Own Your Job: Take Responsibility and Be More Accountable in Your Job

Amy Maybury  |  May 6, 2023
last updated

Own Your Job-Take Responsibility and Be More Accountable in Your Job An employee who wants to keep their job shows up to work, but one that excels takes ownership of their work.

What does it really mean to take ownership, though? For starters, it’s about doing more than your job description. Developing your ownership mindset will help you reach your career goals and even excel beyond them.

The good news is that we’ve compiled five ways to develop your sense of ownership of your job.

Five Ways to Own Your Job, Improve Your Success, and Develop Strong Job Security.

  1. Taking Initiative in Your Job Will Increase Productivity and Create Opportunities for Career Advancement.
  2. Anticipating Problems Before They Arise Can Help You Proactively Support Your Team and the Organization.
  3. Establishing Clear Goals for Yourself and Regularly Assessing Your Progress Improves Performance in Less Time.
  4. Communicate Effectively to Improve Collaboration and Teamwork.
  5. Taking Advantage of Training and Development Programs Will Help You Grow In Your Role.

Keep reading to learn more about how taking ownership for your job will create your best work!

1) Taking Initiative in Your Job Will Increase Productivity and Create Opportunities for Career Advancement.

Taking Initiative in Your Job Will Increase Productivity and Create Opportunities for Career Advancement When it comes to getting ahead, you’re the only one who can get you there. You have the opportunity to clear your own path, but you have to take the initiative.

While taking the initiative in a new role may seem like a risk, consider that doing the opposite is even more risky. If you don’t take any initiative, then you’re allowing others to shape your path for you:

Never take the position that things just happen to you; rather, they happen because of something you did or did not do.” – Grant Cardone

Let’s look at the case of Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. She’s the first woman to lead one of the US’s biggest automakers and an excellent example of those who take ownership of their careers.

At the age of 18, Barra joined the company and studied at the General Motors Institute. Her initial role was simply to inspect hoods and fenders. The money she earned from that role, however, was put toward covering the cost of her education.

As her experience and understanding of automobiles grew, she was naturally given greater responsibility. At first, she was earning positions in engineering and administration. That eventually turned into a managerial position of the Detroit Assembly plant. In 2008, she worked her way up to becoming Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering. A year later, she became the VP of Global Human Resources and held that position for two years. After that, she became the VP of Global Product Development. And finally, in 2014, she took over as CEO.

Mary Barra’s story is the classic tale of starting at the bottom and working your way to the position of a business leader. If she hadn’t taken initiative in every single role, she wouldn’t have been entrusted with the responsibility required to become CEO.

How to Start Taking Initiative and Advance Into Better Positions.

Be proactive: Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do! Identify what needs to be done and start doing it. Little things can be addressed right away, but larger tasks will take more planning. Creating a plan for those larger tasks is a big step in taking ownership of the job.

Take on additional responsibilities: Don’t shy away from developing your sense of responsibility. As your role expands, new responsibilities will emerge. Taking them on without fear is the ultimate way to take ownership of your role.

Look for ways to improve processes: When you look for ways to improve processes, it shows that you’re looking at the bigger picture. If you only ever see yourself as a cog in the machine, you’ll never be able to steer that machine for yourself. Analyzing the big picture and identifying areas of improvement is key in taking ownership of your role.

Develop a growth mindset: The fixed mindset says that things stay the way they are. The growth mindset, on the other hand, means that you take challenges as opportunities to change and develop. Accepting the growth mindset will prove that you can overcome and adapt to new challenges as they roll in.

Expand your network: Networking is a way to open yourself to opportunities for growth. You help others with your expertise, and others help you with their expertise. Make it a habit to expand your network to coworkers, other professionals on social media, or even family members and friends. “Who you know” makes all the difference in finding the perfect opportunity to help you advance in your career.

2) Anticipating Problems Before They Arise Can Help You Proactively Support Your Team and the Organization.

Anticipating Problems Before They Arise Can Help You Proactively Support Your Team Be proactive instead of reactive. Reactive people wait for problems to occur. Unfortunately, that means a problem will have to occur for this person to become the hero. Proactive leaders, on the other hand, think differently. They use their experience and resources to anticipate challenges before they occur.

Our failures can be our greatest learning opportunities. Think about the last time you used the memory of a prior failure to help you prepare for a better outcome. Here are a few examples from our personal lives:

Did any of these trigger a painful memory of a mistake you’ve once made?

We make all sorts of preparations in our lives to prevent repeating mistakes. Likewise, the same should be done in the workplace.

Pierre Wack was a French businessman who developed an entire business concept around this, and it’s called scenario planning. He worked for the Royal Dutch Shell company (or simply “Shell” as we know it today) in the 1970s and helped the company navigate the oil crisis.

