Thoughts on How You Can Increase the Sense of ✨Responsibility✨ in Your Team

Mia Wähälä
4 min readMar 4, 2021

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I wrote in an earlier article here about why I think a lot of us struggle with responsibility especially in a work context. I know there are instances where I could have stepped up and taken more responsibility, especially in difficult conflict situations. Benefit of hindsight perhaps. But I know I can do better, so I will own up to that and practice something new. One step in the process for me has been to accept my mistakes and write this down as part of that.

Sharing with you now a few thoughts on what I am experimenting with to build more responsibility for myself at work going forward.

1 | Do What You Love —Own it Like an Athlete 🏋️‍♀️

The first person that comes to mind when I think of someone who takes responsibility for their performance are athletes. In a TV interview they don’t go around blaming others or skirting the reporter’s question of why they didn’t reach their personal best. Instead they do a cold cut assessment of the facts, why they’re at their level and what they will do to improve. And they’re terrifically energised by it. Because when they’re playing at the top of their game they live and love what they do. So much so that they couldn’t be where they are at without owning every inch of the way there.

I’m not an athlete myself (yet) but I’m inspired by how they show up. Responsibility is not a hot topic when you find something you love doing and fully understand why you are doing it. You are so focused and energised to solve the problem at hand. I’m still trying out a few hats when it comes to finding that purpose. But what I can say is that when I truly enjoy what I’m doing I can stand for every turn along the way — like athletes.

2 | Break Down the Process to Bite Size Chunks

We’d also be better off seeing things as part of a bigger process, full of small tests and trials. Breaking down the problem to smaller bits helps make it more approachable. There’s a slightly lighter note to piloting a project versus having to launch the new monumental life altering phenomenon. And that makes it easier to hold yourself up for the results. It’s about doing the next obvious thing after the other. 🐾

I listened to a talk recently with Obama and Brené on how the more senior you are, you get confronted with seemingly impossible problems every day, but the way to not get defeated trying to find the perfect answer is to see the process of confronting, debating and researching as a way to at least eliminate the bad answers first. Ultimately, you will get to a better place than before. Found that quite uplifting as a way to cultivate responsibility.

3 | Vulnerability as Strength 💪

Another process I’m still internalising is understanding that not taking full responsibility over what I spending time on hurts my own growth the most. All the protection mechanisms and staying safe are in fact the surest way to lose trust and responsibility in the long term — from others as well as yourself.

Ultimately it’s also so much less satisfying if we circle what needs to be done like a cat around hot milk. I feel most rewarded when I stood fully in the arena and took on the might of the fight. It gets me to a safer place with myself by being more vulnerable. And it turns out it is something I can cultivate. If you haven’t already, listen to the Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown to know all about that. This TED Talk is pure gold.

4 | Offence as the Biggest Defence

Finally, I admire people who are able to proactively communicate and explicitly discuss their limits and to admit fault — “offence as the biggest defence”. Not only does that tactic really set a clear frame for where you see yourself currently, but it also makes it explicit for others on when they can count on you.

Sharing limits and shooting first on a repeated basis does require courage —but showing this sort of vulnerability is humanising and connecting as a bonus. I mean, unless you’re in the company of a real sadist, it’s rarely used against you, people in fact admire you for it. By playing a strong offence, you help create a sense of control for others by showing people where they have you, guiding them through your limits. And very quickly, they will feel you are being very accountable to your actions indeed.

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That’s it for now. Thanks for reading people!

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