Responsibility - Coping with the Weight of It in Tough Times

How to Cope with the Weight of Responsibility in a Tough Times

Some people are feeling a huge responsibility due to the ongoing turbulent times in the world, a relentless weight unlike they’ve ever felt before despite being senior, experienced leaders.

And I don’t mean weight from comfort eating 😉

I coach leaders in food manufacturing, hospitality, retailing, media, insurance and IT. I have friends in healthcare, personal services, banking, software. They are all saying the same thing –

• profit pressures from cost increases,
• lower demand with cost of living strain,
• generational differences in managing people,
• feeling the need to be connected all the time,
• too much to do and not enough time.

Your Responsibility

What is your responsibility as a leader? This is a good clarifying question. What are you truly responsible for? Sometimes in times of pressure and stress people start assuming they are responsible for more than they truly are. They also start becoming insular, which can cause them to think that they alone are responsible for everything.

Be clear on what you’re responsible for – you solely. In many organizations there is a hierarchy of responsibility and for the big decisions there’s lots of input and discussion.

RACI Matrix

This matrix seems to come from the 1950’s from Edmond F. Sheehan who worked on management structures and organizational systems; DuPont and E&Y have also been credited however the dates appear later.

Its use is extensive. In project management to define roles, responsibility and map stakeholder involvement. In decision making on who can make what decisions.

Responsible – person or people directly involved in doing the task and finishing the work

Accountable – a person or group who are ultimately responsible for making sure the work is completed to the necessary standard to hit the objectives

Consulted – people who should be consulted, provide input and give feedback upon starting a project and at times through the project’s progress

Informed -people who need to be informed about the progress of the project, work or task, the frequency depends on the type of work and should be agreed on commencement

Tips to Cope with the Responsibility

Look after yourself – what is your support system to ensure you can carry the weight? This includes exercise, proper nutrition, good sleep, friends, talking, some form of mindfulness. These aren’t nice to-do’s, they are necessities for you to go the distance in a healthy and hopefully happy way.

Breathe – this is so important it’s a separate tip. Some deep inhalations, down to your belly will engage your parasympathetic nervous system to help calm you down. Regularly take deep breaths, inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts and hold for 4 counts. Alternatively, inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 6 counts. Both reduce stress. Do it even if you don’t think you’re stressed, because we are often carrying some tension.

Communicate – constantly, to superiors above, to your team members and sideways to your peers, customer, suppliers and colleagues. This can be written and verbal, direct and messages.

Watch where the monkeys go – this was from a Harvard Business Review article decades ago and still works. In a meeting watch where the monkeys go. When someone raises a question or task that needs to be done, watch who takes it on. Is it you? Are you uncomfortable with the silence so volunteer? In those situations ask, “who’s responsibility does this fall under?” and be ok with silence (only take your monkeys out of the meeting with you 😉)

Be open to ideas and help – I review a lot of 3600 feedback reports on leaders in organizations. I’m always amazed how many direct reports suggest their manager delegate more!

Support Systems You Should Tap Into

Share the burden – leaders have teams within organizations, lean into the skills and abilities of people on your team. Reach out beyond your team and potentially beyond your organization for specialist support – it’s incredible who is willing to help.

Have a buddy – it can be a colleague in a different area in the same company or someone trusted in your external network. A buddy is someone walking along side you through some of these unchartered routes, so it’s a shared experience. These buddies can offer advice, be a sounding board, be encouraging, a devil’s advocate or just an ear to help you sort through your thinking.

Family and friends – what is your non-work support system? Some clients have little non-work time and they are trying to carve out some opportunities to be present for partners and/or children for connection and bonding (feel good hormones) and reaching out virtually to friends for levity. Figure out the best times in your schedule to make these connections. Prioritize this time as an empty well cannot give water.

What responsibilities are really yours?

Want some help assessing your priorities for your work and your career?

How do you navigate the difference between responsibility and accountability?

If you’re a senior leader or established founder and feel like now is the time to take your leadership to the next level, get in touch to arrange a no-obligation consultation: DM