I've learned a lot on my path to CEO.
Yet the most important thing I've learned along the way isn't a tactic or a system or a trick. It's a way of thinking. It's a principle. This singular approach to business has transformed the way I approach my role as CEO. Truth be told, it's a life principle. I look for it in people I hire and teach it to people who work for me. I've come to believe it is a foundational prerequisite for success.
And here it is for you.
As CEO, I own everything in my company. I own every failure. Every misstep. Every delay and every shortcoming. I own each and every client that isn't spinning with glee about our platform or service. I don't know how to write a single line of code, but I still own the effectiveness of each and every line. If any employee isn't carrying his or her weight, it's on me. If someone doesn't understand his or her role, it's my responsibility. If someone feels undervalued, I've failed them.
Ownership. Complete and total ownership.
Now, don't get me wrong; this is not some sideways tactic to take credit for our successes. Quite the opposite. That credit goes to the team. Every time.
I just own all the stuff that isn't yet perfect. And I've come to believe that this simple way of thinking is the key to running a successful company. I'd also say it's the key to navigating a successful career.
Before doing this CEO thing, I was chairman of the board for a different company. Things were going OK, not great but OK. During a board meeting, the then CEO had to deliver some not-so-good results, as all CEOs do from time to time. As it turned out, one specific area of the company was seriously underperforming. This had been an area of focus for the last several meetings. The CEO proceeded to flay his manager. Threw him straight under the bus.
I knew at that moment I needed a new CEO. I huddled with him after the meeting.
"We've talked about this for the last several meetings. Why has there been no progress?"
"I KNOW! My guy just hasn't come through. Can you believe it?"
"But it was your job to fix it. If he's the wrong guy, get a new guy in. If he needs more work, spend more time with him. If you need different systems or approaches in this area, make it happen. But you can't just tell me it's his fault. Is that what you're doing?"
Silence. He knew. I knew. He was done.
Of course, you don't have to be a CEO to practice ownership. But if you want that title one day, there is not a muscle that needs more building than your I-own-everything muscle. Even if you have no CXX aspirations, taking complete ownership of your domain is a rare and coveted approach to being a pro.
Here's your quick guide.
Own your stuff.
One easy way to think about this concept is to think of its opposite. If you're to take complete ownership of your world, what should you not do? That's an easy one. Do not simply blame anything or anyone for missing an objective, coming up short, or failing outright. Swallow them whole. Competition is all over you? Get better at competing. Your people aren't performing? Equip them with more or better training. Your product is short? Find prospects who will value what you have on the truck. Capturing everything within your circle of control gives you the power to influence the solution.
At times, owning the solution to a squirrelly problem can be tough, but you are capable of more than you think you are. Get solutions-focused. As you flex this muscle, it simply gets bigger. The more you influence, the greater the span of things you can influence or solve. Simply do not accept the "It's not my problem" mentality. It's a trap.
Taking complete and total ownership of your sphere is a simple concept that is surprisingly hard to adopt. Simple, not easy. There are so many things outside your control that can affect your world. In an imperfect world, this might be viewed as an imperfect solution. But it's not meant to be perfect. It's meant to be effective. Start small. This is a muscle you can build.
Own. Your. Stuff. Everything. Take it all. Especially the misses. Your reward will be a larger sphere to influence. And perhaps the biggest get--massive respect. And if you want it, a framework of operations that sets you on a path for more.
You are capable of more than you think you are.