concept of shared responsibility <and some embrace it and some reject it>.

 

puzzle people connect shared responsibilityDespite the fact you have delegated authority that ‘authority’ does not represent a discrete event and period in time.

You bear the responsibility for the cascade of events, decisions and actions leading up to the ‘authority giving’ which means everything you have done up until that point provides the context for the delegating … yeah … you own the arena in which you have placed the delegatee.

 

But this gets exponentially worse <if you are thinking about becoming a business leader>.

 

You actually also share responsibility for the consequences … uhm … intended and unintended.

 

This is different than delegating authority <although it relates to it> and owning responsibility for the action … this goes beyond to the actual ripples from the decisions & actions.

 

Now.

 

Some leaders have a nasty habit of assuming responsibility for the decision and the effect of the decision — within a finite period of time. The weakest leaders try and tie “that was out of my control” or “I wasn’t there for that” as soon as they can to a decision they make.

 

The strongest leaders worry less about any carnage that has been left behind but rather start worrying about any carnage the decisions & actions could possibly create for the future.

 

The truth is that business leaders should take a moment and remember the wise words of … well … an American Indian.

 

Red Cloud, an Oglala Lakota leader who led his people against the U.S. Army and later as his people transitioned from life on the plains to the reservation, stressed that when Indian people made a decision, it should be done with the welfare of the next seven generations in mind.

 

Whew.

world is yours ours share life

In a short term world where most business leaders are trying to make quarterly goals and just try and keep their job … thinking with the welfare of the next 7 generations seems … well … impossible.

 

I imagine the real point is that most good business leaders assume some responsibility for the generations to come.  Some people may call this ‘long term strategy’ and some others will call it ‘keeping your eye on the horizon’ or even ‘having a vision’ … well … I am no Harvard Business guru and all that high falutin’ stuff seems unnecessary. To me it is much more simple.

You make decisions accepting the burden of responsibility for what will come … and may arise from your decision.

 

You share the responsibility for what will, or may, come.

 

And if you do that? Damn. You will do good and be good.

 

And if you do not do that? Damn. You may get a shitload of attention and applause in the moment and a shitload of attention and anger in the future.

 

 

Why do I say that?

 

Because if you don’t really believe in shared responsibility and flit from one decision to the next in a transactional “responsible only to the moment” way you will end up rushing from issue to issue, reacting without a plan or a strategy or <worse> no care of longer term affect, creating carnage yet to be seen <because that type of leader tends to seek only the cheers in the moment>.

 

Uhm.

 

Innovative solution plan as a pencil trying to find way out of maze breaking through the labyrinth as a business concept and creative metaphor for strategy success and planning achievement.

Just to point it out … with no plan that means anything can happen and a leader can justify anything. Because with no plan to measure a decision against anything can look right … and unpredictable can be touted as ‘flexible to the situation.’

 

All of this fits a short term leader in a short term world.

 

The people are few and far between these days who weigh their responses and assess long term affects. In today’s world it almost seems a race to be the first to judge or comment on a decision or action and far too many leaders actually manage to the public race to comment rather than the longer term assessment.

 

This is scary stuff for anyone to do but a business leader? Dangerous.

Even the best short term decision makers, if forced into a gauntlet of short term decisions, will struggle to insure at the end of the gauntlet they have kept walking northwards as they had been looking down the entire time. More often than not North will not be the direction you are facing nor will you have actually moved any closer to the North star.

 

I am not suggesting this longer term shared responsibility attitude is easy.

In fact .. it is really really hard.

In fact … it almost means you have to embrace a little “impossible” into what you actually make possible.

 

Huh?

 

 

In general I have always liked logical thinking <no matter how random the logic may be> but I always love it when someone combines some unexpected logic.

Generally speaking the best unexpected logic actually comes from those who do the impossible … thinking of the impossible and seeing possibilities — the impossible being “knowing for sure what will happen in the future.” They make the spectacular leaps/chances, accepting responsibility and sharing responsibility, so that business can make the needed changes or just do the semi-risky things that keep a good business doing good things <things that may push against the borders of the status quo>.

 

Yeah.

Spectacular errors can only happen if you take spectacular chances. I am not fond of irresponsible risk taking and decision-making, but I am fond of doing ‘the right thing’ even when it may appear to be going against the stream. Sometimes that means a spectacular success, sometimes a spectacular error. But always something spectacular.

 

And I will tell you … what more could you want to say about your life as a leader but that you have done something spectacular? Especially if that ‘spectacular’ actually happens a generation later which permits you to sit back and say “I did the impossible … I viewed the future well.’

 

Anyway.

