WE HAVE the right to choose between what we know to be right or wrong. Ignorance is no excuse.

Choice indicates “a right to act and the power to choose”. Choice is “the act of choosing”. This indicates that we have a right to choose between two or more situations or things. Choosing can be defined as “selecting from all that are available”, “making decisions”, “acting as seen fit” or “to act on preference”.

The power to choose rests with the individual. The person has the right to make an informed decision based on knowledge and experience. Making informed decisions requires acting with responsibility. With responsibility comes accountability. Once the choice is made, we are responsible for the choice and are accountable for the action taken and the outcome of those actions.

Responsible is defined as “being capable of rational conduct” or “morally accountable for actions”. Accepting responsibility, therefore, indicates that a person accepts that they are morally accountable for their actions. In whatever we do in life, be it personal or business related, having the ability to accept responsibilities is essential.

A teacher is responsible for the well-being and behaviour of pupils. Parents are responsible for the behaviour, upbringing and education of their children. Supervisors and managers are responsible for the staff under their control, applying company policies and procedures, achieving results with and through others and for upholding the vision and values of the organisation. Each and every employee is responsible for doing the work they are paid to do. Each one of us is personally responsible for our own progression in business and in life.

As we go through life each one of us, whether we want it or not, will be placed in situations where or attitude to responsibility will be put to the test. Our response to such situations will depend on our understanding of responsibility and our approach and attitude towards responsibility. There are three forms of responsibility we need to take into consideration. They are responsibility we are born with, responsibility we are given and responsibility we assume.

We are all born with certain responsibilities. This is exemplified by the way we accept responsibility for our daily actions and behaviour. No one gave us this responsibility; no one had to tell us we had it. Personal responsibility comes naturally. We accepted that we were born with certain attributes and qualities of character that developed as we grew and matured. We made certain decisions and we accepted responsibility for these decisions. As we go through life we are given responsibilities by others. Your parents tell you to be home at a certain time and trust you to do so. They are giving you responsibility.

You are placed in a position of trust where confidential information is available to you. You are placed in that position and are responsible for upholding the trust relationship. Finally, there is assumed responsibility. This is when a person makes a personal decision to do something about a situation. They have not been given authority to take action, but because of the situation they assume authority and accept the responsibility.

A hazard, for example, exists in a workplace situation where it is not the employee’s direct area of responsibility. The employee realises a danger exists, assumes responsibility and tries to remedy the situation. When a person assumes responsibility, they are automatically held accountable. Being prepared to assume responsibility and the inevitable accountability is the true sign of a good leader and manager.

When considering promotions in the workplace, managers will consider to what extent a person exemplifies an ability to accept responsibility and to be held accountable. More importantly, a manager will consider and weigh up situations where potential candidates for promotion have demonstrated an ability to assume responsibility.

The ability to assume responsibility is an area where most employees and individuals fail in business and in life. The general attitude is one of “it is no my job”, “it’s not my problem” and “it is not my responsibility”. This is short-sighted and indicates an inability and unwillingness to go beyond what is required. Failing to assume responsibility indicates an inability to apply innovative thinking, a lack of drive and a lack of motivation.

In many instances managers fail to cultivate this critical trait and to encourage employees to be innovative and to assume responsibility as and when a need arises. Learn to assume responsibility and be prepared to be held accountable if you want to progress in your career and to excel in life.

Des Squire is a managing member at Amsi and Associates. Call 082 800 9057 or email: des@amsiandassociates.co.za.

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