Interview with Christopher Avery

We hear a lot about leadership and responsibility as separate concepts. We got an opportunity to understand concept of ‘Responsible Leadership‘ from Christopher Avery during his interview. In this conversation, we spoke about The Responsibility Process, what is required to be a successful leader, and if leadership can be taught. Let’s find out the valuable information brought out during the conversation;

Q1. Tell us about how to start with The Responsibility Process® ?

Christopher: Take these four steps. 

1. Ask yourself “How committed am I to recognise and solve problems faster, be free and powerful in life, and be a better leader of self and others?” If you are truly committed go on to step 2. 

2. Ask yourself “Do I believe The Responsibility Process is active in me, controlling my perceptions of cause and effect for my life?” If you believe it, go on to step 3.

3. Begin our most important lifelong practice: Noticing.

  • Notice when you are in Lay Blame.
  • Notice when you are in Justify.
  • Notice when you are in Shame.
  • Notice when you are in Obligation.
  • Notice when you are in Quit.
  • Notice when you are in Responsibility.

If you are committed to unlocking your natural ability to live and lead with power, then you will catch yourself blaming (it’s the manager’s fault we can’t do that) and stop. Then you will catch yourself justifying (we don’t have enough time/resources/budget) and stop. Then you will catch yourself blaming yourself (Shame – I screwed up and now we have a big problem) and stop. Then you will catch yourself feeling trapped in Obligation (I have to go to that dumb meeting) and stop. Only taking Responsibility (I own my power and ability to create, choose, and attract my reality) remains.

  1. Commit to applying The Responsibility Process only to yourself as a self-leadership tool. When applied to others it is usually used to Lay Blame.

Finally, consider finding a partner or forming a support group to study The Responsibility Process together. Our old habits of mind are so strong that trying to practice Responsibility by yourself can be like trying to quit smoking in a house full of smokers.

Q2. Can leadership be taught?

Christopher: Yes, but it doesn’t mean that the teaching is right or that leadership is learned.

So allow me to instead answer this question: “Can leadership be learned?” Yes, absolutely. As I frequently say (and write about in my new book The Responsibility Process: Unlocking Your Natural Ability to Live and Lead with Power Create Choose and Attract) leaders make themselves by stepping up to and responding effectively to increasing challenges.

Leadership means taking responsibility for some problem or opportunity, and then — assuming the task is larger than one person can do — attracting others to join you. So if you apply The Responsibility Process as a self-leadership tool, you will grow rapidly to be able to face and overcome ever greater challenges. And if you are pointing yourself at valuable problems or opportunities, and operating from Responsibility, then you should not be surprised to see followers wanting to join you.

Q3. Freedom, choice and power – are they anywhere associated with being a leader?

Christopher: I assume you are asking about my claim in my book The Responsibility Process and other places that leadership is responsibility and that practicing responsibility means experiencing Freedom, Choice, and Power. Of course they are associated with leadership. If you are trapped, there is nowhere to lead to. You are convinced. If you have no choice, there is no leadership to be demonstrated. If you have no power, you don’t recognize your own ability to be resourceful, hence no leadership.

This is also what you study with me in The Responsibility Process Leading and Coaching workshop.

Q4. How can Teamwork be an individual skill? Please explain.

Christopher: I wrote Teamwork Is An Individual Skill: Getting Your Done When Sharing Responsibility for people who want to be done with bad teams. Most people think that they are powerless to affect the quality and productivity of their teams, and that someone else (the manager, coach, team lead, etc.) is responsible for the quality of their experience at work.

Fortunately, there is an alternative belief, that you are creating your experience in life and work, good or bad. That means if you want to experience great teams and relationships at work, you can take responsibility for doing so.

The first step is to assume 100% responsibility for the quality and productivity of your relationships at work, all of them, even the awful ones (indeed, that’s the only way you will change them).

Next, be — or become — worthy of being a great teammate:

  • Do you seek alignment with others on higher goals?
  • Do you see them as a human being as opposed to a role? (Do you know what inspires them at work beyond a paycheck? And do you support them in that?)
  • Do you make and keep agreements that build trust?

These are powerful self-leadership behaviors you can engage in everywhere.

Then, when you are a person who deserves to be on a great team you can intend, expect (maybe even demand of yourself) to be on a great team.

When you expect to be on great teams, then you will learn what it takes to give a group of people a chance to step up to shared responsibility together:

The feeling of being in the same boat together by being aligned to a single overarching objective, goal, or purpose.

Managing peer motivation first by surfacing individual motivation (beyond a paycheck) so people see they probably are not a threat to each other, then by identifying the least-invested-coworker.

Any team performs to the level of their least-invested-coworker, so you want to discover this early and think about how to help them find greater inspiration and psychological reward in your team.

Building trust specifically by making and keeping team agreements. Start small and build to larger and larger agreements that everyone has confidence now in keeping.

This is the basic concept of teamwork as an individual skillset. And it is what I write about in Teamwork Is An Individual Skill and teach in The Responsibility Process Powerful Teams workshop.

Q5. What is required to be a successful leader along with risk taking appetite?

Christopher: Leadership is 95% self-leadership. If you are doing that well you should not be surprised to see people following you.

So the main requirement is taking 100% responsibility for a problem, situation, or opportunity. That means FEELING it. Being INSPIRED by it. Feeling PULLED to it. Naturally SAYING NO to distractions.

This is a natural state of mind, sometimes called passion,  or vision, calling, or purpose. Taking responsibility isn’t something you can make yourself do (that’s called Obligation). You allow yourself to own your power and ability to create, choose, and attract your reality.

If your problem, situation, or opportunity is bigger than you, then you get to figure out how to attract other people to join you. The larger your vision or purpose is, the more people you will naturally attract to assist you.

Here’s a short example from my own life. No one assigned me to promote The Responsibility Process. At first, I just wanted to learn, practice, and master it. Then I realized the world could use this. So I created a purpose—to change the conversation everywhere about what responsibility is and isn’t. And I developed a vision—that one day we could see The Responsibility Process poster hanging in every office, classroom, home, and church in the world. And I went to work experimenting with speaking, writing, and leadership development. I have a very small company, but The Responsibility Process now enjoys a worldwide tribe of followers and fellow practitioners and teachers. If I disappeared tomorrow, I think there may be enough critical mass for the purpose to continue.

Q6. What is the difference between a coach and consultant?

Christopher: I think that’s a question for others to opine about.

Q7. What is the one question you think I haven’t asked you, and should have asked?

Christopher: Do I love and believe in you, and want you to realize the life, work, and relationships of your dreams?

Absolutely I do.


Christopher Avery “The Responsibility Process guy” is a reformed management consultant. After a decade helping corporations help smart, ambitious professionals find ways to cope with lives they don’t want and think they can’t change, Christopher realized coping skills are overrated. A better skill is knowing how to apply your innate leadership ability to face and overcome any challenge. Today, he supports leaders and leadership teams in generating newfound freedom, choice, and power for themselves and others. How? By advancing the world’s first proven how-to approach for understanding, teaching, and taking personal responsibility.


Interview with Patrick Steyaert

Today’s conversation is with Patrick Steyaert. He is an international speaker and winner of the Lean Kanban North America 2015 Brickell-Key award for his contribution in the development of Discovery Kanban, a method to manage knowledge work in the context of innovation and change.

Patrick is a wonderful person to work with and here is our discussion on how change can challenge thinking.

Q1. What is the key hurdle in implementing agile?

