“A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make.”
– Denis Waitley, author and coach
You could find the following scenario in churches all across America. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Jason has been the Creative Director at First Church for more than six years. And his team is professional – an exceptional group who work together in an outstanding manner. However, one person, Matt, poses a problem for Jason and regularly pulls down the rest of his creative team.
For instance, he consistently misses video deadlines. When pressed to answer why, Matt blames one of his teammates, instead of admitting it was his own procrastination that causes his failure.
Jason recognizes that Matt’s behavior has a significant negative impact on the team. The rest of the team doesn’t want to work with him. And there’s resentment for Matt’s apathetic attitude and unwillingness to change his behavior.
I know how frustrating it is to have Matts on your team. But there are steps Creative Leaders can take to put things back on course. Let’s talk about the strategies you could use.
What causes a lack of responsibility?
People avoid responsibility for many reasons – ranging from laziness to fear of failure. You may even find them voice feeling of being overwhelmed by the size of a problem or a situation.
Whatever the gamut of reasons, if a person fails to take responsibility, they’ll fail in their jobs, they’ll fail their teams, and they’ll fail to grow as individuals. And if they are a Creative, they will fail creatively.
What should you look for?
It’s not always easy to recognize when people are shirking their responsibilities, but there are several signs to look for.
- Blaming others
- Lack of interest in their work and the team
- Missing deadlines
- Avoiding challenge (no risks)
- Regular self pity
- No initiative
- Lack of trust in leaders and team
- Consistent excuses
So what is the strategy?
When your creative team members shirk responsibility for their actions, some leaders may just hope the problem goes away. Or you could remove these people from your team completely.
Neither of these are real answers – the situation will get worse if you leave it alone. And dismissing people should be your last resort, especially if the person has the potential to be an effective team member.
As an alternative, provide your team the resources needed to do their jobs, and always give them a creative environment. Provide them a workplace where it’s easy to take responsibility for their decisions and actions.
Remember: Responsibility without authority sucks. In other words, give them the flexibility to make decisions.
And if you lead, sometimes you’ll need to be firm and have courage. Sometimes your actions will cause conflict.
How do I help my team become responsible?
- Talk with the team members: Make sure you have clear, accurate examples that you can cite when you provide feedback. If you don’t, your arguments won’t stand up, and you’ll risk leaving the individual feeling victimized.
- Provide Resources: Ensure your team members have the resources they need to do their jobs well (ie, providing training, equipment, access to coaches, conferences). This is key in helping them take responsibility for their work. If they don’t have the “tools” needed to do their jobs, it will also be easy for them to be irresponsible!
- Present Clear Expectations: Creatives especially need to know clearly what their job roles and responsibilities are. Keep their job descriptions up-to-date. Discuss often, and in detail, all they are responsible for. Often, responsibility is shirked because apathy set into their work. They need to see how their efforts fit into the “bigger picture.”
- Re-Engage Their Passion: Most take responsibility simply because they have a passion or a deep sense of pride in what they are doing. This should be a big reason for your church team members. By periodically re-engaging the team members, they will again become aligned with their value for the team and for the Kingdom.
- Evaluate: Team members could also be disengaged or dissatisfied because they’re not in the right role. Continually evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Analyze whether or not they’re using their strengths. If not, they might be better suited in a different role.
A Couple Leadership Tips
- Don’t micromanage your team. It’s a style that’s easy to settle into within a creative arts team. If you have team members that aren’t taking responsibility, it may be your unclear delegation or micromanagement. If you hover, your team will act reluctantly. If they see you always second guessing, they will be frozen. So practice the art of delegation and avoid the snare of micromanagement.
- Give praise to your team. Celebrate the team members who take responsibility. Positive feedback will help a Creative become more effective and more consistent in their art.
People who don’t take responsibility often play the blame game. When you notice team members starting to point the finger of blame, stop them immediately. Shift their focus away from assigning blame, and direct it to what needs to be done to fix the problem and move forward.
To help people take more responsibility for their work, talk with them clearly. Provide them with the skills and resources to actually do their job. Then set up an environment where expectations are clear and their passions are realized. All this makes it easy for them to change, and helps them take responsibility for their decisions and actions.