Each of us has a limited amount of time and energy to expend in the course of a day. How we use our time and energy is a choice and can be exercised in either a positive or negative manner. If we choose to give up our power to external circumstances and expend our energy in a negative manner, we will generally produce negative results.
Conversely, spending our time and energy in a positive manner tends to produce positive results. The results to which I am referring concern not only the completion of the task at hand, but also the positive impact on the people involved in the process.
Negativity manifests through seeing oneself as a victim of circumstances, a prisoner of others, helpless and powerless to act and impact the external world in which we live. Visible behaviors exhibited as a result of seeing oneself as a victim are: blaming, finger pointing, excuses, defensiveness, denial, procrastination, whining, and self-pity. The impact on an individual, organization or family can be devastating.
Prison thinking says, "My life is crummy, and it is someone else's fault." It's a miserable place to live. The only antidote is 100% Responsibility... refusing to make myself a prisoner to my circumstances and instead asking myself "What am I going to do about it?"
Gallup conducted a study of the U.S. workforce concluding that approximately 30% of American workers are fully engaged at work, 50% are disengaged and 20% are actively disengaged. Those who are actively disengaged are not only unhappy with their circumstances at work, but they regularly share those feelings with colleagues. Misery loves company, and the actively disengaged aren't shy about recruiting others to their cause. Gallup estimates the cost of disengaged workers runs into the trillions of dollars.
The disengagement process is endemic in our society, not just at work, but at home as well.
And the answer to this problem is not learning more skills but rather helping people change the way they think about themselves and their reactions to the external circumstances of life. The principle at work here is that we are what we think, and how we think produces predictable behavior in our lives. We have a choice.
The antidote to "victim" or "prison" thinking is what I call 100% Responsibility.
It is replacing the false belief that others are responsible for my actions and reactions with: "I am 100% responsible for how I choose to respond to the circumstances of life." This means I choose to live my life with no excuses, blaming, or self-pity. I manage myself and choose how I respond to what happens to me, regardless of how unfair it may seem.
Here's how we define 100% Responsibility: I am 100% Responsible for how I choose to respond to everyone and everything in my life. The key concepts here are "choice" and "response". Every time I choose to take responsibility it is a choice for freedom that leads to positive outcomes. This choice is key to getting unstuck.
Living a life of 100% Responsibility produces freedom.
Prison thinking is a miserable place to live. In effect I am saying, "Who I am and how I respond is conditioned on someone or something else." It is the belief that I am helpless to improve the outcomes of my circumstances or relationships that makes it a prison. If there is always an excuse for why I can't do the right thing, then what is the point of acquiring the skills to begin with? Being 100% Responsible is just the opposite and always leads to freedom. The more I own my own attitude, beliefs and actions, the more effective human being I become, and the more free I become. This attitude is foundational to becoming the kind of leader my potential indicates.
I must first lead myself then I can lead others.
Agile leaders by definition are quick to take 100% Responsibility for problems and solutions. This is the key to leadership influence and the key to building agile teams who are quick to take ownership.
In fact, 100% Responsibility is what distinguishes high performing teams (and high performing cultures) from average teams. The degree to which everyone on the team practices 100% Responsibility is the defining factor for how quickly the team moves from complaining about problems to taking ownership for solutions.
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