 

Shared responsibility is the burden of any good leader. They tend to be the leaders who understand they cannot really be sure what is going to happen to them over time, they weigh the risks to the best of their ability and let the chips fall as they may.

I tend to believe their attitude is one of “you don’t want to act more fearfully than you have to.”

 

Good leaders have a tendency to hold themselves accountable for anything, everything and everyone … in varying degrees depending on the anything, everything and everyone. And, maybe most importantly, I tend to believe they understand that there is a relationship between shared responsibility and personal responsibility.

 

And, practically speaking, you will never be viewed as a true leader if you do not.

 

Well.my life is my message duty

 

You know what?

 

To end this thing today … let me offer two other words, typically associated with responsibility, obligation and duty.

 

Obligation refers general to something you are compelled to do by regulation, law, promise or morality. I think good leaders feel obligated to assume shared responsibility.

 

Duty, more so than obligation, springs from an internal moral or ethical impulse rather than from external demands.

I think good leaders feel a duty to assume shared responsibility.

 

Shared responsibility … not only do I believe we should discuss it more often <because it will foster better value in personal responsibility> but I also believe we should be demanding it of our leaders more often.

personal responsibility personal acceptance

December 1st, 2015

 

accountable point

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“You’ll have to help yourself.”

Lemony Snicket

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“It may be the wrong decision, but fuck it, it’s mine.”

Mark Z. Danielewski

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“More than anything, to me, he was dad. And what a dad. He loved us with the passion and the devotion that encompassed his life. He taught us to believe in ourselves, to stand up for ourselves, to know ourselves and to accept responsibility for ourselves.

—-

Justin Trudeau at his father’s funeral

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Personal responsibility is hard.

 

 

Much much harder than conceptually it sounds like it should be.

accountability actions consequences

 

I do not have any research today to show how people who have a strong sense of personal responsibility attained that character trait <although if you google it there are gobs of people with an opinion on it>.

 

 

 

For everyone who had great parents who taught them I can give you a dozen examples of people with crappy parents who have a strong sense of personal responsibility.

 

For every victim mentality person I can show different contextual situations that got them into that state of mind and, just as well, the path to a strong sense of personal responsibility is numerous and rarely a straight path.

 

 

But, even without research I will suggest a couple of things:

 

 

1. Personal acceptance.

 

letters to myself post it

To have personal responsibility you almost have to have a strong foundation of personal acceptance.

I imagine I could suggest that if it doesn’t than you are simply ‘posing’ in an attempt to look like you are responsible <and that rarely can stand the test of time>.

 

Regardless.

 

Somehow, someway people with a strong sense of personal responsibility have developed a strong sense of self. Not necessarily confidence … just self. They recognize ‘they is what they is’ and accept the flaws <and try to improve in some way> and accept their strengths <but never take them for granted>.

 

In their personal acceptance we, around them, see ‘solid.’ We love these people on our business teams and friend teams … as peers or as leaders … because regardless of their IQ or leadership skills or professional skills … they are lighthouse people in their own right.

 

These people can also be baffling to the perfectionists in the world because part of ‘personal acceptance’ is understanding, if not embracing, imperfections.

 

 

 

2. Lucky to be here but many others are just as deserving.

 

 

Let me suggest that people with an incredibly strong sense of personal fate waiters luckresponsibility will also most likely be the people who suggest they had a little luck along the way – lucky in life situations, lucky with mentors, lucky in opportunities – and even though they had worked hard they had done nothing to actually deserve the luck.

As a corollary to this thinking they would also believe, as part of the luck aspect, that there are many others just as deserving. This attitude creates a sense of responsibility for actions, behavior and attitudes. Mistakes are owned and successes are shared.

 

Some people may suggest that personal responsibility and accountability is a reflection of integrity or humility.

Well.

It may be.

But I rather believe it is more a sense of understanding that successes are more often than not a reflection of just hard work but also circumstances.

And, to that point, inherently someone with a strong sense of accountability balances success with the understanding that a portion of success is luck – luck of circumstance & luck of being the one where many were just as deserving if provided the opportunity.

 

 

 

Like I said in the beginning.

 

 

This is not based on research and you can toss this into your ‘Bruce bullshit bin’ if you want.

 

 

But I do not need research to state that personal responsibility and personal acceptance takes work. Lots of work. And lots of fortitude.

 

It is the kind of thing you spend your entire life working hard to not only ‘be’ but to live up to the character standard you have set for yourself. A standard which you will never measure others against because … well … it is personal.

 

You are accountable to your own standard and responsible to meet it. And everyone not only has the ability to set their own but they also have an unequivocal right to do so without anyone else telling them “how to be accountable.”

 

 

————

“It was instead something that we would have to spend the rest of our lives to work very hard to live up to.”

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Spike Leeself unpronounceable

————-

 

 

 

 

Personal responsibility is actually one of Life’s lightest burdens if you choose to accept it. That is why I am so often surprised by how many people actually do not accept this burden.

 

But, in the end, personal responsibility is a personal choice. No one can convince you to do it or be that way. You have to help yourself on this one because no one else can.

corralling chaos (a management lesson)

August 17th, 2014

chaos control leadership

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“True freedom is where an individual’s thoughts and actions are in alignment with that which is true, correct, and of honor – no matter the personal price.”

=

Bryant H. McGill

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So.

 

 

I recently wrote about my college job, fake security guy with a company called Contemporary Security Company <CSC>, and it made me think about another good business lesson I learned.
I call it corralling chaos.

 

 

chaos team alignment

Maybe it is more simply managing people.

 

 

Whoa.

 

Comparing chaos to managing people?

 

 

Yup.

 

 

Look.

 

 

Unless you want to hire a bunch of clones or do some mind meld trick upon hiring someone … you are going to inevitably have a wide variety of specific skilled people, a mosaic of personalities and characters … and … well … humans being human within your purview.

 

 

I learned this very quickly as a youngster at CSC.

 

 

And, by the way, I didn’t learn this because I was some brilliant leader or insightful organizational behavior person at the age of 18 … I learned it out of simple survival.

 

 

Once I became a supervisor I definitely had a ‘Bruce team.’ A small group of guys who I always selected <or they selected me> to be surrounded by to manage and utilize.

 

 

In hindsight I was a little different than some of the other supervisors.
I liked using the same guys even though the assignment was different.

 

I liked tweaking each guy’s ‘comfort zone’ to show them how to adapt.

 

 

I think I subconsciously recognized that it probably helped me out under a variety of assignments in that these guys … and these guys were wired differently … wouldn’t take a cookie cutter approach to how they handled things.

 

 

Not only did they see that things could be done differently <than maybe what their first instinct was> but also they became comfortable with some things out of their comfort zone.

 

 

The best example I have is two guys who were with me whenever possible.

 

 

They were book end personalities.

 

CSC 4

 

Lamont.

 

 

African American. Sharp & smart. Took life seriously. Scowled a lot. Maybe 6’ 1” and 280 pounds of hair triggered whirlwind of aggression.
You only walked up to Lamont from behind very carefully.

 

 

I vividly remember walking up behind him and tapping him on the shoulder … and he spun around with a semi graceful martial arts form <… c’mon … how graceful can a 280 pound guy be> … crouched and coiled to part my head from my shoulders.

I also vividly remember his eyes were laser-like and seemingly completely clear of anything but ‘destroy.’ Without relaxing … he said ‘little buddy … you shouldn’t sneak up on me like that’ … and then he uncoiled.

 

 

 

Dave.

 

White suburban kid. Maybe not the sharpest knife in the drawer. 6’ 2” and chiseled 220 pounds or so. Played defensive end at Orange Coast junior college.

Easy going … smiled a lot. The first time I met him on the job I saw him wade into a drunken brawl of maybe 6 guys and singlehandedly blow it up with maybe only one punch thrown by him <which admittedly put that guy out of commission>.

 

These two guys became the bookends that held most of my teams together.

 

 

Lamont was like an assassin.

 

Dave was like a bull.

 

 

Lamont I restrained.

 

Dave I released.

 

 

Both could intimidate in their own way … but their instinct was always to act with power of action … and not words.

 

 

My bosses struggled to understand why I always wanted them … no matter the assignment.
Lamont was often seen as uncontrollable <therefore they hesitated to want to put him in more ‘delicate diplomatic’ situations>.

 

Dave was often seen as ‘not too smart’ <therefore they hesitated to want to put him in situations where he may have to think on his feet>.

 

 

Beyond the fact I saw how these guys could be used effectively … I probably more recognized that situations my bosses ‘foresaw’ within an assignment more often became unforeseen actions & consequences.

 

 

chaos and safety

Security at some event with zillions of people wandering around <many drinking> all with an attitude that ‘hey … I paid to be here … so I can do pretty much whatever I want’ is inevitably one of much randomness.

 

Interestingly … that describes the business world fairly well <without the drinking>.

 

Managing people isn’t really about plans & planning … or even having a plan … it is more often about how to deal with what happens when the plan breaks apart.

 

 

Look.
Plans and planning … and all the things under those headings <business plans, contingency plans, succession plans> … are all good things … uhm … until they aren’t.

 

 

All the plans that once bring order, continuity, and control often become rigid obstacles to progress and adaptation.

 

 

Lamont, Dave … shit … whatever personality I was supervising … I found that most people are trying to do what they believe is in the best interest of the organization.