Patrick: The key hurdle is that Agility requires a whole new way of thinking. Rather than the “either-or” (reductionist) thinking that underlies traditional management (and much of our education) it requires “and” thinking (integrative thinking). Any successful (agile) change must start and end with challenging the traditional “either-or” thinking. If it does not do so, agile will be a revolution that is not a revolution. In other words, if the thinking is not fundamentally challenged then agile just becomes a recipe just like all other recipes before. This is the case for many of the current agile change initiatives where agile is treated as a recipe: first, an agile method is chosen; second the benefits of implementing the particular agile method are unquestioned, so the biggest obstacle becomes actually just implementing the method; and finally success is declared when (parts of) the agile method have finally been implemented. It does not bring the organization closer to business agility, the thing they actually need.

Q2. Please explain Discovery Kanban.

Patrick: Agile development is not sufficient anymore. Rather than just agile development, organizations are looking for business agility where the whole organization is engaged in creating value through meaningful work. Discovery Kanban, together with Upstream and Customer Kanban, form a family of Kanban systems that create flow and pull not just in the development or service delivery team(s) but end-to-end from suspected to satisfied need.

Q3. How a change can challenge the thinking?

Patrick: Today’s agile training and coaching is too much focussed on practices and too little on teaching and coaching a new way of thinking. It seems that there is an assumption that the thinking will change when practices have been implemented. I see little evidence of this. Our experience with Okaloa Flowlab has been that we can actually start with teaching a new way of thinking before methods and practices and that this has many advantages. We immerse people in a simulation where people experience the limitations of the conventional way of thinking (division of labour, capacity utilisation, predictive control) and the advantages of the agile way of thinking (flow, self-organization, active learning).

Q4. No idea should turn into a dogma. What do you mean when saying so?

Patrick: In a revolution that is not a revolution, one dogma is replaced by another dogma. We see a lot of this in the agile space. People that strongly advocate for one particular strand of agile at the exclusion of other strands of agile. They are replacing the dogma of traditional management with the dogma of their particular strand of agile. On the other hand we see people that strongly advocate for a “pragmatic” approach. What they actually mean is an approach where you look at agile as a toolbox of practices. I call this opportunistic pragmatism. The truly pragmatic approach is one in which you have strong beliefs that are loosely held. It starts with recognizing that all good ideas have a boundary to their applicability and therefore there should be no dogma’s. The only dogma is that their should be no dogma.

Q5. Throw some light on ‘Uneven flow leads to organized chaos with waste and overburdening’.

Patrick: Many organizations suffer from an uneven and unpredictable demand. This inflicts a lot of pain in the delivery organization as it tries to match the demand. Often times the delivery organization alternates between periods of overburdening (more demand than capacity) and starvation (more capacity than demand). Delivery teams can develop a certain level of flexibility to cope with changing demand but this only goes so far. The solution lies in leveling the demand.

Q6. What is Triage?

Patrick: Triage is a technique that comes from medicine where it is used to decide the order of treatment based on an assessment of the seriousness and risk of escalation of illness or injuries of a patient. It is an effective technique to level or shape the demand in order to make most effective use of the critical resource. Since a couple of years now I have been using triage in upstream kanban where it plays a central role in leveling demand – avoiding alternation between starvation and overburdening.

Q7. How was your experience at Lean Kanban India 2017 Conference and how was it working with INNOVATION ROOTS?

Patrick: I really enjoyed Lean Kanban India. From the many interactions I had, the one thing that struck me the most is that participants were really open to discuss and explore new ideas. It really gave me the impression of a very vibrant community. I enjoyed working with Innovation Roots before, during, and after the conference. There is a real commitment for doing a good job of developing the conference and the community. A real joy to work with.



Patrick Steyaert is a founder and principal coach and trainer at Okaloa. He helps organisations to innovate and change. He works with customers ranging from high-tech SME’s to large incumbent companies. He is an expert in Lean and Agile with practical experience in both software, IT, and technology businesses as well as non-IT (logistics management, HR…)

Patrick holds a PhD in computer science and was involved as director in several start-ups. He has more than 15 years of experience of leading change and innovation in organisations. He is an LKU accredited Kanban trainer and Kanban Coaching Professional.