Tag Archives: conscious leadership

Taking Personal Responsibility – Creating the Line of Choice

Taking Personal Responsibility - Creating the Line of Choice

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our last blog, we described how people’s personal power is diminished when they don’t take personal responsibility for the impact of their behaviors and actions and the results they cause. Where many people are feeling minimized and marginalized, anxious as a result of being isolated and lonely, worrying about losing their security and freedom, and dealing with the instability in their working environments.  Resulting in many people disengaging from the important conversations, job functions, key relationships, workplaces, and in some instances, even from society. Where managers and leaders lack the basic self-awareness and self-regulation skills to control the only controllable in uncertain and unstable times, is to choose how to respond, rather than react to it.

We have a unique moment in time to shift their defensiveness through being compassionate, creative, and courageous towards helping managers and leaders unfreeze and mobilize to exit our comfort zones.  To take intelligent actions catalyze and cause positive outcomes, that deliver real solutions to crises, complex situations, and difficult business problems.

Why do people avoid taking personal responsibility?

People typically avoid taking personal responsibility for reasons ranging from simple laziness, risk adversity, or a fear of failure, to feeling change fatigued, overwhelmed, or even victimized by the scale of a problem or a situation.

Resulting in a range of different automatic defensive, and a range of non-productive reactive responses including:

  • Avoidant behavior, where feel victimized and targeted, people passively “wriggle” and the buck gets passed onto others, and the real problem or issue does not get addressed or resolved.
  • Controlling behavior, where people ignore their role in causing or resolving the real problem or issue, and aggressively push others towards their mandate or solution, denying others any agency.
  • Argumentative behavior, where people play the binary “right-wrong” game, and self-righteously, triggered by their own values, oppose other people’s perspectives in order to be right and make the other person wrong.

Creating the line of choice

At Corporate Vision, we added a thick line of “choice” between “personal responsibility” and “blame, justification and denial” to intentionally create space for people to consider taking more emotionally hygienic options rather than:

  • Dumping their “emotional boats” inappropriately onto others, even those they may deeply care about,
  • Sinking into their habitual, and largely unconscious default patterns when facing complex problems, which results in the delivery of the same results they always have.
  • Not regulating their automatic reactive responses to challenging situations, and not creating the vital space to pause and reflect to think about what to do next.

To enable them to shift towards taking response-ability (an ability to respond) and introducing more useful options for responding in emotionally agile, considered, constructive, inclusive, and creative ways to the problem or the challenge.

Noticing that when we, or others we interact with, do slip below the line to notice whether to “camp” there for the long term or to simply choose to make the “visit” a short one!

Doing this demonstrates the self-awareness and self-regulation skills enabling people to take personal responsibility. Which initiates ownership and a willingness to be proactive, solutions, and achievement orientated – all of which are essential qualities for 21st century conscious leadership that result in innovative outcomes that result in success, growth, and sustainability.

Shifting your location – from “you, they and them” to “I, we and us”

Developing the foundations for transformational and conscious leadership involves:

  • Supporting people to acknowledge and accept that the problem or challenge is not “out there” and is within their locus of control or influence.
  • Shifting the “Maturity Continuum” to enable leaders and managers to be both independent and interdependent.
  • Creating a line of choice to think, act and do things differently.
  • Calling out people when they slip below the line.

It involves supporting people to let go of their expectation that “they” or someone else, from the outside, will fix it, and supporting them to adopt a stance where:

  • “I” or “we” can and are empowered to do it,
  • “I” or “we” are responsible for getting above the line,
  • “I” or “we” can choose a different way of being, thinking, and acting intelligently in this situation.

Developing conscious leadership

At any time, everyone is either above or below the line because it is elemental to the type of conscious leadership we all need to survive and thrive, in a world where people are seeking leaders, managers, and working environments that require interdependence.

To operate in the paradigm of “we” – we can do it; we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.

We cooperate together by creating the line of choice where we call out to ourselves and others when we slip below it, to get above the line as quickly as possible.

Where interdependent people and communities combine their efforts, and their self-awareness and self-regulation skills with the efforts of others to achieve their growth and greatest success by increasing:

  • Transparency and trust,
  • Achievement and accountability,
  • Diversity and inclusion,
  • Experimentation and collaboration.

All of these are founded on the core principle of taking personal responsibility, which is an especially crucial capability to develop self-awareness and self-regulation skills in the decade of both disruption and transformation.

Bravely calling out self and others

When we take responsibility for managing our own, “below the line” reactive responses, by habitually creating the line of choice, we can bravely call out ourselves and others when we slip below it.

Because when we don’t call ourselves and others we interact with, we are unconsciously colluding with their emotional boats, default patterns, and automatic reactive responses, which inhibit their ability to effect positive change.

When we safely awaken ourselves and others, we can get back above the line quickly and choose different ways of being, thinking, and acting intelligently in the situation.

Alternately, people aren’t taking personal responsibility, they cannot be accountable, they will fail in their jobs, and their teams, and fail to grow as individuals and as leaders.

In fact, developing a habitual practice of emotionally intelligent and conscious leadership by safely and bravely disrupting ourselves and our people, in the face of ongoing uncertainty, accelerating change, and continuous disruption.

This is the second in a series of three blogs on the theme of taking responsibility – going back to leadership basics.

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, October 18, 2022. It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus,  human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context.

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Taking Personal Responsibility – Back to Leadership Basics

Taking Personal Responsibility – Back to Leadership Basics

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

I was first introduced to the principle of Taking Personal Responsibility when I attended a number of experiential workshops facilitated by Robert Kiyosaki who is now well known globally as the successful entrepreneurial author of the “Rich Dad Poor Dad” book series. At that time, in the late 1980s, the concept simply involved taking personal responsibility for your role in getting the results you get, in both challenging and problematic situations.

