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Rights & Responsibilities: A Story of Balance

Rights vs. Responsibilities

Jared was just beside himself.

The moment our coaching call started, he launched right into a panting tirade.

His employees were all furious about his General Manager, Carla. They had filed into his office, one-by-one, throughout the week, complaining about her.

“She’s always up in my business!”

“I can’t work with her breathing down my neck every second of the day.”

“If she assigns me that job, she needs to just let me do it!”

“This kind of micromanagement is why I had to leave my last job.”

And the worst part was unsaid, “And it’s why I might leave this one too.”

Jared trusted Carla. It wasn’t about the trust. But she was young. Too young, maybe, for the responsibility of General Manager. But, again, he trusted her. She worked hard. She was smart, motivated, and believed in the company’s brand with her whole heart. So Jared was determined to help her grow into her role.

Once Jared had spilled it all out there, I knew this was the direction our meeting was headed today. So I just started with a question:

“Jared, why do you think Carla is so controlling?”

Jared paused for a moment. I could tell he was digging into his intuition here…

“I can’t say for sure. I mean, I’m checking in with her daily - a couple times a day, actually. I know she is struggling, so I want to help her do this right. She’s a valuable employee, and a great part of the team. We even meet every Monday to outline her schedule and identify her priorities, but micromanagement is certainly not on that list”, he said in frustration. “I’m constantly helping her do this job right, and I cannot understand why she is struggling so much.”

I let that sit there for a moment.

Then I repeated it back to him.

What I knew about Jared was that his company didn’t suffer from a deficit of care. Everyone on his team believed in their shared collective purpose as a company. The values and branding work we’d already done together was airtight.

“You just care so much, right? I can hear it in the way you talk about it. In fact, you care so much that your strength has actually become your weakness.”

“I don’t understand. How can that be?”

“Think about it for a moment. You’ve given Carla the responsibility of managing your on-site operations, including your people. It’s a daunting responsibility, for sure. But by meeting with her ten times or more every week, you’re not giving her an equal proportion of rights.”

“But I just want her to do a good job!”, he retorted.

“That’s clear”, I said. “And that’s exactly what Carla would say if you shared your employees’ complaints with her. Do you see the connection?”

Carla’s rights have to match up with her responsibilities. There must be a balance, or she will feel micromanaged as well. Jared was modeling the dysfunction in perfect form. She needs the right to forge her own path, manage her own relationships. She deserves the right to succeed. She deserves the right to fail. And all in balanced proportion to her responsibilities.

With too much responsibility and not enough rights, we often feel like we’re being micromanaged. We don’t have agency to execute on those responsibilities. All the work, with none of the ownership.

The other side of that spectrum is equally dysfunctional.

Too many rights, without an equal measure of responsibility will result in unbridled entitlement, insufficient guidance, and poor buy-in, among other things. If you give your teenager a car, but don’t hold them accountable for the consequences of that huge responsibility, what could possibly go wrong? We all know the answer to that.

Each of those dysfunctions can absolutely come from the best of intentions. For Jared, it was his deep level of care that prompted his ten meetings every week with Carla. For the parent who doesn’t take the car away after their teenager’s first speeding ticket, it could be said that they just don’t want to see their kid have to walk to school in the snow.

Nobody is saying it’s a nefarious dysfunction. But it’s toxic nonetheless, when that level of care gets off its leash.

Jared and I ended the call by cashing in on a two-for-one special. He got a chance to see the need for his General Manager to balance rights with responsibilities, and equally as valuable, Jared got to see how his own relationship to control was being emulated by his team.

And that is where his work needed to start.

And after you’ve read his article, if you’re interested in getting some help with the blind spots that are in your way, just click here. Let’s set up a time to talk. Find your own balance.
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You vs. You

Who Will Win?

It doesn’t matter if you have been on a self-improvement journey your whole life, or just since you made your resolutions on January 1st. It’s You vs. You in a battle royale.

This contest is so important to understand, because for the rest of your life you will be challenged with one thing or another, right? I mean, it’s not as if you can say, “Okay, I’ve gone to the gym today. I’m all set for the year! I’m good to go!”

Nope. No dice. It doesn’t work that way. But then, you knew that.

See, here’s the thing. Most of those habits you want to change? They are not really that hard.

