Don't Take it Personal

I’m a responsible person.

Most days that part of my personality is a blessing, but it also has the potential to sabotage my leadership if I’m not careful.

One of the “grey leadership” issues I’m currently working through is the difference between taking responsibility and taking personal responsibility.

As Executive Director at Cross Point I am responsible for the effective management of the staff, the stewardship of our resources and the execution of our vision.  Where this gets grey for me is when I shift this responsibility to feeling personally responsible for every activity or decision that happens at Cross Point.   When a poor decision is made, when a staff person takes the heat for something that they shouldn’t have been blamed for, or when something critical falls through the cracks, I have a tendency to take these issues personal.  I immediately go into evaluation mode wondering where I failed, where I didn’t give clear direction, where I could have helped before the incident happened?

Recently I was talking through a particular situation with my husband, trying to make sense of the feeling of failure that was overwhelming me.  My very wise husband stopped my thought process and told me that I was taking it too personal.  (Yeah, go ahead an imagine how well I responded to that. 🙂 )

But after I calmed down to listen, he spoke some wisdom that I needed to hear:

My responsibility is to give clear direction, articulate expectations and coach along the way. That is my responsibility.  I can’t feel personally responsible for misses that were beyond my immediate control.  Rather than wallow in feeling like I failed somewhere, I need to lean in and coach our team through whatever the circumstance.

I’m currently reading the book The Leadership Pipeline with our leadership staff.  This book is really challenging me to consider the value shifts that I need to make to reach the next level of my leadership.  I realize that I’m having to make a value shift in regard to responsibility.

I am not personally responsible for every action of our staff, but I am responsible for making sure I am providing direction, coaching and clear expectations.  Not taking personal responsibility does not mean that I am not engaged or involved. It just means that every miss doesn’t become a personal setback for me as a leader. We will miss it.  We will miss it often and I can’t let our misses turn into a personal defeat.

What about you?  Do you assume more responsibility than you should?

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  • Sweetie March 30, 2010  

    I think that so much of this particular concept is where we focus in on being in unity of purpose. So many particulars fall into place when everyone is on the same page as to what our values are, our vision is, and our unified goals are. We are human, we do thing differently, people take things differently, and sometimes the truth is, folks are going to be in different camps, even when on the same teams. It IS hard to not feel like the "mama" of a scolded or even acting out child when life happens or something isn't quite covered…but the truth is…we have to continually look at "What is the point?" and so very often the mistakes made, the discontent voices, has little to do with "the point" of why we're doing this thing called following Jesus….and being obedient to His commands….so often its more simply human opinions of how or which way something should be done.

    • jcatron March 30, 2010  

      Thanks for adding that perspective Sweetie!

  • Anita Ryan March 30, 2010  

    I was a sales manager for 5 years so I understand this balance well. It is hard not to feel like a failure when things don't go as planned. But one thing I have learned is that rarely do things go as planned, and that is ok. You nailed it when you said that you still need to give clear direction and expectations and coach along the way. I would add extend grace and realize that maybe God has a different way planned to get things done sometimes that give us even more of an opportunity to see him in the results. You do an awesome job, especially with the amount of responsibility you carry. Chin up! : )

    • jcatron March 30, 2010  

      Thanks Anita!!

  • Makeda March 30, 2010  

    I heard Craig Groeschel say at a Catalyst conference a few years ago that if we take responsibility for the failures we'll be tempted to take responsibility for the successes. That statement really convicted me because I am always taking things personally. I'm still working on it but I try to remember what Craig said on those days. Perfection is not a human option this side of eternity and things will mess up from time to time but the key is remembering to trust God even when everything feels like it is falling apart around us. Thank you for sharing so honestly about where you are in your journey.

    • jcatron March 30, 2010  

      Great thoughts Makeda! Thanks for adding to the discussion!

  • Carrie G March 30, 2010  

    My short answer is YES, I definitely assume more personal responsibility that I should. Gets me in trouble over the long-haul because it's hard to just stop taking so much responsibility. It's a God-thing that only HE can help you accomplish. And yes, I'm still in "recovery mode" in this area.

    • jcatron March 30, 2010  

      Carrie – I totally agree that it's hard to stop taking responsibility. I often feel guilty when I don't.

  • jennyrain March 30, 2010  

    I have started, restarted, and then held off on a blog post entitled "Helping too Much" – this has SO been a subject that has been close to my heart the last couple of months … it is a question I find myself asking often in ministry, "am I doing something for someone else that they need to be doing themselves?" "Am I doing something for someone else that is taking away an opportunity for them to learn or grow?" It's a daily thing… like Carrie – I too am in "recovery mode" with this 🙂

    • jcatron March 30, 2010  

      Jenny – I think you are asking good questions to both help you and the people you lead be most effective. Thanks for sharing and understanding!

  • alece March 30, 2010  

    i tend to shoulder weight that isn't mine and take things far too personal. i need to remember that i'm responsible to others but not responsible for them.

  • Amanda Sims March 30, 2010  

    This totally resonates with me. I was just thinking about this today. For me, this is the BIG thing I have got to nail down in my leadership development right now. I feel that same weight of personal responsibility when things go wrong, agonizing over how I could have prevented it. I’m learning that responsibility does not really mean control.

    And I’m a slow learner. 🙂

    • jcatron April 1, 2010  

      Amanda – so true "responsibility does not really mean control"… ouch, ouch 🙂

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  • tam March 30, 2010  

    sounds like parenting 101 to me 😉

    every parent goes through this too. they set guidelines, give clear direction, pour out wisdom, show and provide productive opportunities….then…we release the little devils and hope like a dickens theyve retained, at least, a small portion of what we gave them. sometimes, they do. sometimes they dont. sometimes they get it partly right but then put their own twist on it.

    ive found that in either case…there is always much to learn. for them and me. not all of my training has been good. and dangit if my kids dont recognize that, correct it, prove me wrong and then i do, indeed, take responsibility for it. and often times…they just do their own thing, unprepared and they fall, then it rests on them.

    i think a good leader, parent, boss…will come along side, help them up and gently remind them of what was expected in the first place.

  • Gina Pasour March 30, 2010  

    My heart is to minister to primarily the homeless, but also the downtrodden person who's "done it to themselves!" as the church so often says. As God looks at my motives, I'm praying that he will help me see what He sees. I've always been burdened at doing anything for the wrong reason, or without joy and love. And the more ministry I do, I struggle with having joy sometimes!

    But, I think the person who doesn't help another person because they just know what that person will do in the end (he'll just spend that money on booze)didn't ever want to help. I truly have found some freedom as I understand if I do something out of God love, but they do the wrong thing, God's just judging me on doing what He told ME to do. OK……………of my soapbox and on with the show!

    I agree with what I think you're saying. I can be burdened and genuinely care about a person, without taking blame when they make poor choices. I think we all want to blame someone when we screw up. I know I sure do. It's really tough. Being that person who gives direction, and then remains caring, yet tries to be the friend that would say "I think we need to talk." I want to be that kind of person.
    Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; But the kisses of an enemy are profuse.

    But, I do feel guilty a lot. I do take it personal when I think people don't get me, or Him, or what I think Him is saying to me!