Values are the things that shape us, or the expressions of those things.
We all have them. Many are stated and understood clearly. Others are extremely powerful, but not always visible on the surface.
Families have values. Companies have values as well. The same is true: some are stated, while others are powerful but unacknowledged.
If you take time to examine your values, and if a company examines their values, amazing things can occur. People will feel valued, effort will be easy, productivity will be high, and customers won’t go away.
One value that my employer states verbally and which we all genuinely live by is this: Take Responsibility.
Ken Blanchard illustrates of how you can tell if someone takes responsibility by asking what they look in or what they look out of. A person who takes responsibility looks in the mirror, instead of out the window.
A person who avoids taking responsibility (or who passes the buck), looks out of the window first (to cast blame), and rarely in the mirror (to take responsibility).
Many years ago, just a year or so after we moved to Taiwan as missionaries, we had great friends who joined us there as coworkers. They brought with them 3 preschool age daughters, the youngest still just a toddler.
One day one of the toilets in their house stopped working. The dad was pretty handy with a tool, and a plunger certainly wasn’t beyond his capabilities.
He asked both of the oldest two girls (both of whom were under 5), “Did you put something in that toilet that shouldn’t be there?” Both quickly said, “No!”
Try as he might, nothing worked, so he called in a handyman (much more than a plumber–I may write about that guy someday).
The handyman showed up on his motorcycle, came in the house with the toolkit and 10 minutes later had the toilet removed from the floor. The girls and their dad were all watching the handyman work.
He used a pair of pliers to pull out a set of plastic toy keys out of the innards of the toilet. It had been far enough in that you couldn’t see it, and you couldn’t dislodge it either.
When he pulled it out the 4 year old put her hands on her hips and said loudly: ”Yep, I did it”.
That is and isn’t taking responsibility.
Taking responsibility is not waiting until all other alternative, but wrong, answers to a challenger or a problem have been exhausted to finally “fess up”. Taking responsibility is not waiting til the keys are out of the toilet.
Taking responsibility is admitting your part (in whole or only in part) in any problem or confusion. It’s admitting it before the keys are pulled out of the potty.
Tips for Establishing “Take Responsibility” As a Value at Home or Work
1. Set the example. If you are the head of the house or the head of a team (at work or wherever), model the behavior you want to see.
2. Reward the behavior. If something doesn’t go well, it is easy to want to hammer the responsible party. But if you want to establish taking responsibility as part of your company/family culture, you need to reward the person who takes responsibility (when something goes wrong).
3. Continually state the value and how everyone benefits. When your family or your employees understand just how much everyone benefits when people take responsibility, it will be contagious, and the rewards will be manifest.
What have you learned about taking responsibility?