No, seriously, the act of what you need to “do-or-not-do” is usually pretty simple.

For example, eating less is not hard. It’s simply a matter of not putting that dessert in your mouth. One less trip to the buffet is actually less EFFORT. But the effort is not the biggest thing in the way, is it?

It’s you.

There is also nothing particularly difficult about the inherent act of driving your car to the gym. Or walking inside. Or even sweating for 45 minutes. In the big scheme of things, it is not a backbreaking endeavor, right? Again — It’s you.

You are probably in your own way. Why do we do this to ourselves? You’re certainly not alone in this struggle. Most of the people you know are in a similar battle. Maybe all of them.

So, why is this happening, and what can you do about it? Well, that’s the rub, isn’t it? But you have to start the process. Take action.

Taking action can be so very difficult sometimes. A terrific book to get you on your way is The Art of Taking Action by Gregg Krech. That’s a good start.

There’s also a great article by Thomas Oppong called Your Future Self is The Enemy of Your Best Self (How to OverCome Your Present Bias). Forgive his long title and just read it. It’s all about overcoming what he calls “the resistance mindset”. It’s about a five-minute read, so you can knock it down pretty easily. I’d love to hear what you think about it. (Leave your comments below)

And after you’ve read his article, if you’re interested in getting some help with the blind spots that are in your way, just click here. Let’s set up a time to talk. Win that battle.
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What’s 5. Why’s 9.

You’re right. There are no question marks in that title.

In the world of leadership development, self-development, and business development, we are charged with discovering and improving our circumstances relative to any of those disciplines. That is to say, if you are working on yourself, you have to actually ask yourself questions to diagnose your issues and then subsequently ask the questions that will help you solve those issues. Make sense? To develop means to “grow, evolve and mature”. Those things cannot happen without the above-noted triage.

Here’s the rub: The questions you ask are even more important than the answers. So much depends on them, that if they are the wrong questions for the particular circumstances, your efforts will be derailed before you even get started.

For example, if I pose a question that begins with “Why”, we are likely to get to the core causes behind an issue, right? And if we ask “Why” five times, as Eric Ries advises in his book, The Lean Startup, we will get to the root of the problem more quickly and more effectively. EMyth and others have been successfully going meta for years.

So, what’s wrong with “Why?” It depends on when you use it. If I ask my teenager “Why did you feel the need to stay on your phone until 1:00 AM?”, I am likely to be met with defensiveness. It cuts so deep to the core issue that he is not ready for it. The truth is, he’s impressionable with his peer group, and discovering new and exciting ways to engage with them about adult topics, and the safest time to do that is when everyone else is asleep. I don’t think that’s an analysis he will appreciate. So “Why” is not the best entrance into the conversation.

It’s in these circumstances that I should turn to a different question, such as “What?”

“What should you be doing at 1:00 instead of texting, so you can wake up in a better mood”? It goes straight to a solution-based conversation. It doesn’t highlight his still-emerging adolescent self. Rather, it assumes he knows better about what he should be doing, encourages him to do it, and then leaves the choice with him. He’s no longer "in the question”, and that is alright with him!

The same applies to all of the clients I work with. Some of the business owners I work with need to be prodded and challenged with the stronger questions.
“Why do you suppose you have avoided making a budget for the year, until June?” Because I hate the finance part of my business.
“Why do you hate the finance part of your business?” Because it’s complicated and I don’t fully understand it.
“Why haven’t you learned it yet - being 52 years old and a business owner?” Because I don’t like what it will tell me.
“Why won’t you like it?” Because it will put restrictions on how I should be spending my money.
“Why don’t you like those restrictions?” Because money represents freedom to me, and I don’t like that to be shackled.

Do you see where we are going? Here’s the ineffective alternative:

“What is the best way to understand where your money is coming from and where it’s going every month?” A budget.
“Right. Get on that!” Okay.
The problem with this, however, is nothing is being done to address the root problem. My client is not a fool. She understands what the best tool is. And it’s likely she will still avoid the task of making a budget. Until she understands what the barrier is, she cannot confront it and she cannot correct it.

Accountability is rarely black and white. It’s usually a subtle shade of grey, depending upon who the subject is, what the issue is, how much trust exists, and many other factors. So on a scale of 1 - 10, let’s say being fully permissive is a “1”, and blameful ownership is a “10”. If you ask a “What” question, you’re landing right around the “5”. If you ask “Why”, you are closer to a “9”. One is a poke, and the other is a hammer.

