A word I hear from every executive team I work with is ownership. What, they ask, can they do to instill a greater sense of ownership for the business or for deliverables? How can they get people to see the business as their business — how can they be asked and encouraged to act like owners? What is ownership, though? What characterizes the special relationship we have with something when we own it? After the jump, we’ll talk about three things that stand out:
1.) We buy it — For homes or cars, clothes or consumer electronics, we own something if we buy that something. In terms of leadership development, how can you own it — how can you buy it? You can buy it with time — spending a designated and dedicated portion of your day or your week acquiring additional skills. You buy it with money — buying books or attendance at conferences or buying other services to enable you to spend the time you need to focus on leadership development. A participant in a session today (thanks Matt) talked about the internal struggle he had retaining a cleaning service. It felt like a luxury. After he had made the decision, though, he found that the time he saved by letting someone else help in out on that task could be more meaningfully spent — he paid for increased professional development indirectly by freeing up some of his time. The same can be done with an organizer, a secretary, or someone to take more of the load of your financial preparation. The key thing is spending money to make time to build yourself as a better leader.
2.) We improve it — we take the things we own and improve upon them. We put a new car stereo in our car. We pay for landscaping in our house. We pay to have our clothes altered so they’ll fit better. If we really own our leadership development, we’d be looking for specific ways to improve it. Sometimes this will be a class. Sometimes it will be attending a speech or symposium, sometimes its just reading books or blogs. Whatever way we choose, we will know that we own our leadership development when we spend our own time and money to improve it.
3.) We maintain it — in the history of the world, no one has ever changed the oil in a rental car. Why? because its not their car. We do, though, change the oil and perform routine maintenance on the cars we own. For our professional and leadership development, how can we maintain the strides we have made? Two ways stand out: First, maintain the relationships you’ve worked hard to build. When you move to a new role, take extra care to move effectively and to keep appropriate ties to the last team. They have been the key to your success and are an important part of your life team moving forward, if you let them be. Second, practice what we know. Its not enough to have a deep knowledge of leadership. We must constantly exercise that knowledge or it quickly starts to fade. What three things have you done today to develop talent in your organization? How much clearer is your vision for the organization than it was three months ago? What would you list as your top three developmental goals and what progress have you made on them in the last 90 days. The key to maintaining what we own in our own leadership development is maintaining momentum — keep moving steadily forward.
Don’t understimate how hard it is to own your leadership development. The shift to thinking of yourself as your own commercial entitiy — as the you in “you co.” — is scary and there are a million and one reasons people will offer as to why such thinking should be avoided. If you choose the path though, and take ownership, you will enhance your chance of success in any organization and enhance the chance that the organization will succeed as well.