The book Influencer tells the story of Delancy Street Foundation, a halfway house for people who are just out of jail that operates in the San Francisco Area. They have one of best success rates in helping violent offenders find more productive lives.They have several key techniques but one of the most important is that everyone in the house is put in charge of someone else recovery. This means that if someone slips up, he is not only letting himself down but also the person responsible for his recovery. Moreover, rather than mulling over their own need for change, they have the opportunity to help someone else. There is a lot of transformative power in being responsible.
The best way to learn something is to try teaching it to someone else. We may think we fully understand the subject but trying to explain it to someone else requires a deeper understanding and actually proves that you do understand. This is the same thing that happens from being responsible for something. It changes our reference point.
In my post about Positive and Negative Goals, I mentioned how groups should gather around positive goals as they are energizing. When we are building groups of accountability, the best way to do this is to be responsible for someone else’s success. This helps all of us be proactive toward helping others.
Moreover, consider the effect of responsibility on parents. They suddenly start attending church or stop smoking or get a good job. They do this because they know that they are now providing a model and responsible for their children. Being responsible for something makes even difficult habits easier to kick. And the cycle continues, as children get older, it’s important for them to also be given responsibility both to build trust and because it changes the way we see our situation.
Of course, giving responsibility requires trust and trust requires a belief in both the competency and character of the other person. Many times we need development in both. Delaney House builds on this by first making people responsible for very small things, and as they become more accomplished, giving them responsibility for more. They’ve even seen that elderly people who are put in charge of a plant in their room live longer than those who are not responsible for anything. Ultimately, we all are more satisfied with life when we are responsible for something that is in our power to control.