The Game Of Responsibility

8 ball
Keep your eye on the 8 ball. Know who owns the responsibility. From thezephyrsong_tzs’ Flickr photostream.

Here is what a deal looks like for many of the people you work with. They often angle to get these parameters:

You own all the responsibility

You pay the cost

They get all the reward

Such a deal is a fool’s game but it is played all the time for eager pleasers and simple business people. If you take that deal, then it is to your own peril.

Generally speaking, people do not want to own the responsibility or bear the cost of a decision or action. If they can get something for nothing and you fall for it without understanding what has happened then you have been played.

Taking responsibility for a decision or paying the price for something that may not work is risk. Ultimately how hard it is to make decisions comes down to someone’s belief system.

A good deal is where the person reaping the reward owns the responsibility and cost.

When you are in conversations that may have the ruse of innocence, keep your eye on the eight ball and make sure it is clear in your mind where these three factors reside. Make a good deal and if you feel the eight ball has been casually or aggressively shifted to you, push for the fair deal. Don’t take ownership of the risk without the reward.

In a world of dealing in intangibles, this point is even more important. You can be made to feel that something is your responsibility when it is not. You can be manipulated to own an unbalanced liability when it is not reasonable.

This is where leadership is important and you can assert what the deal should be firmly and clearly. Start with the phrase, “How about…”

“How about you let me know what you are committing to and I will let you know what it costs?”

“How about I own the risk and costs and own the complete benefits?”

“How about you email me what you are willing to pay?”

Getting agreements out of the hazy gray areas and making them explicit puts the responsibility, cost and rewards where they should be. Make good agreements.

The game of responsibility is continually shifted between people. Beware of those that slide it casually to you and handle it like a true leader ensuring those who bear the cost and responsibility get the reward.

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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