John:

All right. Welcome to today's episode of Tomorrow's Leader. I am John Laurito, your host, where we dive deep on all things leader related. Related to leading yourself and leading other people. You know I love to bring real-life experiences and stories to this show, to illustrate different leadership topics. Today's story has to do with me going out to dinner. I went to a restaurant, great place, and sat at the bar. I like to eat dinner a lot of times sitting at a bar, it's usually better service, I think, and it's a cool atmosphere. Anyways. I sit down at the bar, and I'm waiting and waiting and waiting, and nobody's coming over. Nobody's taking my order, or asking if I want to drink or anything like that. I noticed that there's a few bartenders in the bar, behind the bar, a large amount of bartenders behind the bar, and there's actually not that many people sitting around the bar. I counted, at one point, there were seven people, employees, whatever, bartenders, bar backs, whatever, working behind the bar at one moment. None of them were coming up to me. None of them were asking me if I wanted anything. I'm thinking, "Okay, this is really perplexing." I waited and I waited and I waited and I waited, and eventually somebody came up to me and took my order.

John:

It just got me totally beyond perplexed and frustrated, and not wanting to go back there. It also got me thinking about a really common problem in business, and in that leader's face. It's called diffusion of responsibility, which in essence is when you have multiple people that could potentially take on a responsibility, but it's not necessarily directed at them, specifically, when they're in a group and there's multiple people, they will assume that it's somebody else's responsibility, or somebody else will do it, or somebody else has done it. They ultimately have less direct accountability and responsibility. They choose to take less. I'll give you a bunch of different examples. Then, I had a friend recently, he had told me this situation, I'm like, "Ah, diffusion of responsibility." He was closing on a house and I think there were five attorneys between the attorney and the paralegals and everything that were involved in this process, and they missed one thing on the paperwork, and it had to get pushed back a week, the closing. Now, you're affecting people's lives. You're affecting a major financial transaction because of what I assume to be diffusion responsibility. You've got multiple people, they certainly should have caught this omission on the paperwork. Nobody did, because probably nobody specifically was put in charge of that document, or that paperwork, and reviewing that. Diffusion responsibility, again. There's all different examples.

John:

I know if I am on a group text, or group email, I am much less likely to respond to it. Oftentimes, I just don't because it's a group email. I'm like, "I don't want to respond to it." I also know when I'm sending those, sending a group email, the response rate is going to be significantly low because of diffusion of responsibility. I know if I took the same email, and cut and paste, and just sent it to each member as opposed to 20 people on one email, I sent that same email 20 times, I'm probably going to get 18, 19, 20 responses because I'm just asking them, specifically, a question. If I put it out to the group, I'm probably going to get one, two, three, four, maybe. My results there have gone up five, six, seven times by just changing the format of how I do it. There's a great strategy of how I eliminate diffusion of responsibility. The question I'm throwing out to you is, think about your own life, your own organization. Where does this come up? What kind of situations does diffusion of responsibility come up? As a parent, you have kids, are there situations like that? Of course. Why are there dishes in the sink that's been sitting here? Well, everybody thinks everybody else is going to do it, or dads going to do it, or moms going to do it, whatever. Diffusion of responsibility.

John:

I'm a coach of a soccer team and somebody forgot to schedule the practice field, or whatever. Maybe there were multiple people, the coach, the assistant coach, whatever. We forgot to communicate that the practice is going to push back till 6:30. Was there one person in charge of that, or two or three or four? You got all situations. Unfortunately, it happens not just in business, or sports, or family, but it can even cause disasters. There've been plane crashes because multiple pilots were involved, and they each thought the other had covered something, or looked at something, or checked something, or was taking a step or action or communicating something. All situations. You see that in hospitals with surgery procedures, where again, diffusion of responsibility, when it's not made crystal clear on who's doing something, sometimes things can get overlooked and there's measures in place. Our medical profession does a phenomenal job of using checklists. There's a great book called Checklist Manifesto, which was, I think, written by a surgeon, of the importance of using checklists and making sure that each person is assigned a task. That's to avoid diffusion of responsibility. It's also to avoid missing something, because even the simplest things sometimes, we forget, even though we'd done it a million times, unless we've got it written down and we're looking at it, and double-checking.

