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I am told that when I was young, I woke up one morning having wet my bed the night before and ran to my parents and claimed that “Somebody wet my bed.” My son carried on this tradition in a new way. After having done something bad to his older sister, we asked him to apologize. After much frooing and froing his response was “Sorry, Gaga.” The Gaga was his attempt to deflect true responsibility. You might think from these vignettes that I come from a family of shirkers but I think we’ve all been in that boat at some point in time.

Responsibility is a funny thing. We crave it when things are going well, try to deny it when things don’t quite go the way we want, and wait for it to be given to us at work. Responsibility is one of those key leadership skills that separate successful leaders from unsuccessful ones. Taking responsibility early in your career creates advancement opportunities. Trying to deny it when things go bad gets you fired.

Responsibility is Taken. It is never Given

What many people at work don’t understand about responsibility is that it is taken, not given. No one gives you responsibility for getting something done. They might present you with an opportunity to take it but it is up to you to take that responsibility on. They might say that you have been given responsibility but in actual fact, it is up to you whether you take it or not.

Try this at work:

At work, it’s often the little things that go unnoticed and yet it’s the little things that can give customers a bad impression. Your task this week is to find some small way that you can make a difference and take responsibility for that action. It might be straightening up the office, making sure that there are peppermints in a bowl for visitors, or bringing in flowers from time to time. Whatever it is, find one new way to take responsibility for improving your work environment.

As weeks progress, make this a campaign with other people. Get them energized to improve your work environment.

I can’t promise you’ll end up being President for starting this but I’ll guarantee that your effort to take responsibility will be noticed and eventually rewarded.