February 22, 2018

Accurately discerning responsibility and authority

Three senior managers talkingEvents of last week—featuring, in particular, some troubles my son is having with another boy on his school bus—showed just how important it is to discern accurately who is best-placed to take which action: Us as parents, the bus driver, the parents of the other boy, or the school staff.

I believe, a lot of the time, we get this wrong. We take actions or say things which aren’t really for us to take. They’re somebody else’s piece of the puzzle. We could suggest they might choose to take a particular action, but we need to signal it’s their choice, when truly it is.

That way, our influence is maximised.

Over-reaching our authority, and telling other people what to do, or doing their job for them undermines our influence.

Much better to have the patience to do our bit, and let other people do theirs, using our influence to guide. If we give them their space, there’s a better chance they’ll accept our influence and do what we hoped for in the first place.

It’s all about the egos, as usual.

Sounds pretty obvious, I suppose. But is it common practice?

Accurately discerning who has responsibility and who has authority is worth the effort—as is designing the system right, when we have that role.

In short, as we might have said to the other family involved: You parent your son, and we’ll parent ours.

Applies to work situations too, of course.