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  • Writer's pictureStephen

Ownership & Responsibility

Let's start this week with some true confessions.  I am a personality type that likes to avoid conflict at all costs.  Over the years I have learned that sometimes conflict is an important (and even necessary!) element in being an effective leader/partner/parent, etc.  In fact, I have developed a whole course for leaders to help them use conflict in a way that is productive, rather than always allowing it to be destructive in our teams (reach out if you're interested in more info on that training - shameless plug!). But, because my default is to avoid conflict, I can often fall into the trap of taking ownership for things that aren't mine to carry.

This is where the language of Responsibility & Ownership are very helpful to me, and why I use these terms a lot with leaders I coach. It's important to take responsibility for what is actually mine to carry. This includes my words, my behaviors, my actions, etc. The problem comes when I fall into the trap of taking ownership for what should clearly be someone else's to own, like their words, their actions, or their behaviors. In other words, it's critical that I take responsibility for what's mine to own, but it isn't actually helpful for me to take ownership of someone else's responsibility.

Part of the reason I think it's important to make these distinctions is because it's easy to slip into playing the blame game in organizations and systems.  Rather than everyone starting from the place of taking ownership and responsibility for what is ours to own (and ONLY what is ours to own), we often point fingers and look for who we can name and blame as being at fault.  However, most of the time that doesn't help us move forward or grow, it just keeps us stuck in unhealthy patterns of growing toxicity. We're always looking for the next scapegoat to place the blame on, and not actually making changes or improving as we move forward.

However, if we take some time to be clear about what we each need to own and take responsibility for, and no more than that, then we can start to look for solutions that can carry us forward. Hopefully this will also allow us to make appropriate changes and adjustments that will help all of us be better individually and collectively in the future. When we can be honest and take responsibility and ownership for ourselves and the part we are playing in this situation or system, and everyone else is doing the same thing, it naturally leads us into a solution focused approach instead of a blaming space that keeps us stuck.

What are your natural tendencies - to take too much responsibility and ownership for what isn't actually yours, or to play the blame game and figure out who is at fault? If you decided to only take on responsibility and ownership for what was yours to carry, how might that impact the team or situation you are trying to navigate? How might ending the blame game and just being clear about who owns what, help move us toward greater solutions?

Here's to taking Ownership & Responsibility for ONLY what is ours to carry this week!

Be Well,


Center was created to support individuals and teams so they can live from their Purposeful Center.  We specialize in professional coaching and leadership development and we’d love to support you!  Click on our Services page to book a free consultation.

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