When I am stuck in traffic in Seattle, which happens more frequently than I’d like, it’s easy for me to experience frustration with “the way things are.”
Sitting in traffic is a huge challenge. It’s unproductive and wasteful and very stressful. While I can dream about a world in which I could drive everywhere at the posted speed limit, that’s not the world I live in.
However, it is the world I’ve helped create. I live in the suburbs, and I own a car, I drive that car. I am traffic. I may prefer to think that traffic is someone else’s fault, but it’s just as much my fault as the guy in the BMW sitting next to me on Interstate 90.
To be fully self-aware of one’s contribution to and impact on the world around us is an essential part of making the leadership choice. I think of it as “total ownership,” which means that we’re not just actors on a stage, but we recognize that we are the real story.
In our Path Forward Leadership Workshop I will often challenge learners to walk into their place of business the next day and assign one of two definitions to everything they see – not just the physical nature of the building, but the energy of it, the way people are interacting with one another, whether or not the operation is safe, or efficient, or oriented toward quality. The two definitions are:
Now, if that seems a bit much to take on, you might want to practice with these definitions, assuming you see yourself as an essential part of the “we.”
So you’re sitting in that horrible weekly management meeting that everyone hates. Ask yourself, “how did I help create this meeting culture?” If you didn’t help create it, then ask, “why am I tolerating this lousy meeting?” Alternatively, “why are we tolerating this lousy meeting?”
There’s something that happens when you take this level of total ownership. Your life may get more complicated, but you will be more active and more willing to challenge the status quo. If you see it, it’s yours.