Responsibility Answers: What do I do about others making commitments for me?

“A lot of times we just say we want other people to change, but there’s no next step for us there.”

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Responsibility Answers

How can I deal with others making commitments for me?

Bryce asks, “Christopher, one part of my company makes promises the other parts have to deliver on and can’t. What can I do about that?”

All of us, who work in any size organization, get to deal with this issue. Like all things related to Responsibility, there isn’t a “quick fix.”

It comes down to asking oneself, “What do I want?” and thinking deeply, listening to your heart, listening to your head, seeing if those two align. If there’s something you want, ask whether that’s the next step for you.

A lot of times we just say we want other people to change, but there’s no next step for us there. Unless we’re actually willing to take Responsibility, and do something to show them the change that you want them to take.

Let’s look at the BIG picture here.

So the bigger picture here, the real, real big picture, if you zoom out to 10,000 feet, is that all organizations are composed of two big pieces, two big dynamics.

One is specialization. Specialization actually disintegrates in the organization, because it drives people into small groupings or isolated areas. The other part is coordination or integration.

There’s this simultaneous pulling apart and pulling back together that is the essence of organization theory, and everything you know about management and leadership is probably tied to have this dance of specialization and coordination/integration.

This is an issue of both specialization and coordination.

The issue of one part of a company making promises, that another part of the company has to deliver on and can’t – that’s both an issue of specialization and coordination.

There’s two ways to manage that. You can either manage it through control, authority, bureaucracy, policy, manipulation, or you can manage it through personal power, mindset, culture, teamwork, leadership.

In other words, to manage it through control means to try and do a better job of being precise about how much lying we can get away with, and how much committing other people to stuff they can’t do we can get away with, and how we hold onto people who are frustrated that they can’t deliver what somebody else promised that they would. All of that.

That doesn’t sound very fun to me, but that’s the way a lot of people do it. It’s easier.

Let’s look at a more effective strategy.

The harder, more effective, more productive, more humane way is through working to align those groups, and align their interests.

Consider how you can host conversations between them about making commitments for other departments, and what you, as an organization, can do about it.

So if it’s small enough, you can probably use the team orientation process, which you can find in my book, Teamwork is an Individual Skill or in our Flawless Team Building workshop.

It’s a process of getting people aligned around common outcomes, and making sure that their inspirations do not cancel each other out. Cancel each other out in terms of being competitive towards each other, or threatening or competing for the same promotion, etc. Then you need to know how to make and keep operating agreements to keep things flowing.

You’re the one who gets to change.

It comes down to no right answer.

If you’re participating in this situation, and it’s a problem for you and you want it to change, then guess what? You’re the one who gets to take Responsibility for doing something about it.

That means getting into your resourceful head space, and asking yourself what you want about this, and what’s the next step that you can do something about.

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