Take responsibility

Consider this. For years, I did my job obediently. I followed instructions; I stuck to the “policy.” I completed every assignment my boss gave to me, and I did it well. And I waited. I waited to be noticed. I waited to be recognized as a significant contributor. I waited to move up. While I waited, I also grew frustrated because nothing was breaking loose. I was, after all, waiting.

At long last, my boss finally gave me a promotion. I received a manager title, a raise, and a bonus target. I also got a new assignment, and with it I promptly marched into my boss’s office to see how he wanted me to handle it. He gave me an answer, and out I went.

This carried on for several days (or weeks, I don’t remember) before I noticed the exasperation on my boss’s face. It finally clicked with me. The next time I faced a task, I just did it.  I didn’t ask for permission or a signature; I signed off it myself. And guess what happened? NOTHING. Business continued as usual, as it did the next time and the next.

Since that time, I’ve come to realize that most situations simply require someone to make a decision. If I ask for direction or permission, not only am I adding a step in the process, I’m also consuming more resources–my time AND my boss’s time. The longer I put off taking responsibility for making decisions, the less likely anyone was to give it to me. Maybe it’s a chicken-and-egg thing, but taking initiative generally leads to more responsibility. If you wait for it, no one knows you’re ready. You have to jump up and prove it.

My dad once told me that people aren’t given responsibility; they take it. It was years before I took that statement to heart–and was confident enough to put it into practice. When I finally did, I discovered the wisdom behind it.

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