Why is responsibility so important?

There are three reasons.

First, being enabled, encouraged and expected to take full responsibility for a piece of work shows respect. It is recognition that you are an able person in your field and there is no reason why you should not do the very best job. Giving people space to achieve and the support to do so, without watching like a hawk, is grown-up behaviour that evokes a grown-up response.

Second, it is a wonderful way to develop skill and ability. Doing the same job over and over is the fastest way to brain death. If you are stretched to grapple with a problem or challenge, you will also be alert to ideas and suggestions for your own or other areas of the business.

Third, when people take responsibility, it becomes their company, not just somewhere they go each day from 9 to 5. This is the perfect antidote to the dreaded discussions about ‘them' who are commonly believed to be the cause of every upset. In a great company, blaming senior leaders or managers is not an option. A responsible person is expected to do something about it when they encounter a problem - look at their contribution, talk to the person concerned or take appropriate action. This is what ‘empowered' means, when each person takes on their part of the whole, addressing issues as they arise and looking for the best way forward. It has a lot to do with that wonderful sparkle in the eyes of great company colleagues - ‘Through tough times and fun times, we are in this together.' Now that's exhilarating!

From all perspectives, individual and organisation are winners. The old pattern of sticking to the same job over a long time belongs in the dim and distant past. A job for life is out of the window, so a career has to be built in a different way. These days it is all about being employable. The company that wants people to be fully involved provides interesting challenge, an opportunity that is very attractive to ‘high potentials'. And ‘high-potentials' who want to extend their reach are very attractive to strong companies. It is a marriage made in heaven.

There are many companies out there who provide challenge, but without great company culture to support it. Colleagues are stretched, which benefits the CV, but all too often there is a cost in pressure and overload. When principles favour money rather than people, there is little tracking of the human cost. People have to take care of themselves, so they get what they can out of the company and take off to pastures new when the strain gets too much. We have all heard of organisations that when named on the CV open any door you may wish. But we have also heard that working there is a complete nightmare that can be managed only for so long. Successful they may be, but caring they certainly are not, and the recruitment bills are astronomical.

As the support/challenge quadrant demonstrates (see Table 3), getting the balance right is paramount. Too much support and not enough challenge will develop complacency - when there is little expectation, some will coast and others will leave. Equally, too much demand with little support will create high stress levels, prompting people to leave for better workplaces when their energy runs out. Too little all round leads to apathy and only those who do not care or have low self-esteem will remain. Provide support and challenge in equal balance and you will hold the best people and get the best out of them.

Table 3: Organisational Involvement-Support/Challenge

Low support

High support

High challenge

When challenge is high and support is low, people live up to demands but there is a very real cost to their health and commitment. They will go on for as long as they can, then leave or burn out.

Challenge is high, matched by equally high levels of support. This enables people to stretch into their full potential, knowing that they can ask for help when they need it, and be respected for doing so.

Low challenge

Low support and low challenge is the ideal environment if you want to amble through life, but dreadful for those who want to do a good job. When few demands are made and there is little support to achieve, good people leave, if they don't lose their self-esteem first.

Plenty of support is the recipe for a great time. When there is little challenge to balance it, people start to coast through the working day. High-potential people lose interest and go to places that will stretch them more effectively.

Becoming an Employer of Choice(c) Make Your Organisation A Place Where People Want To Do Great Work
Becoming an Employer of Choice(c) Make Your Organisation A Place Where People Want To Do Great Work
Year: 2006
Pages: 100

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