Taking ownership vs. taking over

In my bios on social media, I include “serial mistake-maker”. I make ’em early and often, some repeatedly, and I feel like people should know that about me ahead of time. My most oft-repeated mistake?

Taking over instead of taking ownership.

I began my career working for a company that was transitioning from a tech-oriented start-up to a buttoned-down division of a very large corporation. Hired on full-time after wrapping up an internship in my last year of college, I was tasked with making improvements to bad processes in a group that was decidedly a red-headed stepchild.

Long on education and want to, and painfully short on self-awareness and EQ, I started the role with the ferocity of a thousand suns. Progress was made. Solutions were proposed. Some things actually got fixed. Along the way, I frustrated almost every teammate I encountered. The problem? I thought I was hired to take over when I was really hired to take ownership.

Taking over

Taking over is the process of muscling through to accomplish a goal (for those familiar with DiSC personalities, this can be a classic ‘D’ trait). It’s a take-no-prisoners, leave-nothing-in-your-wake way of getting things done.

In this case, I was solving a specific process problem. My vision was mine and mine alone, based almost entirely on my own assumptions and perspectives without looking at the implications or getting feedback from the people impacted by the change. Getting my colleagues on board consisted of a half-day one-man show masked as an interactive dialogue in which I shared my grand vision without any external input. Any progress that I did make was entirely dependent on whether or not colleagues were willing to put up with me at that moment.

The results? Mixed. Some things got done. Some things didn’t. Mostly, the wildly optimistic vision I set out to achieve at the beginning was missed.

Ever seen this before?

At the time, I felt like what I was doing was leadership. Based on what I had learned and seen before, results were rewarded more than process. If you asked 23-year-old me, I’d have told you that I was doing exactly what I was hired to do.

Taking ownership

The flip side of taking over is taking ownership. Taking ownership requires a vision that explores what is possible, tests the status quo, and is bold. It means being accountable to the entire team by communicating clear objectives, keeping two-way communication open, and setting goals that get everyone energized. With the team ready to roll, steady progress is made using well-structured processes, addressing challenges along the way and celebrating successes when milestones are hit. It’s less dramatic, but it’s way more effective.

Why didn’t I know this a decade ago?!? I didn’t know any better. And I’m willing to bet that’s a lot of Millennials you encounter.

The reason we take over

Taking ownership isn’t the dramatic kind of leadership that gets noticed, especially at the time when turn-of-the-2000s dot-com millionaires were being praised for their pioneering spirit. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I wasn’t in a situation to become a dot-com millionaire, but rather a person hired to make my company more effective. Instead of positioning me for greater opportunity, my limited successes simply allowed me to be set up for an even more painful fall.

Additionally, taking over just feels better for certain people. They understand the potential collateral damage but believe that it’s worth it to get things done. And sometimes it is, but often it’s not.

The difference is people

When traveling with my boss to corporate HQ, we met with the senior VP of payroll who was a really cool person with a ton of responsibility. While we were out to lunch, she talked about how she was going back to graduate school so make sure she was competitive with the smart young people coming into the company, nodding at me. Looking back on it, she left me in the dust, and for good reason. She had the EQ that I didn’t have.

That’s why we’re so passionate about training Millennials early in their careers. We want them to build the good muscle memory habits they need from the start so that they can more effectively make themselves and their companies better. It took me a decade to really begin to understand how to be a better boss. Does your organization have that kind of time?

Avoid the Negative Stereotypes of Gen-Y

When I speak to groups I like to give them a little homework to help make them aware of what’s going on in the world of Generation Y. I will ask them to pay attention to the media and articles they see about millennials or Gen-Y and to determine how many of them are positive and how many of them are negative. Overwhelmingly, most articles are negative towards Gen-Y, or at least the headlines are.

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Are Leaders Made or Are They Born?

On a radio show I once hosted, we started a really good discussion about leadership at all levels: leading people, leading projects, etc. Afterwards we received a great deal of buzz from our listeners. domain address . People sent in numerous responses and the most popular question was, “Are leaders made or are they born?” I have found through research and also through my own experiences, that it’s actually a little bit of both.

Leaders are both made and born. I think you have to be presented with the right situation in order to sometimes have your leadership skills rise to the surface, but you can also develop a lot of these skills. With the various kinds of intelligences that we as humans have, there is this sense that your IQ is everything, but there are a number of intelligences. domain ip . There is spatial intelligence, mechanical intelligence and there is this term, which you may have heard, called emotional intelligence, or EQ.

