Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Time to take ownership. Then give it up.

A while back I blogged it's all about ownership.  I stand by that and say yes, own your system etc.  But today I want to go a little deeper about taking ownership beyond objects.  At Kineo we've just come off our recent leadership group day and one of our group shared a Linked-In special on what it means to be a great leader.  All the usual motivational stuff about what great leaders do and don't do (though anything that claims great leaders 'always' or 'never' forgets that great leaders are also human beings first and foremost and those extremes lie beyond the realms of mortal man), there was even the wisdom about taking ownership (although put far more eloquently and with less regard for the word count than I would put it).  It's true if you want to address any issues, problems or embrace change you must first own it.

I've kind of split this up into owning and giving up.  The ownership bit is probably easier to understand.  If you're an alcoholic and you can't admit that then you'll never move past being an alcoholic.  Whatever your addiction may be, the first stage towards moving away from it is to recognise what it is and own it.  In fact I think it's fair to say that you're unlikely to solve any issue that you perceive as being someone elses.  Not long ago I was discussing a client with one of the consultants in our team and we agreed that their major issue was that they never took ownership of their own system.  They distanced themselves in such a way that whenever anything went wrong with it, they could lay the blame elsewhere.  It allowed them free reign to complain about the way it performed, the way it was setup and even the content on it - even though they'd effectively signed off and been involved in every decision along the way.  The problem was simply not theirs. 

The hardest thing is often to own something you don't want, but that's the only way you can truly make change for the better.  If you're not happy with something about your personality you can choose to ignore it and home it goes away.  It probably won't, but you can try to just put the blame elsewhere or just have it as 'one of those things'.  Say I'm reward driven in personality (damn it, not one of those things in the great leaders list) - and largely I have been throughout most of my life.  If I choose to ignore that as part of me all I will continue to do is seek the reward and become despondent when I don't get it.  Alternatively I can try to first take ownership of that little character flaw and from there I can see what I can do about it.  For me reward was something that I thought chasing could bring me closer to, but actually all it does is lead you to behaviours you don't want and that brings about just the opposite of reward and recognition (and gives you something to blame incidentally).  For me to move from that frame of mind I had to break some of the habits I had, but that was firstly about knowing they were my habits, my responses and I was the one perpetuating that part of myself.

Okay, so I own that recognition seeking part of my character now... does that mean it's gone?  Partially yes, because just like my post in the quantum theory actually being aware (or observing something) has an affect, but the key point is to make change you must first own.  I can't change things with my house unless I own it (just try in your rental if you don't believe me).  You can't change your character without taking it and realising it's yours and you can't change your learning system if you don't accept it as yours.  Once the systems are yours you then have the power to do something about them.

If you're an L&D Manager and the LMS sits in your area but is unloved, this is the time you go to the boss and say 'it's mine!'.  It's often that simple.  No-one wants to own something that isn't any good, but it can't change without ownership so it gets stuck in a circular reference like a bad database.  Seriously go and ask for the unloved beast and make it yours.  Now, all you have to do is to invest time and energy (and sometimes a tear or too) to improve it.  It will get better I promise and if you then choose to replace it that's easier too, because it's a lot easier to replace something you own than replacing something you don't.

So that's it, part 1 done - own it.

Part 2 is crazy right?  Give it up.  You've just taken huge steps to own it whether it's a system or a problem and now you want me to give it up?  Sort of.  Let's go back to that addictive personality.  I'm not an alcoholic (honest) and I'm not trying to trivialise the issues of alcoholism, but I know that you can only kick the habit that you own to start with, but that actually the long term solution lies in more than just you.  What I really mean by give it up is realise that owning a problem comes first, then it needs you to break it down and share it out.  If the first stage for recovering alcoholics is owning the problem, the second is getting help.  That's really what giving it up means.

For your LMS if it's not working own it first.  Then go get help and start sharing the system.  Give some people control and realise that you can't do it all on your own.  Maybe instead of give it up I should have said 'get help', but again it comes down to ownership and THE biggest word in leadership that really makes a difference in people's lives: Empowerment.  If, as the L&D Manager, I take ownership of the crummy LMS (not Totara obviously!), then I use the advisors or co-ordinator to address issues but I hold the ownership to myself then they won't truly be able to affect the change.  I need to take the ownership that was all mine and share it out amongst those who I want to actually help me affect change.  Don't bristle when they take ownership of what was yours, remember that's a good thing because to really cause change you must own.  In fact this reminds me of an early early blog of mine on this was about loving and letting go of your LMS...

So here's my simple process for succeeding; take ownership and then give it up - just make sure that you give it up to the right people and you give it up because you want to improve it not because you can't be bothered!