Archive for February, 2011

Coaching to Core Ideals – Are You An Owner or A Renter

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible, and 5) a Strategic Learner. See the Coaching to Core Ideals post to get a quick overview and context for the series. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.


  1. Makes tough decisions in a timely manner
  2. Talks straight and moves forward with feedback effectively and courageously
  3. Does the not make their problems anyone else’s, they own them and act accordingly

In coaching leaders; whether they own their own business, lead an organization, or a team of sales and account managers there is one constant. Successful leaders are experienced in embracing their problems as their own and enlisting others in their network to help them. It never works to blame the market place or the incompetent leaders below you on the organization chart. Who do you think they get their leadership from anyway? This is not just a leadership play to run, but a powerful way to be with life’s twists and turns. The experience of owning anything is entirely different than renting or leasing it. Yet we all experience when we default to not excepting the “deed” on problems we face. Why would we treat the things we work so hard to acquire or dedicate so much of our lives to like they have no value? Doesn’t make sense does it.

Here is a part of the answer. When we have a clear line of sight to what we want from our life and business it brings more clarity to how we approach solutions to our problems. Our point of view is oriented in a totally different way. I heard this perspective quickly and simply explained like the following…

Scenario #1 – You’re driving a rental as a loaner while your car is being fixed and you need something at Wal-Mart. It’s a quick stop and these are the nastiest parking lots with high traffic and lots of shopping carts. Do you park way back in the empty spaces or do you drive as close as you can and even squeeze it into tight spot?

Scenario-#2 – You have been saving for 5 years and just purchased the car of your dreams. It’s a vintage Corvette or a latest model of the luxury brand you only dreamed of owning some day. Everything you ever wanted in a vehicle is now at your fingertips. Hey, it could even be a minivan! Now where do you park this vehicle? Even when you are in a hurry?

Likely the answer to Scenario #1 is YES to squeezing it into a narrow spot up close. At minimum you really aren’t even concerned with where you park unless you are trying to get your 10,000 steps a day in. The answer to the second scenario is likely—somewhere way back in the open spaces away from the masses of parked cars. Or maybe not, because there are a lot of people that treat their cars just like they treat their problems—they are renting them!

The car example defines that ownership can carry with it a completely different perspective. Ownership is an experience that has accompanying levels of responsibility. It’s still a challenge to sufficiently explain the concept of owning our problems and then getting into action on solutions. Mostly it is challenging because it is an experience or a way of being. There are employees or retail partners that have problems and struggle in overcoming obstacles that will grow their business. In corporate settings they can often serve as a rich resource of scapegoats for business owners and leaders. It is much easier to tell a story why something isn’t working or the numbers aren’t adding up—than to say …”I’ll own this one, now let’s look at some solutions. What’s possible here?”

Let’s look at the two words that can often start out most sentences for those just “leasing a problem”. IF ONLY…

  • The marketing department had a better strategy.
  • Operations had their stuff together.
  • Leadership listened better to our customers.
  • The price was lower.
  • Our people could handle negotiations more effectively.
  • I could win the lottery!

What does it really mean to own your problems? When does a problem become my problem and not someone else’s? How do I own something I don’t even control? If you have a case of the “IF ONLY’S” you need to find the cure and quick before you become irrelevant as a leader. This isn’t a “big company” problem. Individuals and small business owners can get caught up in this as well even when their own net worth is at stake. The magic comes when you can turn the culture of a business into one that doesn’t mouth the words “act like an owner”—it is powerful when you experience leaders acting like owners. Shoulder it up and move on down the trail.

What’s the magic in this discipline? It’s taking initiative at its very root. When I can have my business filled with solution oriented people it is a great day as a leader! Most likely the employees and down stream leaders are supported to solve problems on their own. They also have the resources and moral support behind them to ask for help. Realistically you will always have to stay in the game on this concept of being disciplined. We drift. Overtime we mellow out like fine wine and turn back into a fine “whine”. It is understandable that you don’t control all the outcomes or circumstances. I have to coach leaders to stay drilled in on the things they can control and influence. Crap happens even to the best of us, but how we deal with that “crap” is about being responsible. Able to respond in a way that will optimize and not minimize. How we deal with crap is all about responsibility. Park your car where you want…it’s your choice. You will just have to fix the dents in your leadership later. I leave you with this thoughtif you have something be a problem then its your problem. You can decide what you will do about it and get after it or let it go. Get on it or get off of it and move on.

Next time—Ideal Leaders are ACCESSIBLE.  Where are you hiding out? Can my leader come out to play?

Bonus Read (read on if you like, I take a poke at corporate HR) —Have any of you ever evaluated an employee in a corporate setting on their pattern of behavior? I can bet one of those “desired” behaviors was listed as—“ Acts like an owner” most likely in the decision making category. A classic sub-description is—Takes responsibility and initiative to accomplish a given task”. This idea of getting employees to act like owners is missing the boat. In reality I’m an employee with an mid-year and annual review that has a manager that wants me to act like an owner. Now if I own a lot of stock in the company that I work for I just may feel more like an owner. The problem is this—I just don’t get treated like one most days. And in fact when you own stock all you really have is the right to vote at annual meetings and that has been automated. The answer lies in the conversation above. And the question is what do I really own?  These latest fads in Corporate HR efforts to find some magic words to manipulate the masses just don’t work.

If you are asking me, to join in the concerted efforts of making “stakeholders” and the CEO with his crew more money; that’s a rental car move (see story above). If you have outlined to me as my leader and manager what the employment transaction is and what you want from me in performance—I can make that connection. I can also then own my dreams and how that transaction with you will make those dreams come true. Plus, I’m watching you as my leader to learn just what owning my problems really is like…it’s an experience that helps me with my own career and portfolio of skills. If your people aren’t doing what you want them to it’s your fault not theirs.


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