Posts tagged Responsibility
Plausible deniability

If we're honest, we've all sought it out. It's a tantalizing proposition. The offer of plausible deniability is direct access to feelings of safety, preserving the status quo, and self-promotion.

Those are desirable feelings. They're also far from free because the exchange of plausible deniability is less and less ownership.

That's a tough pill to swallow for those of us interested in doing remarkable work. The work of a linchpin professional is continuously moving in the direction of more and more ownership of the work. Not less.

With ownership comes opportunities for generosity, possibility, self-discovery, and yes, remarkability. To access these though we must be willing to set aside the allure of plausible deniability.

If it's remarkable work, remarkable relationships, remarkable lives that we're after then the decision awaiting us is this:

Bravely choose responsibility over deniability.


Ideally, we'd agree.

Ideally, everything would go the way we planned it.

Ideally, everyone would want the same things we want.

Ideally, we’d have all the info.

Ideally, nothing would go wrong.

Ideally, everyone would always act rationally. 

But then, of course, we'd all be the same, and I think the world would be a much more drab and colorless place. 

The world doesn't work this way. We don't always agree. Surprises happen. Things do go wrong. What an opportunity we have, on each occasion, to decide for ourselves how we want to show up in the world. 

It's tempting for us to give our power here over to the circumstances, or others who acted wrongly, or our fear. The truth is - our decisions are ours to own; what a gift.

So, yes, things are hardly ideal. Now, how do we choose to show up?

No one is requiring you to be a good client

But you’ll end up paying less if you are.

Not just financially — also with your time, energy, resources, and trust.

Said another way — it’s more expensive in the long-run to insist on your vendors catering to your personality and preferences than it is to work to empathize with them.

It’s worth it.

For anyone curious, here’s a great place to start.

Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash
It's not bad to consume

In fact, it’s quite necessary to our survival. Consumerism has garnered a bit of a bad connotation these days in our vernacular, but it’s quite important that we not hastily label all consumption as evil, or even inconsiderate.

Instead, it’s important that we ask our questions less black + white — and much more helpful — questions like these:

How much are we consuming?

For what purpose are we consuming it?

Is it more than we need?

What opportunities might we have to share our excess?

Is our consumption harming anyone or anything unnecessarily?

Is there a more responsible way?

What would we consume here if we cared?

The stories in our head are powerful

They determine a lot about how we choose to see the world and interact with it.

You know what the great news about that is?

If we don’t like one of those stories, we can change it.

Almost always, we have more leverage to make a difference than we think we do. And it starts with the stories we tell ourselves.

Now, it’d be nice if we could stop the post there, tie a nice little bow around this topic, and come back for the next one tomorrow. I’d be doing us all a disservice if I did that. Because there’s a second part to this.

Part two — change is hard. It’s scary, and vulnerable, and most of all it means we’ve made a decision to change. And anytime we make a decision, that makes us responsible. It turns out, we’re often quite averse to responsibility. Because responsibility might mean failure, or blame, or rejection. Ouch. Better to avoid that stuff at all costs, we say.

Deciding to change the stories in our head is no different. Except for this little truth we often overlook — whether we decide to change the stories in our head, or do nothing, we are making a decision. Which means either way, we’re responsible.

So here it is, the first story to reset: no matter what, we’re responsible. We might as well make decisions and stories we’re proud of.

Seeking approval

To be a changemaker is to choose a life of ownership, of taking responsibility for the work — our work.

This is the road we choose when we seek to make something that matters.

Sometimes along this road, approval is required. In some form or another.

At no point along this road, should seeking approval become our default marker that it’s ok to proceed.

Seeking approval, by definition, is the passing of responsibility. It’s the industrial mentality. The formulaic obedience of not sticking out. No meaningful change ever happened inside of a process filled with approvals.

Change only happens when we seek with the courage the responsibility of doing generative work, of building connections, of bravely sticking out.

So seek approval if you must, when you must. But before you do, how much of the work can you own first?

A more productive approach

The next time we catch ourselves wanting to complain, it might be worth asking if there’s anything we can do to improve the situation first.

At first blush, it’s easy to tell ourselves the situation is out of our control. Less easy though if we take a moment to examine the facts, and consider options for what helping might look like. Even in the case of global issues such as access to clean water, there’s generally something we can personally do to aid the cause.

So, have we really taken time to consider if there’s something we can do to help. Before we simply say, “Yes”, take another moment to open our frame and examine all our options again with a fresh perspective.

It’s quite possible that you’ve found an exception. That the issue you’re confronted with doesn’t have an opportunity for you to contribute positively to it. Fair enough. Here’s a question though — how exactly will complaining about it be helpful? If there’s no way to go through the issue, still more productive than complaining is finding a way around it.

A thought on working with teams

By now we’ve realized that things have a way of going wrong. This isn’t so much an element of working in teams as it is an element of life. As much as we plan and as hard as we try, there just doesn’t seem to be a tried and true method for avoiding problems; not so much a matter of if, but when.

If we’re paying attention, we’ve also noticed that our gut reaction is to look for a reason why the problem isn’t our fault. So when we work inside of a team one easy way to do this is to look for a reason why it is someone else’s fault.

The question we’re answering without ever asking: “Who’s responsible?”. And we answer it by saying, “Them!”.

Isn’t that what we want though, to be responsible? So why are we so quick to give it away? And what exactly is productive about exposing the flaws of our teammates?

Alternatively, we could take responsibility ourselves. We could own the work at the least desirable time. We could act in a way that builds trust and connections with our teammates, rather than destroying it in an effort to elevate ourselves.

It’s never easy to do this of course, much less to make it our default posture for when things go wrong. And that’s why most of us opt out. What we miss in our panic to protect ourselves is that the best way to stand out as someone who does remarkable work is to be the first one to take responsibility for the problem at hand.

Single-use items

To-go cups, grocery bags, glass bottles — all common examples of single-use items. Built with a very specific intended function, we use them for their purpose and then discard them into the garbage.

Here’s the thing. We do the same thing with…







And many more.

In our never-ending race to get ahead, we’ve taught ourselves to consume everything as fast as we can, and eject it from our lives as soon as it has served what we perceive to be its purpose. We’ve become consumers in every vein of our existence, and in doing so robbed ourselves of opportunities everyday. Opportunities to be creative, generous, and caring; all of which lead to opportunities to make meaningful connections.

We can do better. Our first step towards change might be as simple as finding a way to reuse that to-go coffee cup we ordered this morning.