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Firm With Respectful and Freedom With Responsibility 

by Judy Ryan

What would our world be like, (including our homes, schools and places of business) if everyone were firm, stating expectations directly and making straightforward requests, and respectful, delivering these in caring, thoughtful ways? And what if everyone experienced the broadest freedom possible (to innovate; speak up; share opinions, ideas and feelings; and seek opportunities) with a strong sense of responsibility too?

When my kids were young, I wanted to provide firm and steady guidance without using coercion, guilt, fear or force. I wanted each to become a good citizen who cared about the happiness of all while remaining authentic. I wanted them to realize that along with freedom, they must shoulder responsibility. Freedom without responsibility breeds anarchy, and responsibility without freedom breeds loss of joy and internal motivation. I knew a better way was possible but had to seek out relatively unconventional models in order to accomplish all of this. The following description of a YouTube video is a great example of how this looks.

In it, a young boy is engaged in a martial arts test, attempting to use his left hand to break a board. During his test, his master teacher tells him that he is pulling his punches. He says: “Dig deeper, son. You’re pulling your punches. You’re holding back. I don’t know if you’re facing fear right now, but you’re holding back.” As the boy proceeds to try again, he begins to cry and his master gently says: “Son, why are you crying? It’s OK to cry. It’s called a test for a reason. Why are you crying?” The boy replies, “It hurts more to punch with my left hand.” The master replies, “Good. Let’s get at that. Yes, sometimes you will encounter discomfort and pain, and you will want to resist and give up.

That’s when you need mental fortitude even more than physical strength. It’s OK to cry. I cry a lot too. When you do, then you can name your feelings and understand them, and then you can set them aside to achieve your goal. Always dig deeper.”

I love this story because several important things occur:
1. Expectations remain high throughout.
2. The leader stays consistently connected, compassionate and supportive.
3. No shaming, force, guilt or other forms of power-over are used despite size, age, position.
4. No rescue, exemption, enabling or sugarcoating occurs.
5. Feelings and their expression are encouraged and examined for understanding but not given undue attention or allowed as a means to avoid responsibility.
6. The leader remains in a supportive role until an excellent outcome is realized.
7. Recognition and acknowledgement are warmly provided.

Responsibility is the ability to respond. It is the cornerstone required for freedom and provides the experience of it because exercising free choice provides us with the pleasure of owning our tasks, our relationships and our outcomes. We are aligned, contributing and accountable, and we feel the joy of it. Great leaders are firm in their expectations and inspire and influence the best in them through connection, trust and respect they give to, and evoke from, others. They love those they lead enough to risk losing their affection but do everything they can to maintain it while holding high expectations throughout.

My work is helping all people understand and employ and embody effective transfer of responsibility to others in firm but purposeful, mutually respectful ways, no matter what. Let me know if I can help you or your organization so you can enjoy and develop fully engaged, caring and collaborative people.

Owners, community leaders and educators hire Judy Ryan and Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace. Judy’s book, “What’s the Deal With Workplace Culture Change?” is available FREE at You can also contact Judy at 314-239-4727.

Submitted 7 years 270 days ago
Categories: categoryThe Extraordinary Workplace
Views: 3316