My first job helped me understand something that changed my mindset about work forever.
I was 23, still attending University working a part-time job as the recruiting manager for an experiential marketing agency.
I sat across from my manager and the owner, with sweaty palms and my heart beating fast. I was undergoing my first annual review.
When it was all over, I exhaled a sigh of relief. I had met expectations, didn’t cost the company any money and identified areas of improvement.
But there was one complaint my boss made that really stuck with me. And it wasn’t even directed at me but on the entire team!
“Everyone here struggles to take ownership of their work.”
And what she said was true.
Here I had been at a desk for an entire year with folders filed away by the previous manager. I hadn’t taken ownership of my own space, never mind the job I was hired to do.
But why did I need explicit permission to start taking ownership of my job?
Maybe it was my inexperience, but I felt like I should be following the path laid out by my manager rather than coming up with my way of doing things.
But when you begin to take ownership of what you to – it can set you free.
Why Do We Struggle With Ownership
Taking ownership requires a certain level of effort. And it is easier to rely on others because it takes the responsibility out of your hands.
Have you ever caught yourself saying:
“My manager told me to do it this way.”
“It’s the way it’s always been done.”
“I didn’t know it was my job to come up with a better system.”
The difficulty with taking ownership is you become responsible for the success or failure of everything you do. But when you decide to OWN IT, your job becomes more fulfilling.
But taking ownership isn’t always up to you.
At times you can have a controlling manager who wants it to be done his way. Or a more experienced colleague thinks you should listen to her advice.
Occasionally taking ownership means taking it away from someone else. But when you overcome that challenge, you’ll be in a better position to make decisions and grow.
Why take ownership
There is a sense of pride that comes with ownership. You’re planting your stake in the ground, stating, “This is mine!”
When your reputation is on the line, you’re more motivated to put in the work. With the intention to succeed, you’ll strive to achieve what is necessary.
Only when you realize you are in charge of your own success, can you create something great.
When you rely on others, you have something to fall back on. There is someone else to share the blame with. But when your crutches are taken away, and you have to prove yourself – that usually provides the motivation to succeed.
The world is yours
When I began taking ownership of my job it was liberating. I felt like I had purpose in what I was doing and was contributing to the success of our company.
Ownership creates a shift in mindset, which generates a sense of responsibility and identity. Rather than see it as THE company and A job, I saw it as MY job and OUR company.
Although no drastic changes occurred, it was my perception that shifted. I now had the mindset that it was up to me to determine the best way of moving forward.
Instead of following my manager’s orders blindly and I came up with my own solutions to problems.
It allowed me to think of new creative ways of recruiting. Rather than relying on job postings online, I began to use social media and interact with groups of students looking for part-time work.
I also analyzed the way I held interviews, asked questions and follow-ups. Streamlining the process to create more efficient systems.
Taking responsibility created a greater commitment to the company I was apart of.
Rather than fitting into the job I was given, I molded the job into what I thought was best – while maintaining the expectations of my work.
You’ll notice, people rarely ask how you got there; they just want to see the result. It didn’t matter to my boss as long as the quality of work didn’t diminish.
Where to go from here
When you take ownership, you’re more likely to put in a greater effort. It’s your reputation on the line, and you’ll be more willing to overcome adversity, then fail to try.
We understand the importance of taking ownership. Although it can be difficult to take ownership away or even scary to have all that responsibility.
But the benefits far exceed the costs. When you’re commander-in-chief of a specific task or job, there is nowhere to hide. Everything depends on you.
And when you decide to own your work, it becomes more fulfilling. Deriving a sense of purpose in your work that contributes to your career or business.
Take ownership of everything you do and find the freedom to create your own success.
For this week’s challenge identify a task at work or at home that you can take ownership of. See if you feel a shift in mindset when you make something yours. Determine how you can improve the efficiency or result of the task.
Here are a few examples:
Take ownership of setting meetings. Do you have regularly set meetings, is it ad hoc or do you use a calendar to track availabilities?
Take ownership of how you answer emails. Do you answer emails as they come in, or at specific times of day? How can you improve your email answering process?
Take ownership of how you plan your day. For example, I am most productive between 8:30-11:30am. Therefore whenever possible, I use this time for difficult or creative work and schedule meetings or mundane tasks for the afternoon.
Take ownership of how you collaborate. How can you improve the way you collaborate with colleagues? Find ways of improving the system of collaboration.
Take ownership of household items. Do you come back from shopping and always seem to forget something? Use a whiteboard and write down a list throughout the week, then snap a picture before leaving.
Take ownership of weekly lunches. Do you rely on leftovers for your lunch? What could you do to have lunch friendly foods in the house and create a routine around making your daily lunch for work?
Take ownership of a household task. Do you ever fight with your partner about who’s supposed to do what? Avoid feeling nagged every time you’re asked to take out the trash or do the laundry. Own the task, so there is no dispute about who’s job it is.
Set clear guidelines of responsibility and begin to find ways to improve the efficacy of the job. Once it’s yours, OWN IT!
For myself, I’ve taken ownership of the glorious task; cleaning the bathroom. Anytime the bathroom is dirty I know exactly who’s job it is to clean. And I make it more pleasurable by listening to a podcast or music and by creating a routine on how to do it in the least amount of time possible.
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