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“Awareness is the cupcakes at the party. Managing one’s self and one’s relationships are the vegetables and fruits. All are essential to health and vitality. Awareness without self and relationship management does not produce organizational excellence.”

Judy Ryan, CEO LifeWork Systems

Why is a responsibility-based culture so vital? 

Without a high commitment to consistent personal responsibility within everyone in your workforce, you will not be able to sustain your organization’s effectiveness during this time and into the future. With today’s complexity, rapidly accelerating change, new technologies, globalization, diversity and so much more, having a community of people all personally responsible is a must-have for excellence in performance, productivity and service. 

The most essential skill to ensure such accountability is the transfer of responsibility to everyone until it is regularly fully picked up. When transfer of responsibility succeeds, the result is task ownership; people managing their relationships, productivity, engagement and progress. Transferring responsibility and picking it up are skills not often well-understood, developed, modeled, or promoted.  LifeWork Systems provides a responsibility-based culture. 

Why is transfer of responsibility so difficult?

In order for responsibility to be transferred to another effectively, the one transferring it must tap into the autonomy, free will, power, and internal motivation of the other. Here are several reasons this is difficult:

  1. Control tactics are widely prescribed and used. Because so many people use control in an effort to gain responsible behavior from others, they do not realize the effects. For example, when a person:
    1. Powers over another as an autocrat, people react with resentful compliance, rebellion, or both.
    2. Dangles carrots with incentives, people react with competition, self-focus, and lose internal motivation for tasks or the quality of their execution.
    3. Bestows judgments like “I’m disappointed in you”, people react by becoming brown-nosers, people pleasers or rebel and resist, thinking ‘Who died and made you God?’
    4. Pampers and enables by rescuing, exempting or doing and saying too much, people react by becoming less responsible.
  2. S.L.A.M: Say Less, Ask More. To transfer responsibility, one must engage the recipient in critical thinking. By asking more than saying more, recipients are positioned to draw upon their critical thinking and choice.
  3. Asking ineffective questions. Many people who use SLAM at first don’t realize Why and Who questions lead to analysis and blame. Using What and How questions lead to self and relationship-management.
  4. Not asking for a commitment. Even with What and How questions people don’t ask for commitments.
  5. Accepting non-commitment. Even when asking for commitment, people don’t pay attention to phrases such as, “I’ll try…” or “I can do…” (but will you?) or “I know I should…”, indicators of non-commitment.
  6. Not asking for a specific plan. When a person gains a commitment but leaves it as less than SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) this does not lead to success or follow through.
  7. Not noticing if a commitment was fulfilled. When one does not pay attention to the outcome, they fail to see the lack of trust in unfulfilled commitments. The transfer in fact failed and needs to be addressed.

Why is picking up responsibility so difficult?

Most people have had their power suppressed, shamed, challenged, punished, and treated as suspect throughout their entire childhood, including when very young (think “terrible twos”) in homes and schools. When I took my first training in this model, it was in a parenting program. At the first meeting, I introduced my 4-year-old son as “the biter.” After I put him into the daycare, the instructor said, “Don’t refer to his autonomy in that way. It cements shame about his identity and power.” I was embarrassed but it also made sense.

When we fail to acknowledge, validate, celebrate, and effectively guide people in the use of their power, they internalize shame and then want to avoid responsibility. This is often unconscious but very present. As a result, they blame others when things don’t go their way, they avoid failure, and seek to side-step possible shaming, humiliation, and punishment. When becoming skilled in recognizing this, the prevalence of it is quite obvious.

When and how is transferring responsibility so effective?

Transferring responsibility is effective when psychologically safe, trusting, encouraging, and emotionally and socially intelligent conditions and conversations are present. Only when the culture is infused with consistent concepts, terms, tools, and processes that foster awareness AND management of thinking and behaving, do healthy outcomes win the day. If you are inspired to create such a responsibility-based culture, we are ready and able to support you fully in this!

This article is published in the column The Extraordinary Workplace in St. Louis Small Business Monthly, June, 2024

Why People Hire LifeWork Systems

Business owners and executives, community leaders, parents, educators and individuals hire LifeWork Systems because they know that effective conditions and conversations make all the difference in building trusting relationships, achieving dreams, and creating solutions and innovations for our evolving world. When people are happy and responsible, emotionally and socially intelligent, confident, and appropriately seen, heard, and supported, they always exceed expectations. We help instill into every person common concepts, terms, tools, and processes that result in healthy, happy, caring and contributing individuals, teams and organizations. Our mission is to create a world in which all people love their lives!

We appreciate you being here on our website and encourage you to reach out to us directly at or  314.239.4727. May something we offered in this article and website help you love YOUR life ~ because YOU matter!

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