Ownership, responsibility, culpability... and progress.

I once knew a leader who was enthusiastic about ensuring every goal (objective or project) had an owner and his thinking was simple — if there was no owner how could you expect anything to get done, and in the same vein, there could only be one. For him, if you had more than one owner, there was no true accountability (which in his mind was more or less like not having an owner at all). 


It didn't take me long to jump on his ownership bandwagon because it's really the only way to get anything done.

And now for the rub that comes with this progressive thinking — since most things don't happen without a team of people, how do you reconcile this with the need for one owner?

You definitely need to ensure you have the right people on the team, a solid time and event schedule, the needed resources, sacrosanct operating mechanisms to ensure action is moving forward, and a solid "multi-coloured" dashboard to ensure everyone knows what's happening — all of this is solid, quantifiable, and necessary, but the reconciliation with "one and the many" comes with the words "responsibility" and "culpability", and even more subtly, the words "you" and "we"

re·spon·si·bil·i·ty [rəˌspänsəˈbilədē] NOUN — the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone

cul·pa·bil·i·ty [ˌkəlpəˈbilədē] NOUN — responsibility for a fault or wrong; blame

you [yo͞o, yə] PRONOUN — used to refer to the person or people that the speaker is addressing

we [wē] PRONOUN — used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself and one or more other people considered together:

Anything you are involved with inherently needs responsibility and culpability, and if it's just you it's easy because you own all of it — and if there is more that just you then these words need to be injected into the group. Ownership is about "you" accepting responsibility and culpability for the goal (objective or project), and if there is a team behind you then that involves expanding the definition of responsibility and culpability to include everyone involved (something imperative for success) — the "you" becomes "we".

If you ever hear yourself trying to avoid "responsibility" or "culpability" then you are falling short as the owner — and if you ever hear anyone on the team trying to avoid "responsibility" or "culpability" you are also falling short, because remember, you own that too. 

Ownership and Leadership... semantics if you ask me, because its true when they say, "True leadership has no title".


Moments — startups are not just for Ys and Zs anymore.


"What's really bothering you?"

"Don't get me started — not taking advice and living in a fantasyland are the 2 that immediately come to mind."

"Sounds like that other startup we were dealing with a while ago."   

"Yeah  — it's the 'I'm the entrepreneur and I know everything so why would I possibly need advice in the sales/marketing/tech/finance area by subject matter experts?' syndrome — it's a real thing."

Although there is some artistic licence with this short conversation it really did take place, and although there are many themes that you could glean from it, I came away with two.

         #1) The startup is not just reserved for the bright eyed youth of today (with an idea and boundless energy) because more and more "40 and 50 something" professionals are now finding themselves in the startup arena — more often than not spit out of a corporate setting with an idea, lots of experience, and maybe not so much energy. Everyone is flocking to wear the badge of honour that is the "entrepreneur".  

          #2) There is nothing worse than a "40 and 50 something" professional with experience and some success under their belt — sadly they believe they know what the fuck they are doing better than anyone else. And yes, I realize those annoying 20 something's also believe they know what the fuck they are doing better than anyone else, although to be fair, it's expected from them because that's what comes with being young (we've all been there if you remember).

I should mention that as a "50 something" I believe I know what the fuck I am doing better than everyone else, although to be fair, I also realize I need to listen to those who actually DO KNOW BETTER — as well as adopt what I hear. I will admit it's a work in progress with improvement each and every day.

The real rub in all of this is experience actually does get you a little closer to knowing what the fuck you are doing better than anyone else, so make sure you tap into that experience whenever you can — be it yours, or someone else's.


Leadership... what would your three words be?

I knew an incredible people leader who, as part of his development strategy, would give his people three words to consider for their personal development; sometimes the words were well received, and as I understand, sometimes not so much. As I was listening to him describe this over dinner, I could not help but ask what my three words would be; he looked at me, laughed, and said, "Sobriety, sobriety and sobriety". In fairness, it was a celebration dinner.

I was reminded of this the other night when the discussion of Leadership came up and we tried to articulate the qualities that make up good leadership. As with many of these types of conversations it usually starts with something rather innocuous, and then gets more refined and more serious as the conversation continues,

"OMG — I used to joke around with a colleague who was very grumpy but funny, funny, funny... and my daily question would be, 'Are you bitter, angry or resentful today?'. God I miss him... crazy funny."

The conversation continued to meander over a number of topics but it became apparent the topic of Leadership was not over when someone said,

"At the heart of all Leadership is clarity, vision and competency... How's that?"  

You could see heads nodding when someone added,

"Someone who is quietly confident, trusts and believes in his colleagues, and is able to get his hands dirty, and competently gets the job done."

The final words on the topic were eloquently added,

"Without being an idiot. Is that too much to ask?"

As we laughed and moved onto other dinner topics, I heard the person who started all of this say, "I miss my old boss".

And this brings me full circle back to that incredible people leader with his three words. I can't help but wonder what his three words would be to encapsulate "Leadership"?

By no means is listing the qualities that make up a great leader original — There are countless books, blogs, white papers and opinion on the topic, and I recommend you read as many as you can. What identifying three words does is ensure you have actually put some thought into leadership and prioritized what you think are the most important leadership competencies (there are definitely more than three). For right or for wrong, the three words you pick will represent your guiding principles on Leadership.

And any three words are better than the alternative... because then we aren't even discussing Leadership.  


PS: Mine are Selflessness, Transparency, and Vision.

PPS: Thank you to those around the table.