One of the greatest problems I see in organizations is a lack of ownership. The most popular excuse I hear for this problem is, “[My predecessor] should have done this but didn’t and now it is too big of a mess to cleanup.”
Guess what? It’s your job! Most of the time, I find that the predecessor did not mess anything up but the successor just doesn’t understand how things worked before and why things were done the way they were done, which is a totally separate issue. It’s a complete cop out to blame someone who cannot even defend themselves.
If you don’t like the way things are, don’t just sit there and blame someone else for your problems. Take ownership of your role! But, how in the world are you supposed to do that? Start with five “knows.”
Know that not everything that was done before is bad. Have an open mind and don’t shut everything out and try to change it all just because you wouldn’t have done it that way. This is a horrible epidemic in leadership. Every new leader comes in and changes everything. It’s rarely ever a positive thing. You think you’re making things better but all you’re doing is making your staff suffer. Before you start changing everything, do a diligent evaluation of what is working well and what is not before making a single change.
Know that it’s okay to change and how to do it right. Not everything you inherit will be gold. Once you do a thorough evaluation, begin the change process for things that need improvement. Don’t just sit there and whine about how your predecessor screwed it all up for you and how it’s impossible to change. Do something about it! Make sure to include your stakeholders though, particularly your employees and your customers. A new leader who storms in and just starts tearing things apart is not going to get much support.
Know that you’re not alone so build some relationships. New employeeshave what I like to call the “freshman syndrome.” They act like they’re in high school again and become paranoid that the more veteran employees are automatically going to pick on them. Well, get over yourselves! If you’re a new leader, I can assure you that your employees are just as weary about you as you are about them so why not make them feel better? You are the leader, after all. Make them feel welcome and comfortable. Get to know them. Ask them questions, seek their feedback and involve them in changes.
Know that trust is earned – not just trust with you but trust in you.You’re not going to immediately trust everyone you encounter so don’t expect them to trust you right away. Show your team that you’re worthy of leading them. Embrace those who question you and challenge you; don’t punish them for it.
Know that you can make a difference. So, you don’t understand how or why things were done before and it just seems completely backwards to you. Then, fix it. Don’t be afraid to take some risks and turn things around for the better. If you do it right, you and your team can be extremely successful. Don’t blame anyone for the problems you think you inherited. Take ownership of it and you can make a real and lasting impact.
Here’s a bonus piece of advice – people who take ownership don’t flaunt it. They don’t need to talk about it – about their predecessors not doing a good job, about them turning things around or about how hard it is to be them. In the words of Henry J. Kaiser, “When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.”
Ownership is very noticeable. There’s no hiding it. Take ownership and stop blaming your predecessors!
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