Leadership_Icon copyAre you steering your own ship or lost at sea when it comes to taking responsibility for problems at work?  It is tempting for all of us to hope that someone, somewhere will step up and sort the issue. So just how prepared are you to operate at ‘Full steam ahead’?

So consider a problem or tricky situation you are dealing with and using the steps below, assess for yourself where your engine may have lost power and you may be acting less than responsibly.

First of all, in any situation, we need to know a ‘situation’ exists. Some people float around seemingly oblivious that there is actually anything to be responsible for!

This is the lowest level on the responsibility scale you can be. People at this level know they are at sea but they have no idea what’s really going on! So rule number one: take responsibility for finding out what is going on around you. Ignorance is no defence.

Next, you may find out something is a problem but decide it is not your fault.

‘I wasn’t the last one to deal with him, Jo was’ or ‘I e-mailed you. It is not my fault if you didn’t read the mail’. I hear this one a lot. John sends out information concerning a subject to be discussed at a meeting that is important to John. People at the meeting haven’t seen the e-mail and so haven’t read the background. John then ends up frustrated because a decision can’t be made in the time available. John’s boss asks him why everything is delayed. ‘It is not my fault’ remonstrates John. ‘I sent out the documents but no one had made time to read them’. So whose problem is this? It’s John who needs the decision. So the second stage you may have reached is  ‘Yes there is an issue but it is not my fault.’ This is bailing out into the dingy.

You may finally accept that you do have a role in the problem but decide you can’t do anything about it so you make an excuse. ‘I knew Maria was struggling to cope but I was late for my train so I didn’t have time to help’. We know we could have done something but now we either deny that there was anything we could have done or we act selfishly to serve our own purposes knowing very well that we could have helped. This is staying ‘below deck’.

The next stage is to acknowledge the problem but not to give a damn. So we accept the problem exists but we say to ourselves; ‘ Yeh, I messed up but so what? Who died?’ We have to assume no one did…

You have chosen to drift and in doing so you are actually choosing to accept that you are likely to be washed ashore at some stage and very probably like a castaway. If you choose this strategy, don’t expect too many people to want to invite you to get involved in very much at all. You have chosen to act as a passenger in life and most people will file you under ‘excess baggage’.

So we may now find ourselves realising there is a problem and we may know it is ours but we may decide to play dead and hope it will all go away. So we have set the needle to ‘coast’ – and there are some problems for which this may be the right strategy – but make sure you have chosen carefully based on a critical assessment of the conditions.

So now we turn and face reality. We analyse the situation, we acknowledge the role we have played in creating the problem and we fully accept that we need to play a part in resolving it. At this point, we accept, at the very least, that we need to help to sort the situation. We may not be able to provide the total answer but we step up to the bridge and try to make a difference. If we always take this approach, however big or small the issue, we are likely to find ourselves with many more invites to come aboard (and probably with quite a few more friends!).

Finally, when we are fully responsible, we are truly steering the ship and making things happen. We have taken steps to understand the issue, we have analysed and acknowledged any role we may have played in it, and, either way, we have searched for what we may be able to do to help resolve the issue. We have a ‘win-win’ mentality, we seek to partner with others to move things forward and now we really are ‘Full steam ahead’.