Rather than try to predict a single outcome, Wack’s approach of scenario planning was to come up with multiple plausible futures. With a range of possible outcomes in mind, you can come up with a much more effective strategy for dealing with problems.

While being reactive instead of proactive is one issue, it’s another to neglect a potential issue entirely. If you recognize a potential issue but think, “That’s not my problem to deal with,” then you’re doing a disservice to yourself and working against the company’s best interest. Don’t wait for someone else to find the problem! The fact is, your unique perspective might be the only one that picked up on the issue in the first place.

How to Anticipate Problems and Save Your Team From Disaster.

Understand your team’s workflow: Without a clear understanding of your team’s workflow, you won’t be able to spot inefficiencies and bottlenecks. And even if you know the workflow forward and backward, take the time to reach out to the team members involved to identify pain points or issues.

Identify potential risks: A proper risk assessment can uncover any issues that may arise. To make sure you’re looking in the right place, check with your seniors at the company to find out what the past challenges were and how (or if) they were resolved. When new projects come in, take the reins in identifying the possible risks.

Develop contingency plans: After identifying some credible risks, make some contingency plans to outline different ways the team can take action. Make sure that everyone on the team knows the plan and that they’re updated regularly.

Foster open communication: Encourage open communication within your team to ensure everyone feels that they’re allowed to share information. If there are fears about honest communication, you may be missing out on valuable information that can help you anticipate future problems.

Stay up to date: Keeping up with the latest industry trends and news can help you develop an extreme sense of accountability. Likewise, networking with those in similar roles outside of your organization can uncover common pitfalls in your industry.

3) Own Your Job by Establishing Clear Goals for Yourself and Regularly Assessing Your Progress.

Establish Clear Goals for Yourself Regularly assessing your progress in your job function is essential. It ensures that you are meeting your goals and contributing to the success of your organization.

Not only that, but a clear set of goals creates a roadmap for you or your organization’s development. The power behind setting goals is simply stated by Earl Nightingale, American radio speaker and author:

People with goals succeed because they know where they are going.” — Earl Nightingale

A goal is simply a way to get you to where you want to be. But to take it one step further, we also want to consider assessing your goals. Goal setting and assessment is like target practice with a bow and arrow:

If your goal is to shoot an arrow at a target, that’s easy enough—just point it at the target and fire away! In order for your goal to have real power, however, you need to get specific and assess it over time.

Let’s make that goal more meaningful by shooting an arrow right in the bullseye of the target. Unless you’re an expert already, hitting the bullseye isn’t going to happen the first time. You have to take your best shot, assess how close the arrow is to the target, and then try again. As you use each shot to inform yourself of how to improve the next shot, you’ll eventually hit the target.

Soon, your goal will change from “hitting the bullseye” to “How many times can I hit the bullseye in a day?”

Create professional goals for yourself with the same approach and you’ll make a huge impact in your professional development.

How to Create Goals That Boost Your Performance.

Define clear, specific goals: You’ve likely heard of SMART goals: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely. A goal that isn’t SMART is like “I want to shoot arrows at this target.” A SMART goal is “I want to hit the bullseye by next week.”

Break down goals into smaller tasks: Chances are that your goals are much more complicated than hitting a bullseye with an arrow. Large goals are complex and will take many steps to achieve. It’s a good idea to break complex goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. Then it’s just a matter of checking off the boxes, and that in itself will help you develop the habit of a strong work ethic.

Set deadlines: Even though we understand the importance of deadlines, it’s all too easy to neglect setting them. But the simple truth is that setting deadlines will establish the pace of how quickly you can achieve your goals. Set deadlines that are realistic and achievable, and you can use them to light the fire for your motivation (especially if you get a rush from seeing an approaching deadline!).

Regularly assess your progress: Just like in the analogy of shooting arrows at a target, the most important thing is to make adjustments to your aim. Even if you’re hitting the target 90% of the time, you don’t want to forget that your main goal is to hit the center of the target. Check in with your goal regularly to ensure that you are striving for excellence and not just satisfactory results.

Celebrate your successes: No matter how small your successes are, make sure to celebrate them along the way. Take time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and use that positive energy to fuel your continued progress.

4) Communicate Effectively to Improve Collaboration and Teamwork.

It’s well known that work runs more smoothly when teams collaborate together. The lesser known fact is that success of collaboration is not at the mercy of the personalities in your team. In other words, with the right approach, you can take responsibility to pave the way for clear communication. And we don’t just mean by being a better speaker. In fact, most of the communication comes from being a better listener.

Let’s take a story from our own offices here at The Leaders Institute. When the company first began, instructors were busy following up with leads and running events. New hires were too busy to really get to know each other. We thought the solution was to have them meet every week for lunch, but as that became repetitive, communication started to stagnate.

