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Asking for responsibility

September 15th, 2012

I work in the financial services industry. I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that’s forward thinking, yet the financial industry as a whole is tough place to be if you’re trying leading edge digital marketing. Not only is it (by nature) risk averse, the financial industry is also heavily regulated. Every marketing word and action has to comply with internal and external regulations.

It takes tenacity to succeed (or as one of my brilliant colleagues likes to say, “Consistent Persistence”). If you’re in charge of the digital direction of the firm, nobody is going to point you in the right direction to make the next leap for the firm. In a risk-averse culture, I’m the one constantly sticking my neck out, recommending a possible new solution to a problem that hasn’t even hit the radar.

Going back to one of my favourite authors, Seth Godin recently had a piece that explained it much better than I could above:

Achievers in traditional organizations often say, “I want more authority.” They mean that they want the power to make things happen, the mantle of authority that will allow them to get things done.

This is an industrial-era mindset. Management by authority is top-down, risk-averse, measurable and perfect for the org chart. It’s essential in organizations that are stable, asset-based and adverse to risk.

There’s a different approach, though, one that’s based on responsibility instead of authority. “Anyone who takes responsibility for getting something done is welcome to ask for the authority to do it.”

Ah, your bluff is called.

Asking for responsibility (or better yet, taking it) is very difficult. If it succeeds, there will be a team of people that helped you make it happen. If it fails (and it will sometimes), you have to *gulp* and take the hit for it, knowing you tried and learned something from it.

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