Guest post by Dr. John Izzo
Almost every leader of a team or organization of any size wants their people to step up to 100% Responsibility – to take full responsibility for their own careers, for their own engagement, for winning every customer, for driving innovation, for keeping costs down, and on the list goes.
Over the years I’ve noticed that while every leader says they want their team to take 100% Responsibility, few consider what THEY must do as leaders to create a climate for stepping up. Driving responsibility is a dance, and the leaders are the ones leading the dance. If we want people to step up, we need to think about what we do that makes that more likely.
Four Things Leaders Can Do
If you want people to take responsibility, you must give them responsibility. If you want your team to act like owners, you must treat them like owners. Here are four things leaders do to create a climate for stepping up.
Be transparent in the information you give people. When Harley Davidson was about to go out of business years ago, they put every employee through an experience to fully understand the business including total transparency on the numbers-good and bad. Once employees saw the same information leaders saw, they started to step up to move for change.
Trust them to take actions day to day without constant permission giving. A simple example is giving team members the leeway to waive fees or penalties if they think it is in the best interest of customer loyalty. If we want people to take 100% Responsibility for customer loyalty, then they must have the power to act. Delta Airlines and The Four Seasons are two well known brands who give tremendous discretion for team members to act in the moment to bend the rules as they see fit. The result breeds responsibility.
Give people “a seat at the table.” People act responsibly when they feel they had some responsibility in making the decision in the first place. Leaders who want a 100% Responsibility workplace need to always lean in the direction of giving people a seat in decisions that impact them. When one of my clients had to cut back expenses during the pandemic, they brought that issue to team members asking for their ideas about how to reduce expenses by twenty percent. While not everyone was happy with all the final decisions, they all felt they had a significant say in the choices. The CEO owner told me that this time it felt like people saw reducing expenses as “their problem” not just hers!
Be a role model. We cannot create responsibility if we aren’t living it. What does it mean to embody 100% Responsibility? It means always focusing first on your part of any problem rather than what others need to do. Focus on what you can control rather than make excuses based on external factors that you cannot control. Role model it by asking for feedback regularly and demonstrate genuine openness to it rather than defending your ego or the status quo. We inspire others to it when we admit mistakes and reward/praise others for well-intentioned misses. People see us living it when we are willing to let go of some control to truly consider the opinions of others even if they differ from ours.
The Power of 100% Responsibility Thinking
Over the last twenty years I have witnessed the power of moving an organization to 100% Responsibility Thinking. Take the example of Don Knauss who took over leading the worst performing region for Frito-Lay. On every metric from service and profits to productivity, the region was near or at the bottom.
He could have started barking orders, but instead he tried to create a climate for ownership. He began by being honest about the business, with transparency, and by giving the entire team a “seat at the table” to come up with ideas on how to improve. Team members were given increased authority that included challenging each other in team meetings and developing their own scorecards. He personally role modeled 100% Responsibility by not focusing on external factors but focusing on what he could control and what his team could influence. The region went from worst to first and won the Herman Lay award for best performing region. Knauss would go on to become the CEO of Clorox.
Given the challenges business and society face today, we need 100% Responsibility Thinking more than ever. Now, post-election it would be well for each of us to ask what role we are playing in this divisive environment and what we can do about it. We need each of us to consider what we can do to keep the pandemic under control. You see the great thing about 100% responsibility is that it applies to every group we are part of, at all levels.
Note from Jesse: I am delighted to host this guest post by John Izzo, celebrating the release of the 2nd edition of his excellent book Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything. I had a fascinating podcast interview with John last year about Leadership and the Purpose Revolution, and I encourage you to listen to it.
Dr. John Izzo is author of eight bestselling books and a pioneer in both employee engagement and corporate purpose. As a speaker and consultant, he has spoken to over one million people and advised over 700 organizations. His latest book Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything (2nd edition) has just been released. The book explores the power of 100% Responsibility and shows how to create workplaces of change makers (and how to be one yourself!). Find him at www.drjohnizzo.com and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/drjohnizzo/.