We get asked to take on responsibilities every day. Some of the asks are more direction than request but the responsibility is still there. You get asked to take out the trash, go to dinner with friends, take on a new role at work or contribute to a community organization. How do we decide whether to say yes or no? For many of us we would consider how much we like the person asking, whether we felt we owed a debt to them, how it might help our career, how we felt about the organization and the prestige of the role. But are those the only things we should consider? To me there are two other key considerations when deciding to take on a responsibility, those are the cost of DOING it and the cost of FAILURE to do it.
So first let’s start with what I consider the simple math of it. As we all know from high school, equations must balance. There is the cost of taking responsibility of something on one side and the cost of failing on the other. So when we are deciding we have to not only weigh all of the items above but we must also take this equation into consideration. Which I suspect many of us don’t consider until we are in the middle of doing something or have failed to do it.
In the case of taking on a new role at work we have decided there is value in the role, that the compensation is fair and that it meets our longer term goals. But do we understand what it really Costs to take on a new role? We should consider the following Costs of taking it on: do we have to give up time with the family, flexibility to be able to attend events during the work day, will we have to work more at night or on weekends, do we have to work with others we may not desire to, do we have to grow in our skills or add skills. All of these are Costs to us if we decide to take something on and many times we don’t fully consider them when weighing a commitment.
Now the balance to the equation is the cost of failure. Because if we take it on and don’t expend the needed Costs to achieve the responsibility there is the other side. We may miss deadlines, have client satisfaction issues, or employee issues. All of which could result in us being demoted, losing our job, having to invest additional time/energy or other Costs.
None of this is to say we shouldn’t make commitments and take on responsibilities but when we do we should do it with complete understanding of both the benefits and the Costs. If you do this, you will be more aware of those responsibilities that really meet with your plans and goals and focus on them knowing that the equation is solved and balanced. What else should you consider when making a commitment and taking on responsibility that would ensure you are more successful in executing on those responsibilities you take on?