This Is NOT A Spectator Sport!

spectator_sportI have little patience with passive behaviors.  Included in that is passive aggressive behaviors, but I want to discuss passive behaviors specifically.

One such behavior is the “volley.”  The volley, as I describe it, is when a person between two people simply transfers information between two parties without affecting the information.  That may be an inquiry from a direct report to a manager, or it may even be a stated need from a customer to your company.  The volley is a complete lack of ownership.  Here is an example:

Tim is the President of the company.  Karen is a Manager who reports to Tim, and she has a team of people working for her.  David is on Karen’s team, and he has a question about the company’s new travel reimbursement policy.  The policy was clearly laid out by Tim and shared with the entire company.  David loves to find loopholes in policies and try to bend them to his benefit.  The stage is set.

David sends Karen an email asking if a particular expense is allowable under the new policy.  Karen then forwards David’s question to Tim.  This is where the volley occurred.  Instead of answering David’s question, Karen volleyed it to Tim.  Instead of taking ownership of the question, Karen volleyed it right on up to Tim.  Tim, then, has to answer the question that was already clearly addressed by the new policy.  Karen will then forward Tim’s answer to David, dashing his hopes of worming through a loophole.

This is one semi-specific example of a way that passive behavior is counterproductive and robs Karen of an opportunity for ownership.  Karen had an opportunity to represent the policy that was clearly stated and dash David’s hopes sooner.  Instead, in a passive attempt to keep peace with David, she chose to put the role of heavy on Tim.

There are plenty of other possible scenarios where people demonstrate passive behaviors and rob themselves of the chance to take ownership.  Where are some areas where you assume a passive role and opt not to take ownership?  Are there times in your life where you passively watch as someone fails? Could you have stepped up and disallowed that failure to the mutual benefit of yourself, your coworker, your company, and your customer?  Are there people in your life outside of work that are flailing who could benefit from your wisdom or other types of help?  If so, give it freely!  

I had a fantastic conversation with someone this week who has found his passion.  Through a series of starts and stops, he has found that one area of his life that really turns him on, and I really relate to this quote of his: “I believe I have really found my calling.  It’s not about the money for me.  It’s doing something that I know really allows me to make a difference in the world.  I know that if I do this and do it well, the money will follow.”  He is really on fire for his new vocation, and he is taking total ownership of his future.  He’s not waiting for life to happen to him, and he is certainly not passive.

What would change if we all got up tomorrow with conviction in our hearts.  What would happen if we quit hiding behind our titles and cubicles and decided that we were no longer going to look for blame and eminent failure?  What would happen if we all decided to band together to lift each other up to be the amazing individuals we are meant to be?

Life is, indeed, not a spectator sport, and none of us should allow ourselves to passively play.  If you’re doing it, stop.  If you witness someone else doing it, tell them to stop.  You’re doing yourself and them a favor when you seek to empower everyone to take ownership and responsibility.  Tomorrow Begins Today.

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