One of the greatest lessons in leadership a mentor taught me was to take ownership of my actions and attitude. The concept was foreign to me. Not because my parents had never taught me ownership of my mistakes in life, but because work seemed different. I recall one of my first meetings with him. One one one, he was evaluating my performance 2 months into my new role. He had feedback and lots of it, or now as I realize, constructive criticism. He challenged me primarily on my attitude and my response when things didn’t go well. I was mad. I remember sitting in the room with him, crossing my arms, thinking, “If you only knew the excuses I get, the lag in response time that these General Managers give me or the hours I spend researching and visiting all these stores/employees to ensure it’s getting done. If you only knew how I had to practically chase down answers I needed, you would not be saying this.”
Terry was actually coaching me on my attitude. Me, attitude? Never 🙂 “Danielle, even now you are not fully listening to what is going on, you are mad. I’m trying to help you, but you have to be willing to become better.” Needless to say, I wasn’t receptive, I didn’t hide it and I left irritated at him, questioning if he really even knew that “they” (the managers I had to work with) were the problem. Through his diligent leadership, he taught me what it looked like to take “ownership” as a leader, even if the people I worked with were superior to me in position. Learning to take ownership as an individual was one of the greatest transformational tools in both my leadership style and work perception.
Here are 5 ways I first learned to take ownership:
1- It begins with me– No matter what role and what environment I am in, I have the ability to influence and impact, so the solution or problem begins with me.
2- Attitude– Perception is reality isn’t it? If I adjusted my attitude to be willing to see the larger picture, I was able to put into perspective additional details that helped me adjust my attitude for the situation or person.
3- Help don’t Add– My role had value- it was saving stores lots of money, money that they needed to operate their business on. I realized that if I could work with these managers in a way that helped them, but didn’t “add” more to their current responsibilities then we both would win.
4- Be creative– I still had a job to get done, but in learning to be helpful, I had to learn to be creative in my approach and execution. Everyone is different. Learning people’s strengths and getting to know their needs, I was able to execute my job in more effective and influential ways, even though I lacked the “title.”
5- Analyze your “best” and do it better- At the end of the day, I agreed to my professional role. I accepted the position. People are flawed, most people are truly trying to do their best, but I can only change me. There is always room for growth, so even on the days or months where the bottom line didn’t meet the approval, I knew I had to go back to the drawing board to analyze where I could have done better; made more phone calls, produced better email follow-ups, offered more encouragement, created more efficient reports, asked more questions… to my surprise, my best always had room to become better.
I still catch myself at times thinking, “If they would just do this, then it would be better.” The truth is, we don’t ever really know what all our co-workers or managers have going on, so that thinking is flawed. I try to believe the best about people and take ownership of my role and do it the best I can.
Thank You Terry for your influence and leadership, forever grateful!