Several years ago, I oversaw some annual events for the organization I worked for. Sometimes several dozen people would attend, sometimes a smaller number. But regardless of the number of attendees, there were innumerable details that had to be coordinated. And to handle all those details, I turned to Beth. I knew as soon as I handed the event off to Beth, it was as good as done, because she came back to me only if she had questions. She handled every single detail with perfect ease. She could run an intimate event, a small conference, or even a large convention. That’s because she took ownership of whatever she was asked to do.
I remember the many phone conversations with Beth. I would ask her, “What do we need to do about this?” And she would inevitably say, “Already taken care of.” While still on the call, I would think of something else and ask, “Have you been able to deal with that?” And again, she would say, “I’ve already got it covered.”
Beth led by taking ownership of her role. She understood what was expected of her, and she expanded her role by thinking through everything that was involved with her responsibilities. As a result, her job was done well, and the organization benefited as well.
By being willing to pitch in and do what is necessary, you will become invaluable to everyone around you. You do not have to wait for someone else’s permission to take ownership of your situation. Your boss wants you to take charge of your job. Here are three specific actions you can focus on in your workplace to take ownership of your role.
Building the ark was a daunting task for Noah. With only his three sons to help him (Genesis 6:10; 7:13), he built a boat that was approximately 450-500 feet long, 75-85 feet wide, and 45-50 feet tall. Using the tools available at the time, this feat could have taken him 120 years (Genesis 6:3). During those 120 years, Noah no doubt dealt with ridicule from his neighbors. The people around him would have thought it absurd that water might cover the whole earth. People likely laughed at the man building the big boat. Noah must have persevered with extraordinary dedication through the mocking and laughing to accomplish his task.
Noah had to prepare his mind to appreciate the significance of his work in order to complete it. The mindset you bring to your work significantly affects what you will get out of it. Kenman Wong and Scott Rae summarize this idea well in their book Business for the Common Good.
Our job may not feel like we are doing God‘s will, but how it feels to us and what it actually is may be two very different things. … Our work can well be our ministry [because ultimately we] all serve God full-time. … The term full-time ministry should be used to refer to one’s attitude toward service more than an arena of service. The term should describe an orientation toward serving God, rather than specific activities … that are deemed to be serving God.
Building a boat may not have seemed like a spiritual thing to do, but Noah’s dedication to that work honored God. Your dedication to your work—or your dedication to serving God through your work—is a spiritual decision you must make every day. You can choose to be dedicated to your work every day. Here are three things you can do each day to help you develop that dedication.
Many years ago I worked for a guy I’ll call Greg. Working with Greg was awkward. He badmouthed his boss in the office, but in public he spoke favorably about him. To outsiders, he seemed like a good team player, but those of us who worked for him knew otherwise. Then Greg got a promotion that gave him even greater autonomy. His role involved more travel and he had more opportunities to represent his boss and the organization. While he was competent at what he did, he still did not have a positive opinion of his boss.
One day, Greg’s opinions caught up to him. He was dismissed for disloyalty to his boss and to the organization. Despite getting caught, he did not express remorse over how he handled the situation. Instead he blamed his boss.
When Greg said disparaging things about his boss, it was less a statement about his boss and more a statement about himself. While he represented his boss he also represented himself, and what he said about his boss within the office reflected poorly on himself.
When you represent your boss, you also represent yourself. How you conduct yourself representing your employer says a lot about you. Perhaps you complain about your employer to others so that they will join you in complaining about their employers. At best, it drags you down to a lower level. At worst, it poisons your relationship with other people and damages your prospects at getting employed elsewhere.
It is up to you whether you change your attitude and choose to represent yourself and your employer in a way that honors both you and your company. No one can improve your attitude for you. You have to be the one who will decide to change your attitude.
Whether you deal directly with customers or not, you represent your employer to people in your sphere of influence. Here are three areas in which you should monitor your attitude to represent yourself and your organization well.
Many years ago I worked with a guy I’ll call Brian. He was a go-getter. He was pro-active and responsible, but he had an unpredictable side. Once, Brian heard about a job he thought I would like, and he let me know about it. I applied for the position and got the job. Soon after, a job opening was announced in a different division in my workplace, and I thought it might be a fit for Brian. At the same time, I had this gnawing concern that it might not work out because of Brian’s unpredictability. After debating back and forth with myself, I decided to tell Brian about the job—and recommend him for it—because he had told me about the job I currently had. I thought it was the right thing to do. But I still had that gnawing concern: Would he show respect to his boss?
Not surprisingly, Brian got the job. Being the go-getter he was, he was not used to sitting and watching the extensive number of training videos required for the job. Every time I talked to Brian he seemed antsy. He wanted to do something. He knew he could contribute to the organization, but he didn’t understand why his boss had him go through so much training that he deemed unnecessary.
One day Brian’s frustration hit a breaking point. He flew off the handle and said things to his boss that he shouldn’t have said. As a result, he was fired on the spot. His actions in response appeared threatening, so he ended up being physically escorted off the premises.
Brian was a good worker, but his lack of respect for his boss got him fired. Perhaps you can sympathize or even relate with Brian. Perhaps you’ve had the same thing happen to you. Regardless of how you feel about what happened to Brian, he still needed to show respect to his boss.
Like Brian, you must be willing to respect your boss, even if you think your boss is wrong. Here are three ways to show respect to your boss.
About twenty years ago, I tried to get a nonprofit off the ground. I launched a new initiative in my community to kick start it. I spent a lot of time on the phone recruiting sponsors for the event. And I communicated with a government agency to have a public official at the event. And I worked with various media to garner attention for the event—before social media. After all that work, I thought, “This was too much. I can’t do this again. It’s too hard.” I decided I couldn’t stick with it.
Several months later, I was talking to a nonprofit leader about that experience. When I told him that I abandoned the idea of starting up the organization, he was surprised. He said, “It took me three years to get this organization up and running. Why would you think it would take you less time than that? Why didn’t you stick with it?”
At the time I didn’t realize how long it took to start a nonprofit organization. I had unrealistic expectations about how quickly I could get it going. Once I quit, it would never be as easy to keep it going as it would have been, had I not quit. I had already had a successful event. I had already gotten the attention of media. And I already had a connection with a public official’s office. When I quit, all that work I had done was lost. And it would have been even harder to start after that.
Don’t quit too soon. It’s important to stick with it. Watch out for these three things that will make you want to quit—and here’s what you can do to overcome them.