The ancient Romans were masters of architecture, and according to Roman legend, they were also quite adept at taking ownership of their decisions as well. It has been said that when an arch was near completion in ancient Rome, the Roman engineer responsible for designing and overseeing the construction had to stand directly beneath the center of the arch as the capstone was put into place. His standing there symbolized – both figuratively and literally – his willingness to stand beneath the weight of his decisions.
Would you lead, act and make decisions differently if you knew that you would eventually be the sole person accountable for the full weight of what you did or decided?
I think for almost all of us the answer would probably be yes. Here are six actions each of us can take to stand beneath the weight or our own actions and decisions.
- Make decisions as if you will be the one to explain those decisions to the people directly affected by them.
- Don’t blame policy and procedures for poor decisions. If policies and procedures render unhappy customers, work to fix them.
- When someone makes a mistake, give them the responsibility (and the ability) to fix it, then talk about what was learned in the process.
- Follow through with what you say you’re going to do. If plans change, explain why and how and what the new plan looks like.
- Keep your cool. Leaders who attack, yell, and throw fits create a fear-based culture. Fearful employees avoid taking ownership.
- Use the word “I” when thinking through how you will resolve a problem. “I am going to…” instead of “What they should do is…” or “Somebody needs to…”
At some point, ownership cannot be transferred, handed off, delegated or rolled over to the next department or teammate. If the challenge happens inside your company, it becomes your challenge to help resolve. Take initiative and own it.