A gentleman by the name of Dr. Daniel Goldman coined the name “EQ” and I worked very closely with one of his associates, Dr. Druskat. She is from the University of New Hampshire and she collaborated with me on one of the chapters in my book, Gen Y Now. I learned a great deal from her about this sense of EQ. chief red cloud One of the differences between EQ and some of the other kinds of intelligences is that emotional intelligence can be developed, meaning it can be learned. There are certain elements that we can incorporate into our day-to-day situations and conversations and it can simply be developed along the way. In my experience of having worked with so many leaders and businesses, from start-up to Fortune 500, it is important to focus on the fundamental steps of leadership:

  • VISION: First create a vision. A true leader has to able to see that vision clearly, understand it, visualize it and almost touch it.
  • ALIGNMENT: Next build alignment. Leaders have to take that vision and build alignment around it. To achieve this it is important to:
    • Have very clear communications.
    • Be inspiring.
    • Have open dialogue with the folks that you work with to get them all bought in.
  • EXECUTION: Finally, execute, execute, execute.
    • Leaders build momentum around that vision. They have the vision, they create that alignment and they build that momentum. A leader’s job is to build that momentum, create a framework, and to put structure around how you go from point A to point B. Focusing on, “How does this thing continue to move forward?” Also, it’s their job to build those feedback mechanisms that are so critical within organizations.

Bringing in New Talent: Business Trends

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about trend spotting and looking ahead at the employment market. Recent employment numbers are giving us some good insight into where these trends are headed. In my last post, Bringing in New Talent: Employment Trends, I focused on what these numbers mean to the solopreneur, or the seasoned professional ready to step out on their own as a consultant. I would like to explain what these new trends and opportunities mean for businesses. What should they be considering as these new trends take hold? How should they be looking at attracting and retaining the best talent?

As I’ve mentioned before, many businesses have been putting off important projects they need to accomplish. In addition, they have not been willing to commit payroll dollars to bring in the necessary talent to take on those projects. I would contend that they would be willing to bring in temporary talent, committing expense dollars rather than payroll dollars, in order to get those projects done.

Another big business trend is beefing up human resource departments. HR departments are bringing on more people in order to bring on more people! If you think about it, before a business can start to hire, they have to hire the people who can do the hiring. Businesses are adding people who can recruit now in this turning economy. Another thing to keep in mind is that the biggest bump in hiring, as it relates to a demographic, is between 25 and 34 year olds. If you’ve tuned in to the show before, you’ve heard the GenY conversation I often have, and the biggest bump in employment numbers are around that very specific demographic.

Here are three things I think every business should consider when looking to bring on the best talent:

  1. When you consider hiring an independent consultant, look at the opportunity to mentor some of these young people coming on board. I’m talking about the 25 to 34 year olds who are joining the work force at the highest number of any other demographic. Who is going to provide that experience and problem solving? There is a new math that businesses are looking at and it is simply: How do we get as many hands and minds on the team as possible without increasing spending? For example, if a company has $180,000 to spend, do they go out and get a 30-year veteran who would take the entire $180,000? More often today, businesses are hiring from the Gen Y demographic and would instead hire two people for around $60,000 each. Then, the really smart businesses are also reaching out and bringing on one experienced person as a consultant and paying him about $30,000 or so. Do the math. virtual server . Instead of $180,000, now they’ve only spent $150,000 and have hired three more people to get things done. They are saving money and getting the talent they need. This brings together both experience and young talent, so there is both succession candidates and growth.
  2. Look at the projects you need done now and the descriptions for the jobs you are hiring for. Make sure you have that in place. Not the way the job looked five years ago, but what does your business need now? Also, is your on-boarding plan up to date? What you did during the last hiring frenzy is completely different from what you should do now. An analogy I often use is that if you were buying a new computer to replace one you purchased 12 months ago, you would look for completely new and updated features. Your needs change that fast.
  3. Absolutely critical for every business, is to make sure your current talent is secure. Make sure they are happy and don’t feel put upon or overworked. Be aware that when you bring new talent on board you don’t give all of your time, energy and attention solely to the new people, excluding the ones who have been with you from the start. Remember that if the market changes and new opportunities arise, your current work force has the option to go after those opportunities. There was a 60-Minutes episode recently that talked about the new demographic of people looking for jobs. It pointed out that many advertised job openings are requesting only currently employed people apply. They really don’t want people that have been unemployed. My point to the matter is that if you are a business understand that there are people out there actively advertising for your currently employed talent. Make sure that the people you have on board are happy, productive and engaged!