A girlfriend of mine is a highly skilled counselling psychologist, whose services are constantly in hot demand.
I have a deep respect for these professionals – people who sustain the mental and emotional stamina to hold others in a safe space, day in and day out, in order to reset dysfunctional mental and emotional programming.
I once asked her “how do you do it? How do you contain the space both for yourself and for others to make actual, real, lasting change?”
While she would never, ever share the details of her patients’ problems or dilemmas, what she did share with me was a fundamental principle that guides how she works.
She replied “I help them take responsibility. If more people just took responsibility for their lives, people like me wouldn’t be so swamped!”
It’s such a simple, powerful truth.
When we take responsibility – we stop being victims and instead act like stakeholders in our own lives.
We stop blaming others and regain control by owning our stories, our thought patterns, our fears and our actions.
Jocko Willink and Leif Bain are ex-Navy SEALs and the authors of a book called Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win.
Willink says “once people stop making excuses, stop blaming others, and take ownership of everything in their lives, they are compelled to take action to solve their problems”.
If there’s a class of people who take responsibility – Navy Seals would have to be one. Military service is not a vocation people adopt because they are motivated by wealth, power or status. It’s a calling motivated by a deep and powerful sense of responsibility for the safety and sovereignty of fellow citizens.
While we’re talking about great military leaders, the Honourable David Hurley – Australia’s Governor-General – captured it best when he said that ‘the standard you walk past is the standard you accept’. A sentiment echoed by his successor, David Morrison. They were both referring to the responsibilities that all leaders have in creating fair, equitable and safe workplace cultures.
Being a leader means not walking past. It means taking responsibility for everything and anything that happens or that you make happen.
In workplaces, taking responsibility is owning the part you play in the company’s culture and ultimate success. Culture is not someone else’s job. And while people leaders who embrace their leadership role take on more of that share; it is still up to every individual to contribute to the culture, be accountable to their own performance, and own their own professional development.
If you think you deserve a great place to work, and a great career, or a great reward, then make it so.
Taking responsibility is the ultimate act of self-empowerment. It’s owning your own daily experience.
So, what does taking responsibility look like for you today?