Tag Archives: performance

“Personal Responsibleness”: The All-important Active Ingredient In Personal Responsibility

29 Feb


Part Two: Personal Responsibleness vs. Personal Responsibility

If you have been watching the news at night, as I have, you may have heard from some reporters and politicians, alike, the argument that our citizenry needs to take more responsibility and rely less on handouts from the government. Similarly, a few of my clients have complained to me about how their employees need to take more initiative. While the sources are very different, what they have to say has a lot in common. When you combine the need for initiative with that of responsibility you come up with personal responsibleness. Perhaps, personal responsibleness, which is in the dictionary, hasn’t typically been in use because it’s quite a mouthful. However, after repeating it several times, it begins to roll off your tongue.

What is personal responsibleness and how does it differ from responsibility?

Personal responsibility is something that we take, or is given to us. In contrast, personal responsibleness is a state of being. It describes a characteristic that engenders an inherent competence and trustworthiness dedicated to the maximum fulfillment of responsibilities.

Perhaps a simple example will help to illustrate the difference. A manager asks an employee to send an e-mail to notify a client of a meeting cancellation and to offer some new dates. The manager after several days hears nothing. The manager asks the employee for an update and the employee responds, “I sent them the e-mail, as you requested.” That’s an example of taking on a responsibility. Someone with Personal Responsibleness would have kept track of the e-mail request. If the client hasn’t received any word, the employee would take it upon themself to call the client to make sure the e-mail was received. Perhaps it went into the Trash folder or was blocked. After all, what’s important is not sending the e-mail but making sure the client receives the information and that a new date is established. That’s making sure the end result is achieved and a valuable difference is realized.


Through law and ritual, society can impose responsibilities on its citizens, but ultimately it’s those citizens who must discipline themselves and adopt personal responsibleness if laws are expected to be followed. Fulfilling responsibilities entails just doing specific things for others. With personal responsibleness, when individuals are given or assume a task, they look not only at how they can fulfill the responsibility but also, how they can use their energies and personal expertise to ensure the result and make a valuable difference.

Personal responibleness is a characteristic that defines one’s being. Hence, taking initiative, where one accepts the power or right to do something, falls right in line with the person who operates with personal responibleness. The reason is because the motto for those who operate with personal responsibleness is, “it’s up to me to make things happen … unless that is made impossible by circumstance beyond my control.”

If you are reading this blog while spell check is on, you may have noticed that spell check wants to delete the word “responsibleness” and regards it as non-existent. Well, as a manager or supervisor or someone with responsibilities, you must make it not only exist, you must make personal responsibleness a key part of your working vocabulary. So, in today’s times, in addition to giving people responsibilities, what’s needed if we want the best results is personal responsibleness. It’s time for this word to enter into our dialog because we want people to take initiative and we want people to look not only to themselves, but to family, community and place of work to strive to add value.

For a more in-depth look at Personal Responsibleness see Chapter Three of my book On the Edge and In Control.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

“Personal Responsibleness”: The All-important Active Ingredient In Personal Responsibility

22 Feb


Part One: Introduction to Personal Responsibleness

Most of us realize that it takes a very special kind of person to get through Special Forces training or flight school in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force. These schools take the most qualified candidates they can find and each one that they choose must be a genuine team player who can be trusted by his comrades. But, early in their training, as much as they trust one another, deep down they learn to trust themselves the most when it comes to packing their parachutes on flight missions. For if that parachute is not packed and prepared perfectly, it’s failure to open will be the fault of no one but the one who packed it.

Now, while in your own job and in your own life you may never need to worry about the reliability of a parachute, there are always going to be times and situations where you will have to count on someone else to act on your behalf for something that is crucially important to you. So, take 15 seconds and think hard about this: Among all your friends, fellow workers and associates, which ones, if any, would you put your trust in when it comes to “packing your parachute” regarding a matter that is very important and where a failure would cost, maybe not your life, but, a lot of money, prestige or embarrassment.

Your 15 seconds are up!

After you pick this person, think about what the true traits are that they seem to have that all the others don’t when it comes to your trust in them. It’s likely that you’ll conclude that they have a value structure that seems to guide what they do most of the time. They are probably the kind of person who puts doing what is right before what is simply most beneficial to them. More often than not they take the initiative to move the ball forward for the benefit of all and stand ready to celebrate the success of the overall mission of the organization rather than their own contribution.

This type of person is described by most who come in contact with him or her as “having responsibility”. But wait just one minute! A lot of people have responsibility but what exactly do they do with it? Generally speaking, “having responsibility” refers to something that is just given to us. What we do with responsibility is where our character, self esteem, values, and degree of reliability come into play.

And that is what Personal Responsibleness is all about. It describes a characteristic that engenders an inherent competence and trustworthiness dedicated to the maximum fulfillment of responsibleness. In essence, it’s the acceptance of control!

More about Personal Responsibleness in my next blog.


Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

A New Position? Some Tips for Getting a Head Start Toward Success

16 Feb

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image21661599You’ve just accepted a new position in a different division within the organization you have been working in for the past few years. Even though the company goes by the same name, from your point of view it might as well be a different company because all the players are pretty much unfamiliar to you. In fact, the only familiar link you have to this new environment is your new boss – and you barely know her. She’s the one who personally approached you about the job. She impressed you as someone you could easily get along with and the job responsibilities fit well with your competencies. One critical factor in accepting had to do with a lesson you learned from a mentor awhile back – he urged that the best way to “reset yourself” is to leave your current job. Your desire to hit the “reset button” reached a critical point when your husband put his foot down and said you can’t keep going at the pace you’ve been running. Up until this point, traveling was a constant, as was putting in 65-70 hours a week. On weekends, you were moody and glued to your laptop. Rather than argue with your husband’s forceful so-called “request”, you agreed. So now you’ve made the grand leap to change jobs and bring some balance into your life. To make sure you get off to a successful start while resetting yourself to a more reasonable work schedule, here are 4 tips to keep in mind:

 1. Secure Some Quick Wins

Remember, at the start of most any job there’s an implied honeymoon period where you have a little extra time and leeway to make things happen; so, take advantage and use your time wisely. One way to successfully position yourself to identify some quick wins is by interviewing all the key people you support. Ask them, as one successful manger did, the following question – “What is one thing that’s within the framework of my role that I am in control of doing that would be of greatest help to you over the next 30 days?” Write down what they have to say and remember to reconnect with them when you have fulfilled their request.

 2. Don’t Be Too Quick to Draw Conclusions

In your effort to get up to speed in a new job, it’s not uncommon for us to jump to conclusions about what the issues may be only to find out later that we misread what was happening around us. Don’t fall into this trap. One manager, who recently started a new job, avoided that tendency by deciding to keep a daily log that chronicled his observations about people and issues. Each day he would write down his thoughts about the people he needed to support and work with. He also had a separate section that identified pressing problems and potential longer-term issues. As a word of caution here: since this diary reflected his candid thoughts, he felt it was best to journal his ideas at home – just to keep on the safe side! Each week he would summarize his thoughts. To his amazement, he found that many of his initial conclusions about people and issues were totally inaccurate or had to be modified. Explore whether using an approach such as this may prove to be helpful for you. To be successful, you need to accurately read the work environment.

 3. Be Aware of the Expectation You Set in the Eyes of Others

If you demand perfection in everything you do from the onset, others will come to expect that level of performance from you all the time. Is that the reputation you want to create? By no means am I suggesting that you slack off or do mediocre work. Rather, you want to discriminate between when you need, want to, and have the time to go beyond what is required and when you can get by with simply meeting expectations. Use your time wisely and assess carefully the priority you assign to each task. The ultimate control lies with you – so take care to focus your energies on what counts regarding the success of the organization’s objectives as well as your own objectives

 4. Manage the Number of Hours You Work Each Week

In most cases, success is based on results, not long hours. Gaining some insights into what success looks like in your new role may be something you can and should clarify with your boss. You might even consider having a similar discussion with those individuals you support. It’s about reading the culture of your organization that can be important. For instance, is there a culture of expectations that includes responding to emails after work hours or over the weekend? This is something to address early on with your boss, peers, and staff in an effort to keep from being surprised on Monday morning when your boss or team says, “We didn’t hear from you regarding the home office request for budget cut ideas.”

When taking a new position, the idea should always be to move from something to something. Using these tips will help ensure that your new career moves in an upward direction to something even better!

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Keeping Your Promises

29 Sep

e4Do you find yourself on the receiving end of criticism more times than not? If so, are the criticisms you receive often similar in content or subject matter? If you answered ‘yes’ to both questions, you may be unknowingly (or knowingly) inviting criticism!

One type of person that habitually sets themselves up for criticism is the Agreement Breaker. Think to yourself – how effective are you at keeping your promises to others? Whenever you don’t keep your promises – whether it’s returning a borrowed item when you promised to, responding to someone’s email, or providing information to a co-worker – then you are opening yourself up to criticism.

Interestingly, there are some people I know who are good at upholding their commitments to others but not to themselves. They are routinely breaking their own agreements – failing to exercise, eating the wrong foods, not going to the dentist, etc. When agreements to yourself are broken, you are now making yourself vulnerable to another type of criticism – self-criticism.

The easiest way to minimize criticism and reduce stress in your life is to make a commitment to keep your agreements! Then others can count on you…and you can count on yourself!

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book, entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books) is due out this October. To learn more about Deb, please visit her website at http://www.drbright.com.

Tips for Accepting Control

16 Apr

We’ve recently been exploring control and what it is you can do to accept control in order to achieve your goals. To wrap up this larger discussion, here are a few tips for what it is you can do to take personal control in your life. They are great reminders!


