Own your stuff!

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Embodied in a text message I sent to a friend were these words: “Projection is the mother of deflection.”  I marinated on that for about thirty seconds then I sent this follow up text: “Or maybe owenership is the issue.”  I felt like I got myself into the age old debate of arguing whether the chicken came before the egg or whether the opposite miraculous series was truth.

At any rate, I have always tried to own my nonsense and the collateral nonsense that arose as a result of my not-so-genius moves.  Whenver I didn’t take credit for the smallest missteps or failures, I became the subject of a joke.  For example, yesterday at work, I opened a cabinet behind my desk chair and forgot to close it.  The open cabinet door behind me set up the perfect opportunity for a comedy skit that involved me standing up and bumping my head like an absent-minded professor.  Thankfully, one of my resident handlers and colleague, without judgment, eased behind me and closed the door.  She noted that she closed it to save my head from the sharp edge of the cabinet door.  We laughed along with another colleague who was present and I said, “Good because it would have been your fault if I had hit my head on that door.”

The only reason that this joke added humor to the office was because my handler has also found value in operating from a place of self-awareness and ownership of her stuff.  I met her when she was a graduate student.  I have told her and others that she set a high bar for student workers.  Her ability to abstain from projecting her professional challenges on others proved valuable to me and the department over the years that I have worked with her.  In my leadership role, I have found supervision and collaborative partnerships easier and more productive with folks like her who own their stuff.  The subject of ownership has occurred in previous posts, but I decided to delve a bit deeper into the topic in this post.

I really can’t remember ever meeting anyone who loved being blamed for everything all of the time – me included.  As a result, my association with folks who have done a lot of blaming and deflecting have quickly moved my frustration needle from low to high.  When the finger pointing person denied their contribution to the mistake, event, or situation my mind heard the rapper Shaggy saying, “It wasn’t me.” However, their distance from reality didn’t make me smile like watching Shaggy dodge getting himself caught up.  Honestly, when children or students have employed that defense to their nonsense, I’ve been more tolerant than times when really grown folks denied culpability or the ability to affect change and outcomes.  When grown folks deflected and denied, my thought bubble filled with phrases like: “Really, you just said that?” Or “You’ve got to be kidding me right now!” Or “How the heck are you blaming me for this product?”  By the time my inside voice got to that last phrase, I felt my eyebrows furrow and my head tilt a little to the left.  In those moments, I worked hard not to shake my head and twist my entire face.

Some experiences over the last few weeks inspired this post and the following list of truths about ownership at work and in life:

1. Failure to own your actions or inactions never makes you look less responsible.

2. Denial of responsibility and denying the ability to impact outcomes makes you appear to lack in the area of self-awareness.

3. Taking ownership makes you seem human and flawed like most humans.

4. Taking ownership creates a space for identifying challenges which is the only way to work toward results-centered efforts.

5. Perceived failures or missed opportunities present new opportunities for success that are never possible if there is no ownership.

6. Failure to take ownership gives off the same vibe as one known as a habitual liar.

7. Ownership demonstrates a level of transparency and maturity that is uncommon in most circles, yet necessary in all spaces if folks truly seek meaningful relationships and collaborations intentioned on educating, encouraging, and empowering communities.

8. Ownership makes you look secure.

9. Leaders who build a culture of ownership sifts out the deflectors who might have disdain for truth and accountability.

10. Ownership in leadership breeds trust in the community and generally makes your direct reports feel supported.  So, just own it!


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