 

 

I also found the trouble was often they may not have the same point of view on what that is.

 

 

And, yes, that leads to some version of chaos.

chaos corral outcome and understanding

 

You can have two people conducting themselves with the best of intentions and trying to do the right thing.

 

Both options are valid.

 

 

Uh oh.

 

 

But the conclusions they reach end up in direct conflict with each other.  This creates confusion <with each other as well as those around them seeking cues on what to do>.

 

 

A lot of the supervisors around me did two things.

 

 

 

One.

 

Bitched & moaned about ‘the guys they managed’ and said ‘they just don’t get it.’

 

 

Two.

 

Picked guys for their team that they could ‘control.’

 

 

Me?

 

 

I guess I decided to take responsibility for getting out of the chaos.

 

 

I assumed from day one that it was me responsible for allowing chaos.

 

 

 

 

I also assumed I couldn’t control anyone … certainly not someone like Lamont or a number of other highly wired individuals I liked to have on my team … but I did assume I could point them in the right direction <with regard to attitudes & actions>.
I picked guys for my teams who could get shit done. And get shit done within some principled behavior guidelines.

 

chaos control game

I kind of assumed my role was to ‘be still amidst the chaos and active in repose’ <Indira Ghandi>.

 

 

Be a compass as it were.

 

 

 

 

Look.

 

 

I certainly didn’t understand all the real thinking behind good management and leadership at that age.

 

 

 

What I do know now for sure – good leaders provide a compass.

 

 

A good leader helps others think through implications that can impact the broader team’s goals and objectives.

 

 

Once people have orienting values and principles, their ability to think and operate independently accelerates.

 

 

 

Good leaders hold people, themselves included, accountable to a set of values and principles.

 

And leading is often measured by how you deal with the times which inevitably occur when the leader needs to confront a difficult decision that puts principles to the test.

 

 

Corralling chaos is all about getting comfortable with being slightly uncomfortable.

 

 

My guys recognized that always sticking to the plan without fail provided a false sense of security.

 

 

They knew from experience that there needed to be some flexibility with “how” the “what” is implemented.

 

 

 

They embraced the purposeful discomfort and I rewarded the purposeful discomfort.

 

 

I left room for serendipity.

 

 

I left room for what is called “interaction with an unintended outcome” <Scott Doorley, Stanford>.

 

 

Some smart guy, Atul Gawande, states there will always be people who excel and thrive in complex and chaotic environments.

 

 

People who “have a better capacity to prepare for the possibility, to limit the damage, and to sometimes even retrieve success from failure.”

 

 

 

Well.

 

 

 

I agree with that and I don’t agree with that.

 

 

 

I agree that some people are better than others at the ability to quickly assess situations and take decisive action based on their experience and instinct.

 

 

 

I don’t agree that anyone and everyone can become better and hone this ability. In fact … part being a good leader is trying to figure out how to maximize this ability within employees <because it enhances autonomy which increases organizational efficiency>.

women leadership

 

I have no clue if I am particularly strong with the ‘capacity to prepare for unintended consequences.’

 

 

 

What I do have a clue on is that no matter how strong I may be … I can’t prepare for everything and can’t solve everything and I can’t be everywhere at all times.

 

 

I liked having a variety of skilled people available … no matter how difficult they were to manage.

 

 

 

Why?

 

 

It increased the likelihood the team could handle any ‘unintended consequences’ as they arose.

 

CSC taught me a shitload.

 

 

It taught me very quickly that when supervisors complained that people are working against each other, that they are not aligned, that they don’t seem to ‘get it’ … that they are full of shit.

 

It taught me first & foremost that a supervisor needs to look in the mirror.

 

 

Anyway.

 

 

Is chaos a bad word to use when discussing people management?
Aw.

 

Probably.

 

inspire leadership

But here is what I do know.

 

 

I would rather corral chaos than ‘light a fire under someone’s ass.’

 

 

Is that a management style?

 

Sure.

 

 

I imagine so.

 

 

I imagine it is actually a management or leadership choice.
And when I look in the mirror with regard to management style I am okay with what I see.

 

And I thank my CSC job for helping me be okay with it.

 

—-

CSC becks

If interested, after you read this post, you can visit his past CSC ‘learnings’ posts:

<learning to say no>

http://brucemctague.com/big-fred

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<practicing actually means more relaxed>

http://brucemctague.com/the-wall

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<action has its time>

http://brucemctague.com/there-is-a-time-to-talk-and-a-time-to-act-part-1

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<gaining perspective>

http://brucemctague.com/what-you-do-not-see-at-a-concert

 

 

Enlightened Conflict