An Example of Not Taking Ownership

I had a breakfast meeting at a local restaurant yesterday and I observed a massive case of lack of ownership in an employee.  I thought this display was worthy of a post as it serves as a great example of a mindset void of responsibility or ownership.  Here's what happened.

I was early for my meeting so I sat down and started reading my book The Advantage by Paul Lencioni - great book by the way.  I was approached by a you man, maybe 20 years old, and asked if I cared for any coffee while I waited.  Being the coffee-loving person that I am, I accepted his offer and within 2 minutes I had a beautiful cup of coffee in front of me.  After thanking the young man, I started looking for my spoon so I could stir my secret ingredients - cream and splenda.  The waiter noticed I was missing a spoon and asked "you looking for a spoon?"  To which I answered "yes!"  Almost immediately this young man commented, "nice job night crew!"  In other words, the night crew forgot the spoon.  In my words, lack of ownership.  It's your table, make sure the right silverware is on the table before guests arrive - don't trust that the night crew did their job - take ownership!

So after a while, my appointment shows up and we order our breakfast.  The breakfast arrives, and the bacon my guest ordered doesn't arrive with the meal.  After bringing it to our waiters attention, he comments "I knew the kitchen would forget the bacon."  In other words, the kitchen forgot the bacon.  In my words, lack of ownership.  It's your table, make sure all the food's on the plate - double check each plate before dropping off at the table - take ownership!

This poor young man will most likely continue walking through life blaming everyone for his lack of ownership and as a result probably remain a waiter at a diner the rest of his life.  

Taking ownership is a key ingredient to excellence.  That's why it's a Core Value at Crawford Landscaping (see footnote below).  

The lesson to learn here is obvious - if something within your control or influence or area of responsibility fails or succeeds, it's on you.  Whether someone else messes up or not, the buck stops with you - if you take ownership.  Here are a few great quotes about leadership:

  • The price of greatness is responsibility.”  Winston Churchill
  • "If opportunity doesn't knock - build a door."  Milton Berle
  • "Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses."  George Washington Carver
  • A culture of ownership is not created by economic interest, it springs from emotional commitment.”  Unknown 
  • Ownership isn’t assigned or given. Ownership is taken.”  Unknown
  • "The productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker but of the manager." Peter Drucker

Question to ask yourself:  do I consistently take ownership, or am I one to pass the buck or make excuses?


Taking ownership as defined in our Crawford Landscaping's Core Values Statement:

Taking ownership means you own 100% of all aspects of your job.  Doing what needs to be done because you expect it of yourself as ownership springs from the intrinsic motivation of pride and engagement.  Taking ownership starts with developing a belief or habit of mind that you, as an individual, are accountable for the quality and timeliness of an outcome, even when you’re working with others.  Whatever sphere of influence you have on your work, you are to take 100% ownership of your work and upholding the companies pledge of “Quality, Service and honoring our word.”  Don’t make excuses when you fall short or something goes wrong.  Don’t blame others.  The results you achieve begin and end with you.  When relying on another person or department to complete a task, don’t relinquish your responsibility.  It’s not acceptable to say, “well I sent a CMS,” or “I am waiting on (fill in the blank) to get back to me.”  You treat them as a subcontractor that you’ve hired to do a job on your site – and it’s your responsibility to push them to get the work done.  

Keep this saying in mind: “you are committed to your results.”  Whatever results you achieve reflect your commitment level to those results.  Ask yourself, “If I were given $1mm to complete this, would I do it?”  If the answer is yes, then its achievable and you should be committed to achieving it.  Period.