Our beliefs and mental models deeply influence the choices we perceive available to us and the expectations we need to meet. In a new workshop entitled Toward a More Sustainable You, I've been offering four of the current beliefs that I believe inhibit our effectiveness and four alternative beliefs that, if adopted and implemented, could lead to a personal and professional life that is robust, yet more sustainable.
Each Friday in June I explore one of these beliefs and its alternative.
I have to be the one to do it.
Alternative Belief #1:
I need to make sure it gets done.
It is too easy to assume too much responsibility for situations that do not require us to do so. Yes, things have to get done, but that doesn't mean it is our job as managers or leaders to actually do all of them. Instead our role is to ensure things get done and this means enabling others to act, one of the key commitments for extraordinary leadership outlined in The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.
When we take responsibility in a situation where (1) it does not right belong to us, (2) we are not uniquely skilled or positioned to assume it, or (3) we will be taxed to follow-through accordingly, we do ourselves and our colleagues a disservice. By becoming over-responsible we enable others to be under-responsible. When others do even less to complete a project, advance an initiative, or the like, we not feel compelled to take on even more responsibility given how invested and associated we have become with the effort. This, in turn, allows further under-responsibility from others. This dangerous cycle is explored in Roger Martin's excellent book, The Responsibility Virus. Download a PDF article that Martin authored about about board governance and the responsibility virus here.
So pause the next time you find yourself thinking, "I have to do this." Think about whether or not something really needs to be done right then. If so, be sure to consider whether or not you are the person who needs to do it. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.