John:

I do presentations all the time. Virtual ones, on stages. When I'm speaking to a group of 10 people, I can get a lot of engagement because my eyes are looking right at them. If I'm speaking to a group of a thousand people, I'm looking at a big vast audience, what's the chances if I throw out a question, "Hey, who can tell me this?" There's going to be some more vocal people. There's usually going to be somebody that shouts out, but it's less likely I'm going to get a lot of people to react, or respond, or shout something out because diffusion of responsibility. My challenge to you is to think about how this plays a part in your organization. Think about what parts of your organization, as a leader, that you might have a lack of clarity around a specific role who owns that. Who owns your social media? Who puts up posts? Who's allowed to put up posts? Who owns your compliance? Who owns the processes or quality control and inspection? Who owns the budget? Who owns the creation of new ideas? Who owns the setting up of meetings, or communication? All kinds of stuff. Who owns performance management? There's all different things that sometimes can get lost in the mix, without specifically taking the time to say, "Hey, you own this."

John:

I saw a study that was done, and you've probably seen this yourself where they'll have... It's a video. It's a social experiment, where somebody in a crowded street in New York or anywhere, on a crowded street, could be literally as crowded as a Time Square. Somebody will lie down on the ground pretending to be hurt, or something like that, and how many people don't do anything. Now, they've also played around with, how's that person dressed? Are they dressed professionally? Are they dressed casually? Whatever, that does have an impact. That says something else about society, I think, in general. Most people will walk right by, and in some cases, right over a person, even though they might look like they're having... They're passed out or something like that in the middle of the street. They just assume, there's other people here, this is not my responsibility. I'm not going after our good natured ways and whatnot, and our lack of willingness to help people. Truly, that's not the case. I think most people there, truly do care about people and want to make sure, and would, if they were in that situation, and it was one-on-one, or just a small group, they would actually act.

John:

Just the fact that you put more people in that situation, it's like when driving down a road and there's an accident. I don't know. Sometimes you stop and make sure people are okay, or they're pulled over on the side of the road, sometimes you don't. If you got on a busy road, or got a lot of other cars going by, you assume somebody else has got it. My point is, in business, this comes up a lot and there are times and places in your business that is affected, and your speed at which you're operating, or your production, or your revenue, your profits, or your quality control, is affected because of the fact you have diffusion of responsibility. If you run a restaurant, who's in charge? Who's going to take that customer's order? If you're not, that's the basics of the business. The bar, the restaurant can look fantastic. It can be clean as can be, the glasses can be all restocked, but if nobody's taking the orders of the customers, guess what? You're not going to have customers. You can have all the clean glasses you want, you're not going to have a business. That's how businesses fail. They lose sight of the most important thing.

John:

If I'm flying a plane, the most important thing, and really the only thing that matters, is that plane is flying. I can not lose sight of flying the plane. It does not matter what else is happening. The most important, critical task, at all times, is flying the plane. Sometimes, diffusion of responsibility takes our eyes off of what is most important. That's my point with today's episode. Food for thought, get the wheels turning. I'd love to hear from you in your own situations, or observations, or your own case scenarios. I know some of you I've had direct conversations with about this issue before. As always, I like to bring these topics to the forefront, and share it with everybody as a learning. When I get a chance to talk and learn from you, and get to share with other people. Hopefully, this has been helpful for you. Please subscribe, share, like, comment, all that good stuff. Go to my YouTube channel, Tomorrow's Leader, and make sure you subscribe, and give a review. I love your reviews. Those five star reviews. Please, give them, and put down your comments there as well. For now, have a great day. Look forward to seeing you next time. Thanks, everybody.

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