On Ownership

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One of the best pieces of career advice I’ve been given is “Think and act like an owner”. But what does this mean? Why should someone, who is not an owner, think and act like he or she is an owner? Lastly, what are high-impact ways to put this advice (thinking and acting like an owner) into practice?

What Does It Mean to Think and Act Like an Owner?

To put it simply, thinking and acting like an Owner means being fully responsible and ultimately accountable. “Owners” (I’m including senior management and anyone with a highly measurable deliverable) are completely engaged, meaning physically, psychologically, and emotionally involved, in the activities that lead to the fulfillment of goals. Being fully responsible is important, but it is the level of accountability that you embrace that determines the level of ownership you actually move in. Being ultimately accountable is what takes you from another hard worker or nice guy at the office and turns you into a lynchpin, a critical contributor, and an Owner.

Nugget: Thinking and acting like an Owner means being fully responsible and ultimately accountable.

Why Should Someone, Who is Not an Owner, Think and Act Like He or She is an Owner?

For me, there are mainly two benefits from Thinking and Acting Like an Owner. The first is this: It allows you to practice and develop your responsibility and accountability skills at a higher level. For example, when a junior employee takes ownership of his or her managers’s deliverables, taking care to help their manager succeed, what they’e also doing is developing themselves to execute at this level. Too many people are overly concerned with “fairness”, thinking that what is fair is always a quid pro quo. Not necessarily. Some of the best career value I’ve received came from being more focused on delivering value rather than claiming it. In the process, I was able to learn and practice with the bigger things others owned in preparation for the day when I would own things myself. The second reason why one should think and act like an owner is more direct: You are the owner of your career. Your career is not simply your role in a company, nor is it a collection of roles you’ve had in your life. A career, at least to me, is a track record of the value one has contributed in his work. It doesn’t matter who owns the company you work for or who your manager is. Your career, your track record of value, is yours from day one. You are fully responsible and ultimately accountable for the track record of value you produce at work.

Nugget: Thinking and acting like an Owner allows you to practice your responsibility and accountability at a higher level. You are ultimately responsible and accountable for your career, which is the track record of the value you produce at work.

High Impact Activities for Ownership

As usual, I want to end with something practical. Like I alway say, “No one ever lost weight from a diet they didn’t stick to.” Here are three ways I would suggest to anyone who wishes to grow in ownership.

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