Why & What, Not Who…

“Ownership: ‘A commitment of the head, heart, and hands to fix the problem and never again affix the blame.”

John G. Miller

So much energy is lost in this world by pointing the fingers at others. Blame is a pervasive and insidious leech that sucks the energy from where it truly belongs, the solution.

To combat this and instill ownership in your thinking focus on the “why“and the “what” never the “who.” Focusing on whom to blame is a recipe for negativity and wasted efforts. Instead ask yourselves these questions when faced with a problem or a challenge.

“Why” – Why did this happen? Why are we here where we are today?

“What” – What are we to learn from this? What are we going to do about it?

I guess there could be an appropriate use of “who” but instead of in the context of “who is to blame” it should be “who can help solve this problem?”

Make why and what the key focus and put blaming others completely out of your mind. It is a waste of time and leads to pervasive negativity. Life is too short for that.

Four fingers…

“When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.”

Louis Nizer

I have written before about the power of ownership and owning vs. renting. The attitude of ownership says that one has some type of control over EVERYTHING that happens within their world. Is this literally true? Of course not, you can’t control the weather. But you can control how you dress for the weather or what activities you are taking part in.

If you can’t define the outcome of some situation or challenge, you can choose how you react to it. Choosing to point fingers and make it someone else’s fault is sidestepping both responsibility and accountability. If you want to live a life that embodies the ownership ethos then start by examining the four fingers that are pointing back yourself. That is where the power of growth can be harnessed. No ever grows or improves by pointing a finger at others.

I could kick myself…

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Are you honest enough with yourself to be able to deliver that kick? Can you take 100% ownership and accountability and then do something with it?

Change begins by taking responsibility. Period. If you don’t like something, change it. Don’t bitch, complain, or moan. No one, and I mean no one, wants to hear that crap. It isn’t anyone else’s fault. It’s not the fault of the cosmos or the situation. Dig deep, understand where you contributed, deal with it. If you don’t, then you are going to owe yourself yet another kick…

Accountable to our own standards…

“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.”

Ray Kroc

You have to set higher standards for yourself than you do for anyone and everyone around you. But standards alone aren’t enough. You have to hold yourself accountable to those standards, and do so publicly, if you want to lead others effectively. There is no quicker way to undermine your own leadership than by being a “do as I say not as I do” leader.

We are all going to fall short at times and fail to meet our standards. We are human, it’s going to happen. However that isn’t an excuse, we have to be self-accountable before we can hold others accountable. Amazingly enough, when can be transparent enough to publicly show our shortfalls, and how we are going to address them, our leadership influence grows.

Ownership starts with self. Leadership starts with self…

Expectations vs. Recommendations.

“When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable — if there are no consequences — that poor performance becomes the new standard. Therefore, leaders must enforce standards.”

Jocko Willink

I have long held to a simple yet effective three step formula of leadership responsibility and accountability.  

  1. Set clear expectations
  2. Coach, Train, Provide Feedback to those expectations
  3. Hold accountable to the expectations

It is the leaders responsibility to ensure that his or her  team understands what is expected of them, that the proper coaching and training has occurred, and then that absolute accountability to those expectations has been enforced.  

Without enforcement then any expectations are merely recommendations, coaching and training is a waste of time, and accountability doesn’t mean anything…  

Accountability starts with self…

“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.”

Courtney Lynch

On of my long-time favorite mantras is “fix the problem, not the blame.” Instead of investing your effort into finding out who who is at fault, and why they are accountable, focus on what happened and what is needed to fix it.  I love the way this quote frames out that accountability is a result of leading by example.  You can’t have accountability if the leader doesn’t walk the talk by accepting responsibility.  This seems so obvious, yet rare in practice.  
It is far easier to try and “hold others accountable” instead of first focusing on our responsibility as leaders for the outcomes and engendering an ownership mentality.   If you want to create a culture of accountability, take responsibility for the results.  
Accountability starts with self…

Do you own, or do you rent?

“Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership. And a sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organization can have.”

Pat Summitt

Ownership.  What does it mean? Think of the difference between renting a home and owning a home.  When you rent, you treat the home differently.  You don’t worry about the little things, you don’t put the extra effort in to care for or protect the property.  For example, you might ignore the roof that only leaks when it really storms, or the sink that leaks on occasion.  Maybe instead of ignoring the problem, you just call someone else, the owner, because it isn’t your problem.  You don’t have to fix it.  But if you own the home you pay attention to these problems.  You know that if you don’t address them quickly it is likely to become far worse, and much more expensive to repair.  

If you are the owner, you write the checks.  And by checks I don’t just mean in terms of money.  You have to fix the problem.  You are accountable for how you, the asset, the team, the organization performs.  It starts, and stops, with you.  You must look to yourself first before you look to others, regardless of fault because you are responsible and accountable for fixing the problem, whatever that problem might be.  

Have you ever heard the saying “drive it like a rental?”  What exactly does this mean?  It means when you rent a car you don’t treat it the same way you would if you owned it.  You don’t have to care about the maintenance, what it is going to drive like next week, next month, next year.  You don’t have to care because you aren’t accountable for your decisions, or in some cases the lack of a decision.  The rental car won’t be your problem in the future. For renters it is someone else’s problem.  Even if you caused it…

We all have an active decision make, do we own or do we rent?  This project, this initiative, this team, this relationship.  Yes, sometimes ownership sucks.  It isn’t fun to have to fix problems, especially if you caused them, whether intentionally or not.  But it has to be done, because if you don’t, who will? If you don’t look inwards first with self-awareness and reflection and have the accountability to own it, you are just renting your space as a human and a leader.  Don’t be a renter…

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