The Funny Thing About Responsibility

My motto is “You can delegate tasks, but you can’t delegate responsibility.” It’s a variation on the famous Truman saying “The buck stops here”.

The truth is, if you are lucky, you probably have people willing, if not eager, to take on responsibilities. When that happens, as an owner/CEO/entrepreneur (boss), you need to embrace that opportunity.

Yet, so many times I’ve seen that opportunity bungled. The most grievous example is when someone proposes a great project. A clear vision is presented, discussed, and accepted. Then the boss sets about taking charge, as bosses love to do, and blindly delegating tasks to multiple people with no concept of project management. When that happens the boss has tacitly accepted the responsibility for the project’s success. If the project succeeds, the boss can claim credit as a great manager of people. If it fails, the boss has lots of places to point fingers, including at the person who came up with the idea (even if the failure is due to the way the boss managed the project).

Instead why not hand the project over to the person who came up with the great idea; say, “run with it”; and offer support? This is the person with the vision and has the best concept as to how the pieces should fall together. Yes, ultimately the responsibility falls on the boss, but why not give the person with the idea a chance to take a piece of that responsibility and demonstrate an ability to succeed?

Things don’t always happen this way, but if you start with a willingness to give credit for success to your people and a willingness to accept the blame for failures (Buck stops here), you’ll go a long way toward building a loyal and passionate team.