Accountability in Action: Taking Ownership of the Situations You Encounter

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A company I’ve done work for provides a great example of this principle. This company’s employees are the people who close real estate transactions, the people who compile the mile-high stacks of documents that have to be signed by buyers and sellers at the closing table.

Several years ago, when interest rates went into a free for all, their business took off. That increase came from the thousands of homeowners who wanted to refinance their homes. During that “boom” the closers “didn’t have time” to maintain contact with their traditional sources of business, realtors.

And then the refinance craze was over. The pool of homeowners who were able and willing to refinance their homes dried up, and interest rates began climbing. I guess you could call this a situation the closers encountered. Some of them took ownership of that situation, and some didn’t.

Realizing that they could no longer rely on business coming to them, some closers began renewing their relationships with realtors. The ones who didn’t take ownership simply waited, wished and hoped for the real estate community to “come to their rescue”. The closers who took ownership of this situation still experienced dips in their business. But because of their timely, aggressive actions, those dips were relatively shallow and short-lived.

Here’s another way of describing this ownership principle:

Negative situations like setbacks and/or unexpected, unpleasant changes, provide excellent but difficult opportunities for leaders to model accountability and take ownership.

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Here are some suggestions for taking ownership of situations that you and your associates have encountered:

1. A situation does not have to be a crisis to justify your taking ownership. Remember, leaders don’t limit their attention to things that are “broke” and need to be “fixed”; they facilitate a Relentless Search for Better Ways

2. Identify 3-5 situations that you and your associates have encountered, ones that are either having some impact on your company or department’s requirements for success or could do so. Remember, they don’t have to be crises!

3. For each of those situations, complete the following steps:

  • Specifically define the situation
  • Describe the ways that the situation is impacting you, your associates and the requirements for your success, or the impacts it could have
  • Identify the people who are most impacted by this situation—or the ones who are contributing to that situation
  • List and define the benefits you would expect to derive from addressing the situation

4. Pick the situation you want to address and complete the following steps:

  • The things that must be done in order to effectively address the situation
  • The people whose efforts will be needed to do so

5. Invite those people to collaborate with you to create a plan for addressing that situation 

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