Ownership: The Essence of Personal Accountability

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ownership, personal accountability, accountability, QBQ
This profound image above will be explained … promise!

What Ownership Can Do

I was speaking in Bismarck, North Dakota. On the van ride from the hotel back to the airport, one of the hotel’s owners was driving. I asked him, “How many owners are there?”

“Two,” he said.

“And how many people work for the organization in total?”

“Fifty-three,” he said.

I asked him, “What would it be like if there were 53 people who thought like the two owners?”

His eyes glazed over as he pondered the implications of my question. The owner is the one who comes in early, works hard, finishes the job, takes out the trash and deposits the money. After a few moments of imagining 52 such partners, he said in an awed half-whisper, “Wow … we could move mountains.”

The Need For Ownership

I recall chatting with a pastor of a large church that he and his wife started with 10 other people in their living room. Now more than 2,000 folks attend services in their new building each week. He shared with me he didn’t understand why staff would walk past something that needed doing when it so obviously needed to be done. He asked, “How do they not see what I see?”

It’s a question I’ve heard from many leaders.

The CEO of a large longterm care organization once told me, “What we need is for any staff member to pick up the Kleenex on the floor. Don’t walk past it. Bend down, grab it, and throw it away.”

The COO of Meineke invited me to speak at the firm’s annual franchisee conference because I summed up our QBQ! message in six words: “No excuses. I own the results.” He said, “You’re hired.”

Simple. Powerful. Sorely needed. That’s ownership.

Ownership At School

My speaking colleague and daughter, Kristin, and I sat down at IHOP with school superintendent, Rod Blunck. At the time, Kristin was finalizing our QBQ! classroom curriculum for middle/high schools and was searching for just the right title. Over pancakes, we asked Dr. Rod what makes great students. His response?

“That’s easy — they own all of their results.” Hence, the title I Own It!

Ownership In Families

In Raising Accountable Kids, we write:

Parents are owners. Children are renters. Dads and moms almost always care more about the appearance, cleanliness, and condition of their home than the children do—or ever will. This is no reflection on kids. Children are simply “passing through” and rarely feel the intense ownership of a home that the owners feel.”

Now, to our fancy photo above …

I was walking along our Colorado home’s sidewalk when my eye caught a fluttering movement against the house, low to the ground, behind our A/C unit. So I stepped behind the A/C, reached down, broke through a cobweb or two, and grabbed what turned out to be a very old and tattered A/C unit label. As I walked away, one word came to my mind: ownership.

There are only two people in the world who would’ve picked up that garbage: Karen and me. Why? Because we own the place.

What Is Ownership?

Whether you’re a manager, teacher, or a parent the goal is not only to practice ownership but to help others feel a powerful sense of ownership. It’s not an impossible hill to climb. Ownership can be trained, taught, and caught. When we understand what ownership looks like, we’re halfway there! Excerpted from the QBQ! book:

Ownership: A commitment of the head, heart, and hands to fix the problem and never again affix the blame.

As we close, I ask you to ponder this message, own it, and take it to heart. Share it if you’d like. First, though, three questions for discussion:

  1. Am I living a life of ownership?
  2. Am I teaching others to live a life of ownership?
  3. Is my organization’s culture one of ownership?

Choose one or more of these questions and comment away! ??

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6 Responses

  1. I was fortunate to work for a company that encouraged everyone, all 100,000+ to consider themselves as “stakeholders” of the company. It was Keller Williams Realty. There were several beliefs instilled in the agents/employees one being that everyone had a say in how the company operates. Two the books were open to everyone. Three they enjoyed profit sharing. Regarding profit sharing, I retired in 2012 and I still receive profit sharing checks every month. I have never worked at any company quite like it.

  2. I’m a firm believer in ownership, in raising 3 children, I implement my rules and expectations daily, I feel it is a requirement to lead them in that direction. In my job I use those same thoughts and actions at work. The trash is full, why wait for the cleaning people to come, take ownership. I take pride of my work environment and just do it. Same with breakfast coffee cups, I just do it. I like things tidy and orderly.

  3. One of the reasons that capitalism, flawed as it is, is superior to communism and socialism is the simple principle of ownership: Owners often feel responsible for what they own, and regrettably, not enough for what the government has assumed responsibility for.

    I’ll use our local government as an example: It cannot keep pace with all the litter careless, perhaps lazy, drivers leave on our roads in Toccoa, GA. My wife and I routinely pick up trash on our two-mile exercise walks around the neighborhood, especially fast food and beer trash. We cannot believe all the garbage that people routinely throw on our nice county and residential roads; Bev and I are disappointed by the amount of litter that is scattered on “OUR” route; there are new “deposits” every day. We pick them up regularly, yet long for more thoughtfulness from the careless; WE “OWN” OUR NEIGHBORHOOD, YOU SEE, AT LEAST TO SOME DEGREE; WE WANT TO TAKE CARE OF IT. On the other hand, I have concluded that “VIOLATORS” who litter in our neighborhood DON’T LIVE IN IT; THEY TAKE NO OWNERSHIP BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOT MADE IT PART OF THEM AND FEEL NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ITS CARE.

    Woe onto us if we allow the government to take away from us the privilege of ownership by promising to relieve us of the burdens of ownership! Privileges and burdens go hand in hand and are both blessings!

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