Instead, we took the approach of running team meetings with specific agendas. Before the meeting, team members were prepared to speak on a given subject. The result was more natural communication between team members.

So what happened that improved the situation? The fact is that you can’t just put people into a room and tell them to start talking about work. Putting people on the spot like that will make them freeze up, and it results in the manager doing all of the talking.

Instead, take responsibility by facilitating the discussion. Have your team members speak on topics that they know and have experience on. As you bring out the best in everyone, they will find it much easier to talk with each other, and they’ll start to learn more about each other, as well.

Steps to Foster Communication That Leads to Better Collaboration.

Be clear and concise: Avoid jargon and technical language. Not only will you lose people, but they may not ask for clarification in fear of appearing ignorant. If you work with small teams that use jargon, remember that those outside your team will need you to talk on their terms.

Practice active listening: The importance of active listening can’t be understated! It can easily be forgotten when discussions get heated. Make sure that every member of your team feels heard. If they don’t feel like they’re being listened to, they may be holding onto valuable information.

Practice empathy: A huge mistake is to make assumptions about what someone is thinking or experiencing. Instead, take time to learn what it’s like to be in their shoes. Not only will it give you insight into how their role functions and what their struggles might be, but it will also help in building trust.

Use the right communication channels: It’s easy to relegate everything to email and instant messaging when picking up the phone or walking over would be much better. Likewise, it’s just as easy to make every request into a Zoom call when it could’ve been a text message. Make sure you’re using the proper form of communication for the discussion at hand.

Create safe spaces for communication: Some people just won’t speak freely unless they feel they’re safe from backlash or judgment. Scheduled one-on-one’s, lunches, or even private phone calls can be very revealing when you allow someone to speak freely. Use your active listening skills and take turns speaking openly to create a dialogue based on trust.

5) Taking Advantage of Training and Development Programs Will Help You Grow In Your Role.

To really own your job, you have to realize that you will never know everything about it. The information that you rely on today is slowly becoming obsolete. What made you successful in the past will cause you to become yesterday’s news.

Employees know this, too. They’re now turning to their employers to give them the tools they need to stay afloat in this ever-changing world. In fact, it was reported that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in helping them learn.

Another good reason for taking advantage of training and employee development programs is illustrated in the example of the “white rhinoceros” exercise:

Ask your teams to draw a white rhinoceros. They’ll all draw something completely different. Then, show them a picture of a white rhinoceros and have them try the exercise again. Unsurprisingly, the results are similar and look a lot more like a white rhinoceros!

The point is that, in order for an organization to succeed, everyone has to have the same idea of what success looks like. By taking advantage of the training and development programs that your company offers, you are buying into the same version of “success” that your company has envisioned for you.

How to Take Advantage Of Learning Opportunities to Grow in Your Role.

Identify your development needs: Identify areas for learning, whether it’s in technical skills, leadership skills, or industry-specific knowledge. Be honest with yourself or consider asking for feedback in your performance reviews.

Research training and development opportunities: If you’ve maxed out your LInkedIn Learning courses and need more, start doing the research into what your next steps are. Once you know exactly what you need to take you to the next level, request it from your company, whether it’s formal training, online courses, mentorship, coaching, or something else.

Make a plan: Just like setting goals, you should have a clear vision for your training. Set goals and deadlines for what you want to achieve, take the training required, and put it into action. From there, you can assess if your plan needs to be revised.

Communicate with your manager: Keep your manager informed of your professional and personal development plan so that you can stay aligned with the company’s needs. Not only that, but your manager might know of opportunities within the company that you weren’t aware of.

Apply what you learn: Make it a point to apply what you learn into your day-to-day work. As stated above, working with your manager can also help you figure out the best ways to apply your knowledge. For example, maybe a new project can be given to you with the specific purpose of testing what you’ve learned.

The Bottom Line is that Ownership of Your Job Matters.

Taking ownership of your work is more than just showing up to your job on time. It’s about setting goals and tracking your progress. To ensure that your role expands, don’t be afraid to take on new responsibilities and opportunities for development. Also, make sure to communicate with your team. The information you can get from colleagues is indispensable and can help you anticipate challenges. Put these five main ideas to use and the benefits of owning your job will soon follow.

Amy Maybury, Senior Instructor for The Leaders Institute
author Amy Maybury
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Amy Wilson Maybury has spent over ten years in business management before becoming a professional facilitator with The Leaders Institute ®. Her natural ability to relate to people on a deeper level, extreme attention to detail, and high level of energy make her an excellent candidate to deliver powerful performances with lasting memories. Amy’s clients rave about her relentless energy and how she can make any meeting fun!
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