I’ll bet that you’ve had your share of delicate conversations with clients about how taking responsibility does not have to be a bad thing. When I’m working with my clients, I often talk about choices, and how when we take responsibility for our “not so great” choices, we recognize how much power we have to make better choices in the future.
While it might be a bit hard for us to swallow, that logic works in our worlds too. I just had to share this new post from Seth Godin with you. I know it made me think about some of my own “complaints”…
What you were trained to do: wait for a good, generous, munificent, tasteful, smart boss or client to tell you what to do.
If that doesn’t happen, blame the system, blame the boss, blame the client. If the work is lousy, it’s the client’s fault. If the boss doesn’t see or understand your insight, that’s his fault. You are here to serve, and if they don’t get it, well, that’s too bad for all concerned.
What you might consider: Lead up.
A great designer gets great clients because she deserves them. One of the ways that she became a great designer was by leading her clients to make good decisions, to have better taste, to understand her insight and have the guts to back it. That doesn’t happen randomly. It happens when someone leads up.
A successful middle manager gets promoted when she takes the right amount of initiative, defers the right amount of credit and orchestrates success. That success might happen despite (not because) of who her bosses are, and that’s just fine, because she’s leading up.
In many ways, we get the bosses and clients we deserve. If they’re holding you back, change them.
We have an astonishing amount of freedom at work. Not just the freedom to call meetings, make phone calls and pitch ideas, but yes, the freedom to quit, to find a new gig, to pick the clients we’re going to take on and to decide how we’re going to deal with a request from someone who seems to have far more power than we do. “Yes, sir” is one possible answer, but so is leading from below, creating a reputation and an environment where the people around you are transformed into the bosses you deserve.
When you do this with intention, it gets easier and easier. From afar, it seems impossible, and it will be until you commit to it.
Do it on purpose
Tell stories that resonate with those in charge
Demand responsibility, don’t worry about authority
Reflect credit, embrace blame
Earn the right by taking small steps
Convene, organize, learn, teach and lay the foundation
If they don’t get it, go somewhere that does [slash] hire better clients, regardless of the fee
This is a GREAT message from my perspective. Control may be an illusion, but choice is a powerful counter-punch!