  • Stop thinking that control is something bad, and that by seeking control you’ll become a “control freak.” Remember, you are seeking control over yourself (and your situation) in order to reach a desired outcome.
  • Stop equating control with rigidity. Rigidity can trick us into thinking we have control, when we really don’t.
  • Stop allowing yourself to get caught up in routines. Sometimes, those routines can become the emphasis and focus, rather than a desired outcome or goal.
  • Stop thinking that you have “no control” over your emotions and your thoughts.


  • Start realizing that control is equated with flexibility. Build flexibility by developing a repertoire of skills that will allow you to be more adaptable. In turn, your confidence and self-reliance will grow.
  • Start building flexibility into your day by introducing new routines.
  • Start letting go of negative situations. Learn to “absorb the mistake and remember the lesson.”
  • Start building more choice into your life by asking yourself if you “want to” do certain things.

Remember, “total” control is unattainable; what you are striving for is a true sense of control. By attaining this sense of control, you will no longer feel overwhelmed, boxed in, or unable to do anything about a situation.

Working with Choice

4 Apr

Another key element that underlies the ability to have a sense of control in our lives is choice. Simply put, as long as you have choices, you are in control! By creating more choices in your life, you advance your pursuit of control. Here are a couple of suggestions on how to create more “choice” in your life:

Pose what-if questions and create your own fallback positions. How does one go about creating fallback positions? A key step is to think about what’s important to you, and then create your own what-if strategy for it. For example, what if you were to lose a big sale that would mean not reaching your quota? Or what if you lost your job?  These are simply examples, but you get the point. Many people I have worked with and interviewed over the years commented that they have a fallback position in case their jobs are eliminated. They will oftentimes identify something they enjoyed doing earlier in life, for example, such as waitressing, flipping hamburgers or being a greeter at Wal-Mart. These same people keep their resumes current and make a continuous effort to network so they are prepared for an unexpected change in their job situation. Thinking about what’s important to you helps you to retain perspective. After all, we could ask ourselves what-if questions about everything in our lives, and that would be an exhausting endeavor. So for starters, identify what’s important to you, followed by establishing a what-if plan.

With that said, you can invest time thinking about how best to handle everyday situations that frustrate you or really get under your skin. If your bane is being stuck in traffic, develop your what-if plan. For instance, your plan might include loading your car with a selection of educational CDs or audio tracks so you can make productive use of the time. If you are frustrated by last-minute appointment cancellations, call or email a day or two ahead to arrange and confirm your appointments to minimize surprises.

Another way to create more “choice” in your life is to operate more often on a want-to basis. Choices are often perceived as being limited when you are operating on a “have to,” should,” or “must” basis. The easiest way to operate on a want-to basis is to ask yourself questions that get you thinking about whether you have to or must or should do something. For example, ask yourself, “Do I have to move all the furniture when cleaning?” Clearly, you don’t have to. But if you want to have a clean home and you are going to do it yourself, then you want to do it, even if it is only a “little want.”

By coupling the question of “want to” with the achievement of desired outcomes, you’ll develop a greater level of enthusiasm, because you are acting out of choice instead of feeling as if you’re limited in what you can do – which leads us back to not taking control – because you already have it. Rather, in the big picture, it’s learning how to utilize the control that’s already yours!

Letting Go of Negative Situations – Part 2

1 Apr


Some of us have a difficult time visualizing things. Others (and this may be you) may not care for the Wastepaper Basket Quick Charge or Helium Balloon Quick Charge introduced in my previous blog. Not to worry. Not all of us are visual. So, you might want to try other types of Quick Charges which can be just as effective at helping let go of negative situations.

As you may recall from my earlier blog, Quick Charges are easily implemented techniques designed to help users perform at their best when in difficult situations. They are instantly effective and undetectable by others. Here’s an example of a Quick Charge you can use if you prefer to talk to yourself. Try the “So What? What Now” Quick Charge. There are two steps that are always involved with this Quick Charge: the first is to ask yourself, “So what if…?” followed by, “What now?” or “What am I going to do about it?”

Take, for example, a situation where you have a meeting with your boss and she asks you a question that you are not prepared to answer. You are flustered and embarrassed about your lack of preparation. Rather than dwelling on the situation the rest of the day, stop and use the “So What? What Now” Quick Charge by saying to yourself, “So what if I didn’t have the answer? So what if I looked a little unprepared or unprofessional!” Give yourself 15 to 30 seconds to beat yourself up. (Most of us can beat ourselves up royally in 5 seconds!). Then ask yourself, “What now?” In other words, address what you are going to do about it. You can’t erase the mistake or negative situation, but you can take control by making the necessary corrections. You can also take control to manage or influence your image. For instance, besides deciding to get back to your boss with the appropriate answer, you may reassure the boss that you typically work hard at being prepared and that this is a rare incident. From there, make an effort to take extra measures to be prepared and point out periodically how you’ve lived up to your promise.

What’s valuable about using this Quick Charge is that your negative feelings and emotions are dealt with instantly, and it leaves you with little need to carry them over into your next effort. Whatever the negative situation, the important thing is to “absorb the mistake and remember the lesson.”

%d bloggers like this: