Tag Archives: tasks

“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).

Are you Making the Most of your Meetings? Ideas 10-11:

16 May

10. Summarize at the end of the meeting

Before ending your meeting, make sure you have enough time for questions, and that you summarize everything.  Rather than do all the summarizing yourself, ask others in attendance to do the summarizing.  When others are highlighting key action items and decisions made, you can determine whether or not the message was accurately conveyed and understood.

11. End your meeting on time

Make sure you show respect for people’s schedules by ending the meeting on time.  Everyone appreciates it!

Building Confidence

3 Apr

To a great extent, each of us needs to be responsible for building our own confidence, but as leaders we can often instill confidence in others. It’s an ongoing process. As a leader, you can enhance confidence building in others by incorporating the following practices into your daily routine.

1.     Provide experiences to learn from – Building confidence stems from providing employees with experiences that they can learn from and deal with successfully. When dealing with less experienced employees, you need to review tasks in greater detail and, when possible, break them down into specific activities before delegating them. Setting up the proper learning experience is the leader’s responsibility.

2.     Provide honest feedback –Giving positive feedback exclusively is dangerous – it can cause inflated egos and is unrealistic. No feedback is just as bad; employees don’t know where they stand. Honest feedback is when a leader is willing to be transparent and has no fear of giving credit where credit is due. Likewise, the leader is willing to point out the negative or deliver criticism. Delivering criticism or negative feedback is where most leaders have difficulty, primarily because they lack any formal training in the area. One thing is for sure – delivering criticism or negative feedback effectively cannot be done by the seat of your pants, nor can leaders rely strictly on common sense. Delivering criticism or negative feedback so that it results in improved performance and strengthens relationships is a skill, just like hitting a ball in golf is a skill. Both have to be learned and practiced. Honest feedback entails presenting candidly how a leader perceives a particular situation or a person’s actions. When a leader communicates honestly, there is no need to waste time second guessing what is being conveyed. It also begins to lay the foundation of trust in the leader’s relationships. People trust people who use praise and criticism effectively.

3.     Communicate the results of the effort – One way to build confidence in others that is frequently overlooked is communicating how someone’s actions positively or negatively affected the outcome of an effort. Rarely do we, as leaders, have the time to get back to our employees to let them know the outcome of their efforts, yet this is one of the most significant confidence builders available to leaders.

Meeting Deadlines the Positive Way: Part III

9 Mar


In addition to dealing with the emotional aspects of pressure, the actual meeting of a deadline also needs to be accomplished. If peers or subordinates are involved in completing certain tasks of the project, there are several management techniques that are sure to be of assistance.

  1. Let everybody in on the big picture. When people know the importance of a task and how it contributes to the entire project, they are motivated to better perform.
  2. Try to delegate the detail work to others on your team while dealing with the major issues yourself. And when you delegate, be certain the person has the resources to complete the task.
  3. Explain slowly, clearly, and completely what you want others to do. Be sure you’ve been understood, and then cheek their work regularly. Remember, you won’t get what you expect only what you inspect.
  4. Be aware of the amount of work you’ve delegated. If you have the type of employees who are supportive, they may take on every assignment without letting you know they are overwhelmed. This can result in increased stress and/or subsequent reduction in their performance.

Pressures from deadlines in today’s workplace are increasing in many areas of endeavor because of the need to do more with less. Much of it simply results from the genuine concern about being accurate. Whatever the reasons for this additional pressure, the techniques outlined above can be a real help in directing one’s energy in more productive ways.

Meeting Deadlines the Positive Way: Part II

7 Mar


 The first step in managing pressure involves learning to identify the underlying sources that cause pressure. When pressure stems from a deadline, the underlying cause is fear of failure to live up to a set of expectations within a given time frame. Such pressure is a natural consequence of recognizing that the amount of time or resources available may not be sufficient to complete the job on schedule, and the active word is “fear.” When we are afraid, a number of physiological changes may occur in’ our bodies, including the constriction of blood vessels, an increase in heartbeat rate, a decrease in blood supply to the brain, tightening of muscles, dilation of the pupils-to name a few.

If these effects continue at this elevated state for a prolonged period of time, performance may deteriorate, even though we continue to push ourselves. After all, we are going to meet this deadline…even if it kills us! For these reasons, it is important to be aware of the signals that your body produces and get yourself back to an “optimal level of performance” by using Bright’s Breathing Quick Charge.      

Bright’s Quick Charges are easily implemented techniques designed to help users perform at their best when a difficult situation demands it.  They are instantly effective, giving their users a “boost” that helps them through high-pressured moments—but even better, they are undetectable by anyone but the person using them.  They are like a “secret weapon” working to keep their user in control of a situation.

 Bright’s Breathing Quick Charge is an effective technique that can be used instantly for controlling the mounting pressure of an approaching deadline:

  1. Inhale deeply and smoothly.
  2. Hold your breath for three or four seconds.
  3. Exhale slowly and evenly while imagining a wave of calmness that spreads throughout your body from head to toes.
  4. Repeat the above steps a few times, if necessary. Each time make sure you relax all of the muscles in your body while exhaling.

It’s important to “stop” and ask yourself:  at what level does this task need to be completed?  Remember, you have some control over setting the performance expectations around a particular task. Not all tasks need to be perfect- but all tasks when completed need to add value! 

 When practicing this technique, it’s important to exhale very slowly and evenly, preferably through your nose. During the exhalation phase, remember to relax your muscles starting with your head and ending with your toes. Besides feeling more physically relaxed, you’ll immediately notice that you are able to think more clearly. Greater clarity of thought is linked to the additional supply of oxygen being transported to the brain. Don’t be embarrassed with using this technique. It expands and improves upon the familiar “sigh.”

Meeting Deadlines the Positive Way: Part I.

6 Mar

One source of stress that pervades every work place is the pressure that comes from meeting deadlines. What’s important to understand is that pressure is a typical example of a stress reaction. I’m not implying that pressure is a bad thing; after all, many of us subscribe to the belief that “we do our best work under pressure”.  Actually, that’s proven not to be true- but more about that in another blog.

 Regardless, pressure is caused by both internal and external sources.  If not handled properly over a period of time, pressure that’s mishandled can lead to health problems and loss of working efficiently.  

To set the stage for learning to control the pressure that comes from meeting deadlines, it’s important to clarify precisely what is pressure. Pressure, as I have defined in my book, On the Edge and in Control: A Proven 8-Step Program for Taking Charge of Your Life (McGraw Hill) is the fear of not having enough time or resources available to meet your own level of expectation or the expectations of others.

If you accept that pressure is a stress reaction that comes from trying to live up to a set of expectations, then it follows that pressure is not inherent in any task, but originates within yourself and is brought to any task. Working with this premise positions you to now be able to manage pressure and the sources of pressure. It is accomplished through a two-fold strategy.

 This two-fold strategy will be explained in the following blogs.

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