The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Responsibility, risk, and control

There is responsibility in giving someone a task. And there is risk.

When asking someone to do something for us or the team, it involves the responsibility to be as clear as possible in sharing that task but also in learning how well the other understood what he is asked for.

The responsibility describes the leader’s care in making sure he has been understood and the person receiving the task can execute it as well as possible.

The risk may serve as a description of the leader’s care in making sure that the other feels free to ask as many questions as needed to understand what the task is for and feel able to execute the task as well as possible.

Risk and responsibility connect and invite to care for two loci of control, that is what is within the control of the leader and what is within the control of the person receiving the task. Neither of both have control of the outcome. What they control is how they execute their tasks. What they don’t control is how they interpret the tasks or what they assume about it. What they control are the questions they ask, the descriptions they share, and the way they seek clarity.

It helps to notice what type of care both risk and responsibility need. They are different just as the anxiety involved with risk and responsibility will be different. It also helps to remember that the need to care continues while the task is being executed. What is done while sharing and describing the task is only a start. It is not possible to achieve all the clarity desired before finalizing the task. But much of the clarity emerges as the task is inquired into, started, and discovered step by step while the execution progresses.

The way people handle responsibility and risk is how they hold one another accountable. When people feel controlled there is a possibility that the leader is anxious about the risk they are taking. As a consequence, they might box people too tightly into a specific way to execute the task. However, sometimes people also feel controlled if they have become insecure in the process and fear they might not be doing things well and find it hard to engage in discussing what they are doing without feeling judged. This often is a reaction when leaders give up too much responsibility and leave people too alone while executing the task. Knowing that they’ll only be measured by the achieved result can make people feel like having to bet on what is right.

Enabling to experience being held accountable as a supportive of each other’s needs is also the result of a leader finding a proper balance between the risk and responsibility he engages in.




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