Engineers Hear This: Seize Responsibility

Christian Knutson | Comments | November 6, 2012

Every one of us has heard the Latin phrase “Carpe Diem” – Seize the Day.  It’s a great tagline for someone who’s interested in turning up the heat for a day – maybe a week – when things are going good.  It also makes for a great t-shirt.   That’s it.  What’s better is seizing responsibility.  Many people will seize the day but few will seize responsibility.  The reason?  Seizing the day has a set period of time associated with it: “I’ll turn up the heat on this project and deliver a great sales presentation next Tuesday.”  Seizing over the short-term is something you can measure, you can see, you can wrap your mind around.  It’s a definable period with a measurable horizon.

Seizing responsibility, on the other, hand requires you to throw out the definable timeline.  Your timeline, if you need to have one, is measured by the number of days in your life.  When your days are up, your responsibilities are over.  A touch morbid, but true.  You seize every day on every thing you touch.  It’s an indefinable period with an immeasurable horizon (hopefully).

Regardless of profession, line of work, or social station what the world needs is engineers and people who seize responsibility.  In fact, the people you work for and with want you to seize responsibility.  The people that work for you want you to seize responsibility.  The guy who cut you off at the on ramp or the waitress at iHop want you to seize responsibility.  When you seize it, you close the gaps that allow excuses to stand in the way of you doing what you do best.  When you seize it, you establish the most solid foundation possible to build the other critical character attributes and skills you need to deliver your art to the world.

Steve Jobs was fond of saying “we’re here to put a dent in the universe”.  Those who are putting dents in the universe are committed, focused, and have seized responsibility.  They are the people who have established the solid foundation on which all of their other character attributes and skills have been, are being, and will be built.  And they are the people we willingly follow.

Chris Knutson, P.E., PMP is a leadership and strategy coach, practicing engineer and program manager. He is co-founder of The Engineering Career Coach, a company providing engineers and engineering companies core skills, leadership, and lifestyle design services enabling them to execute their vision. Chris is a retired U.S. Air Force civil engineer officer with over two decades of active duty service leading engineering organizations and multi-million dollar programs around the globe. Learn more about his work and access more resources at The Engineering Career Coach.

Check out his e-Book on Critical Thinking Skills, Getting it Right at The Engineer Leader blog.