Everyone Has Great Ideas
Ownership is key in making things happen.
How many times have you heard a great idea being discussed in a group. It happens many times over lunch, during coffee, at work or your volunteer organization. Everyone throws in their interpretation of the problem, the possible solutions and how much better things can be. The framework is coming together fast. Everyone is glowing and ideas are building up to this fantastic frenzy outcome. All the banter and brainstorming that develops puts everyone so close to a feasible solution. Later in the day, a few emails may go back and forth; even some text messages. Then, everything goes quiet. A day or two goes by. Nothing happens. The silence is deafening. The idea exchange mill has gone quiet for a week. Then several weeks pass. Nothing. You as observer realize what has happened. Is the project dead, long before it even started? So what really happened?
Sometimes people contribute their ideas in this exchange because they have seen this same problem. Everyone wants a solution put in place. It’s finding commonality with others. They enjoy sharing their opinions. Some contribute just to make noise and not be left out. They want to be part of the solution. They don’t know what will work or how they can contribute. But they want to be included and seen as a team player; a contributor. Then you, having experience, recognize this pattern as you have seen it several times before. So why does the momentum stop? Simply, because no one takes ownership. Not 1 person steps up to take ownership of the idea. So if no one owns it, then no one has an obligation to make it work. Everyone is safe and off the hook. No liability; no obligation; no need to expend effort on anyone’s part. Think of a boxing ring where your participants are seated (or standing) on all 4 sides outside of the ring contributing to a healthy discussion of the problem and possible solutions. But in truth, no one ever steps into the ring to take charge – call it “Taking Ownership“. It is as simple as formally announcing and saying, “Ok, I will lead this project, if I can have each of you contribute and support me”. Make it formal, clear and official. Say specifically that you will spearhead it, so everyone knows. You take ownership. Once this is done, everyone breathes a sigh of relief and relaxes a bit, knowing they are off the hook and safe, by not taking this lead role.
Why Does This Happen
Each person has their own reason for contributing to the silence and not taking ownership. One person may already have a full schedule and not want to take on any more projects. Another person may feel they lack the experience and the skill level to take ownership. One person is the type that just needs a push, an invitation or a personal request to take the lead and jump in. Others may feel they already did enough in past and its time for someone else to step in and lead this project. Some may not step in because they feel it will not contribute anything to their personal development and take them in the direction they want to go. Some are afraid of getting over their heads. Some may not be confident enough. Some may lack knowledge. Still others may feel more comfortable assisting someone, but not taking the lead role of ownership; of being the main driver that motivates everyone else to contribute based on their skillset and experience. Perhaps some feel uncomfortable with leading. The reasons can be many.
The truth is, the key to making things happen, is “Taking Ownership“. Until someone takes ownership, nothing may ever happen or proceed. The critical point to making things happen is “stepping in”. Someone has to take the lead; take charge; take on the leadership role – taking ownership. Taking ownership to begin formalizing and organizing is key to making things happen. But you, as seasoned problem solver and the “person of the world” really want to make this happen. So you take ownership. Having said that, you may notice that it doesn’t take much. You just announced you will take the lead and before you know it, someone may step forward to support you. So close but simply, they do NOT want to be seen as the leader and being in the spotlight. Taking ownership and stepping in as lead may be no more than accepting that role and begin formalizing by assigning group leads, much like a project manager. No matter how large a project, it really breaks down into an assembly of sub-projects, each broken down into smaller manageable chunks with its own leader who has taken ownership of their small part. Your role as overall leader is knowing how to motivate and mentor the sub-group leads and bring their yields together.
The Project Materializes And Succeeds
With you taking ownership, you now lead. But you don’t have to lead alone. You break the project up into several parts, as a minimum and parcel out to your sub-leads; people who you can assign to take ownership of the smaller chunks. You now become a mentor and some become your mentees. They may feel more comfortable with this arrangement, because they feel if there is a failure or shortfall, they will not take the full blame. It is a good way to not only distribute the workload but also the liability, if something were to go awry. It now becomes a team effort. By you taking ownership, you not only lead but you delegate to the others. The others who were afraid or felt they lacked the confidence, now have the opportunity to grow by watching the owner, you, who has stepped in to take ownership and drive the project. They have taken ownership of a smaller piece of the project; the part you just delegated to them. That is one of the many roles of a leader. By taking ownership, you have designated yourself as the leader. By you taking ownership, you give credit to your subordinates in their sub-lead roles for successes, but if there is fault, you take the blame and protect your sub-leads. Everyone wins; the project comes to fruition and is introduced into the world, thanks to YOU who stepped up and took ownership.