Be More Responsible: Give Away Responsibility

In David Gilbertson's best selling book Wine Bar Theory, he shares 28 jargon free rules for being more successful in life and work. Rule 14 explains how true leaders give away responsibility rather than hoarding it.

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When you are growing up, your parents and teachers tell you what to do.

That's a good idea because when you are growing up you haven't found out whether sticking your head in the fire is a good plan or not. You also don't know your multiplication tables, so having someone make you learn them is better than going your own way and not learning them.

Adult-child, teacher-pupil relationships are very good for young learners. They are not good for grown-up businesses that want to grow more.

People in business need to be responsible. Unless you want them to behave like children that is.

People need to be given responsibility for things and encouraged to take on more when they can.

They want to be told the rules and given support. They don't want their job done for them. 

The people in business best placed to make decisions are the people closest to the actual work. That applies as much to the doorman as it does to the big boss.

The best person to take decisions about the opening and closing of the door, letting people in and showing them out, is the person in charge of the door.

If the boss wants to take those decisions, s/he had better be ready to be on the door all the time.

Since there are plenty of other jobs in the business as well as the door handling, that's going to be tough.

Any boss that tries to do that is running two bad things at the same time: a business that can't grow, and the risk of a heart attack. Also, they can never go on holiday. Or visit a wine bar.

Bosses like that think they are indispensable. The graveyard is piled high with them. While they're alive they can never rest.

Except they can rest assured of one thing. No one will ever do anything without asking them first or deviate from what they think were their instructions. So the boss had better be sure they thought of everything when they told them what to do.

That boss also makes it clear that initiative and ideas are not welcome. So anyone who has either of them offers none, or leaves.

Since we know people with ideas grow businesses, that's a problem.

Don't let it happen. There is no need. The responsibility you delegate you never actually lose. You just make others responsible for it too.

Then you can reward them for how well they look after it. They will usually do it well because it is theirs and they have several reasons to care and nurture it. People spend their own money better than they spend other people's.

Businesses where everyone feels responsible don't blame people if someone makes a mistake. They set about fixing the problem and learning from what happened.

A business that doesn't blame doesn't fear. Businesses without fear do brave things. In Wine Bar Theory businesses people aren't afraid of responsibility.

To read the rest of Wine Bar Theory go to:

Susanna Kempe (she/her)

CEO, Laidlaw Foundation

A graduate of Cambridge University, Susanna’s professional experience includes over 15 years in senior leadership roles in international B2B and learning businesses. Susanna began her career at the Institute for International Research (IIR) where she first worked with Lord Laidlaw, rising to Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). When IIR, which was the world’s largest organiser of commercial conferences, was acquired by Informa plc in 2005 Susanna was appointed CMO of the enlarged group and also led the public company’s investor relations programmes. She subsequently joined Emap Ltd as Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer and CEO of Emap Networks, that group’s conferences business. Later she became CEO of the fashion industry forecaster WGSN and was latterly Group Content and Marketing Partner of the leading strategy consultancy Brunswick Group. A German-American raised and educated in the UK and a committed internationalist, Susanna has been involved in globally trading businesses throughout her career, directing activity in the Americas, across continental Europe, and the Asia Pacific. Susanna has been extensively involved with education and professional development over many years. She was Head of Group Training and led the commercial acquisition and integration of a portfolio of corporate training businesses whilst at IIR; and created learning academies at both Informa and Emap. She believes experiencing and appreciating different cultures promotes better global understanding, creativity and leadership. She is passionate about the power of education to transform lives; and believes that we need to develop a new generation of diverse leaders who are curious, bold and devoted to decency, truthfulness, and innovation. Susanna is committed to diversity not only as a societal imperative but as a critical component of commercial success. As an advisor to the trustees of the Foundation, Susanna first learnt about its purpose and programmes before becoming its Chief Executive responsible for the Laidlaw Schools Trust, the Laidlaw Scholars and its other education programmes. Susanna read English and Philosophy at Newnham College, University of Cambridge. She has five half blues in swimming and water polo; and played netball and rowed for Newnham.