Depending upon who you are working with, the level of engagement will vary greatly. Some of my clients can go straight to “Why”, while others require a slow evolution to the meta and need to start with “What” or “How”. And that’s okay. Go with what works here.

Please share with me how this did or didn't work for you with your own tribe.

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Confidence Deconstructed

“They don’t trust me. I can feel it”.
It never feels good to be untrusted, whether it’s by your boss, your spouse, your kids, your colleagues, or even the anonymous public. We crave trust because it is the foundation of any relationship. It’s the bricks & mortar vessel that holds all interactions. Without it, we are dismissed and perceived as not worthy of a relationship. This matters to people so much that some will even engage in deceitful and dishonest means to gain the trust of others, in the form of excuses, false claims and even résumé padding. Try that on for irony!
But what about trust of self?
I had a conversation with a client the other day about his struggle to stay on track with his business development work. He said that his inability to push through the uncomfortable times wasn’t possible because his confidence is too low. He was afraid that even if he did everything he needed to do to develop his fledgling business, it could still fail. Never mind the self-fulfilling prophecy of this one for the time being, let’s just look at cause & remedy here.
Confidence comes from the Latin work fidēs, which means “faith or trust”. So if you are talking about self-confidence, it’s simply about possessing a faith or trust in yourself. Sounds silly, right?  I mean, you know yourself! Your behavior is dictated by the very entity whom you do not trust? (Stay with me here….)
First, how does one gain and nurture the trust of others? It is by continually and consistently showing up. If you want your boss to trust you, you have to meet deadlines and consistently show up prepared. Your spouse? You must listen earnestly to them, stay faithful and consistent in your devotion to them and the relationship. Kids? Stay consistent in your use of accountability. You must not be punitive or ingratiating to kids, or they will never trust what they get from you as their parent. You get the idea. It’s all about consistently showing up.
The same rules apply for trust of self, or confidence. The more you consistently show up, no matter what the challenge is, the more you nurture your trust of self.
“But what if I can’t be sure of my success? What if I try and try and try, even though I still could fail?”
Scary, right? Uncertainty is the main ingredient of fear. And the only way to overcome fear is to confront it. After all, courage is not the absence of fear. It is the acknowledgment of the fear and doing it anyway. (Tweet this!) And as Dr. Neel Burton points out, "a courageous person has limitless capabilities and possibilities."
Let’s cut to the chase:
Confidence in yourself requires that you trust yourself. You can only trust yourself if you show up regularly despite your fears. That is courage. And the more courage you show, the more confidence you will have in yourself, so you will be more inclined to show up again next time despite the fear you feel. And on and on it goes. Courage begets confidence which begets courage.
The answer, my friends, is to take action. Get out of your head. Your thoughts and ideas alone don’t breed your trust in yourself. Only your actions do. That’s called confidence. (Tweet this!) So show up. Fail often. Make your adjustments and show up again. Rinse. Repeat.

Lean into your own Growth Edge. Let's talk.
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Polish That Scuff!

I’ve stumbled. 
I’ve been scuffed and bruised. And it hurts.

I know I’m not alone in this huge ambulance.
There’s a guy over there getting oxygen for going too high up that mountain, too fast.
And there’s a woman over there in a decompression tank for diving too deep too fast, and not equalizing her pressure.
This young man there took on a bully that was too big for him, but he did it anyway. He’s pretty messed up.
And that elderly woman next to me? She refused to give up. It’s taken it’s toll, despite the broad smile across her face.

Everyone in here is suffering some sort of injury, and they are all different. And yet, they are all the same.

We all have to proceed through triage, so our injuries can be assessed. Whoever is bleeding gets immediate attention. Heart or breathing difficulties might even supersede them and their troubles. It’s important to take care of the mortal wounds first, of course.

Once we’ve been evaluated, it’s time to find out what happened. How did you get hurt? Why were you in that position in the first place?

Wear your bruises and scars like badges. It means you showed up, you played hard, you took risks, and yes — You survived.

Wear your bruises and scars like badges. It means you showed up, you played hard, you took risks, and yes — You survived. Click To Tweet
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