The late (and legendary) Peter Drucker had a really
interesting take on the notion of responsibility. According to him, responsibility has a direct relationship
with—and is likely synonymous with—authority. He went onto explain it, saying that when someone takes
responsibility for something, they are making an explicit claim that they have
the authority (tangible, moral, or otherwise) to attend to it or to see it to
Drucker went on to assert that validating claims of
responsibility according to this test was essential to creating and maintaining
a healthy socioeconomic system.
This applied to both responsibility assumed and responsibility bestowed.
Although this implies larger societal implications
of bake my noodle proportions, it struck me most profoundly in the most micro
of economic levels. The economics
of Yours Truly.
Taking responsibility for things I have no business having
my mits in is classic Bill True.
I’ve definitely subscribed to the “more is more” mentality, and it’s
gotten me into a lot of trouble in the past. It’s always been well intentioned, of course, an effort to
help out or do a good turn or whatnot.
I’ve learned some hard lessons, though, as I've failed to keep promises time after time because I wasn’t in a position or didn’t have the ability to
keep them. It's cost me credibility,
business, and even friends. After all, the road to Hell is paved with tons of those little suckers, right?
To date, all I’ve really been able to do is recognize it as
a shortcoming of mine. I know it’s
a problem, I know when it’s happened, and I know how to circle around and
grovel for forgiveness when I’ve really gotten myself into a pickle. That, and I’ve turned flogging myself over
it into an art form. What I couldn’t
see yet was a way to proactively sidestep the pitfall of over promising and
under delivering (or worse, not delivering at all).
Peter Drucker, turns out, is my hero. He’s given me the answer. Finally, I have really good litmus test
to determine whether or not opening my trap is the right thing to do. From now on, when that little voice
whispers in my ear, “You know, Bill…” I am going to take a moment and ask
myself two important questions:
1. Do I have, at present, the ability in terms of
time, connections, experience, and knowledge to deliver on the promise of
assistance I am about to make?
2. Even if I have the ability, is taking on the
work associated with this promise really the best thing for either me or the
For years I've struggled with saying no to people because
I’ve been afraid that doing so would jeopardize my relationship with them. I’m a people pleaser. It’s what we do. It’s more than that, though. I’ve also had difficulty seeing whether
or not making the promise would adversely impact the relationship later
because I wouldn’t be able to fulfill it.
Moreover, I didn’t have a simple and compelling definition that helped
me see it when it’s happening, as well as to understand how and why it’s not
only bad for me, but also bad for society in general. In other words, I didn’t have a strong argument with
respect to possible negative future impacts, should I make the promise, that could
overcome my desire in the moment to say yes.
Now I do, and I’m excited to try it out. So if I tell you “no” in the coming
days, weeks, months, and years, don’t be offended. I’m simply contributing to the socioeconomic health of you and
me…and to the whole wide world.