This principle has since evolved as the most crucial foundation for developing our emotionally intelligent, conscious, and transformational leadership capabilities. Largely through focusing on the development of self-awareness and self-regulation skillsets, which are especially important skills to cultivate in times of extreme uncertainty.

Blaming, Justifying, and Denying

Taking personal responsibility involves encouraging people to step up and out of blaming themselves or others, out of justifying their position or denying what is really going on to largely avoid the cognitive, emotional, and visceral results and consequences of their actions.

Which are essentially, largely unconscious defensive reactions to the problem or situation. So, it sounds quite simple, yet, even now, it’s still largely a countercultural principle, and a neurologically challenging one, because we are wired to survive (fight/flight/freeze) in the face of what we perceive as danger!

Especially when many of us are living in an oppositional blaming and shaming political environment, or within a passively or aggressively defensive organizational culture. Where a large section of the community, has been forced by the constraints of the pandemic, into fearing that their security and survival needs will not be met. Alternately, the great resignation and the nature of the virtual hybrid workplace have increased some people’s fears about even being able to get their jobs done!

All of this creates distorted thoughts and language that focus on “scarcity” where many people are fearing that they are not “enough” and do not have “enough” to deal with their current circumstances. Rather than leaning towards exploring and eliciting the possibilities and opportunities available in our abundant world.  As there is no clear playbook about how people can effectively and responsibly lead and manage in this unique 21st-century context, many people are floundering, languishing into largely emotionally overwhelmed states.

Where it is easier, and sometimes safer, to be a victim, blame and shame others for their helpless or powerless situation, or to justify and deny any need to change their perspective about it, never mind their role in causing their own anxious and unresourceful emotional states.

Back to Leadership Basics

Yet, it is more important than ever, for leaders and managers to help people:

  • Take ownership of their consequences and be responsible for the emotional, cognitive, and visceral results of their actions,
  • Authentically connect, empower, and enable people and communities to flourish,
  • Provide safe, transparent, trusted environments and interdependence where people can dare to think differently and potentially thrive.

This means that the range of crises, uncertainty, and disruptions we are experiencing now is forcing us to go back to basic 101 management and leadership principles.

According to McKinsey & Co in a recent article “A Leaders Guide – communicating with teams, stakeholders and communities during Covid 19” – “Crises come in different intensities. As a “landscape-scale” event, the coronavirus has created great uncertainty, elevated stress and anxiety, and prompted tunnel vision, in which people focus only on the present rather than toward the future. During such a crisis, when information is unavailable or inconsistent, and when people feel unsure about what they know (or anyone knows), behavioral science points to an increased human desire for transparency, guidance, and making sense out of what has happened”.

The Maturity Continuum – Shifting to I and We

The principle of taking personal responsibility has evolved and been enhanced significantly through the work of Steve Covey, in the “Seven Habits of Effective People” and provides the core foundations for transformational and conscious leadership through the “Maturity Continuum”:

  1. Dependence is the paradigm of you – you take care of me; you come through for me; you didn’t come through for me; I blame you for the results. Dependent and approval-seeking people need others to get what they want.
  2. Independence is the paradigm of I – can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose. Independent people get what they want through their own efforts.
  3. Interdependence is the paradigm of we – we can do it; we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together. Interdependent people combine their efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.

Putting the Maturity Continuum to Work

In the early 2000s I was an associate of Corporate Vision, Australia’s first culture change and transformation consultancy, now the globally successful Walking the Talk organisation, for fourteen years.

Where every culture, leadership, team development, or change program we designed and presented, introduced taking personal responsibility, as a fundamental, core learning principle. Aligning it with the principle of – For things to change first I must change, which deeply challenged and disrupted people’s belief systems, habitual mindsets, thinking styles, and ways of acting.

As a seasoned coach of twenty years, these two core principles seem to still profoundly challenge the majority of my coaching clients across the world, no matter how senior their role or position is, or how knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced they are!

Where many managers and leaders have failed to self-regulate, lack self-awareness, and have unconsciously slipped into feeling victimized, powerless, helpless, and in some instances, even hopeless about their futures where some are:

  • Feeling frozen, inert, paralyzed, overwhelmed, and immobilized in their abilities to affect any kind of positive change in both their work and home environments.
  • Unconsciously slipping into blaming and shaming others for their situations,
  • Justifying their inertia through a range of “reasonable reasons” and “elaborate stories” about how it’s “not their fault” or it’s not “up to them” to make any change.
  • Simply denying their current consequences, or the importance of needing to take positive actions, and make changes.
  • Unmotivated, lack any desire for control, or have the personal power to affect change in their situation.

Initiating Taking Personal Responsibility

To accept and share responsibility starts with being bravely willing to courageously connect with our whole selves and consciously stepping back to hit our internal pause button, retreat into silence and stillness, and compassionately ask:

  1. What happened?
  2. What can I/we learn from it?
  3. What can I/we then do to create it?

Taking personal responsibility becomes a compassionate, creative, and courageous exercise in continuous learning, self-awareness, and emotional self-regulation in ways that safely disrupt people’s defensiveness and awaken them to the possibility of being personally powerful in tough situations.

It is also the basis for taking intelligent actions catalyze and cause positive outcomes, that deliver real solutions to crises, complex situations, and difficult business problems.

This is the first in a series of three blogs on the theme of taking responsibility – going back to leadership basics.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, October 18, 2022. It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus,  human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context. Find out more about our products and tools.

Image credit: Pixabay

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