Own the work

The first email I read in the day is Chris Brogan’s and it’s usually before breakfast. He’s very revealing in a business sense and within that honesty you’ll often find gems of practical advice. His advice can be a little left field as he expounds about far more than just marketing per se by getting into some life and well-being thoughts, but it’s all very well received.

He wrote recently, Doing the Work is Sexy. From it, “I was an owner long before I was the boss. I owned my desk at my telephone company job, and that got me better opportunities, because I owned everything I could and make it my responsibility to do even more than the role required on paper. When I moved to my wireless telecom roles, I owned every one of them. I worked harder on projects that weren’t my assigned work while completing the job they paid me for as well.” This hit me squarely between the eyes.

I’ve been trying to articulate ‘ownership’ to my teams for over a decade with varying success. It’s surely the perennial problem of having others take responsibility for their world at work.

Owning and being responsible for projects, tasks, duties, etc means digging in and not pushing things back onto others. It’s seeing things through rather than dreaming up reasons and excuses why they didn’t float. It’s a buck-stops-here mentality, even though you may be well down the pecking order of the organisation chart.

Saying, “this is above my pay grade,” isn’t taking ownership. Neither are, “I don’t know why I didn’t complete X,” or, “sorry, I simply forgot,” or, “I never seem to find the time.”

The noun manager implies even more ownership. So synonymous is the relationship that you could actually switch job titles from Manager of X to Owner of X, but that would invoke a HR heart attack.

From what I’ve observed I’d say ownership is a mindset, albeit a difficult one to sustain. It comes at a personal cost as you invest more of yourself than your raw job description prescribes. Too few are willing to shoulder the commitment and resilience that owning your role demands. Yet, without blind luck and stumbling on good fortune, only through ownership can you ever become the boss. They go hand in hand, with ownership the first to be outstretched.

Side note:
Heston Blumenthal worked 120+ hours a week for 5 years. He took himself and his one employee to a huge team of chefs and three Michelin stars. He went from self-taught nobody to being mentioned in more or less every good restaurant guide in the world. That’s an awful lot of ownership.

Tags: ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply