Want to make a difference? Try owning your job.

 “As much as possible, treat your job as if you own it.”

What a crazy idea! Surely my employer owned my job? They had created it, named it and paid for it. And so, there I was: Trying to fit in, to be like everyone I worked with, and to tick all the boxes. But the thought was tantalizing: What would I do differently if I “owned” my job … instead of my job owning me??

Most of us would have a general sense that we “own” our lives. We recognize that we make choices and live with the results, good or bad. We choose our friends, our partners, our careers, where we live, and a thousand other smaller things that shape us as individuals.

But owning our jobs is where many of us draw the line. The employment experience for most of us goes something like this: We’re given a job description, a boss to please, and a precedent to follow. We try to do the job as well as – or better than – the person who had it before us. It’s all neatly laid out for us, and we fall into the rhythm of our organization. If we do all of this very well, we’re recognized and rewarded. If we do it less well, we are stalled or worse……

Owning your job is a liberating way to breathe life, creativity, and fun (yes, fun) into the whole working experience. We’re taking our commitment to a new level, well beyond the words in the job description. And the fascinating thing is that it makes us more valuable to our employers. It’s what they really want from us, even though they may not know it.

Yes, of course, you need to know and meet the requirements of your job. But once you are confident that you’re doing that, you’ll have the opportunity to become a true job owner. And once you’ve done that you’ll never look back!

Here are some suggestions about how you can take ownership of your job:

  • Understand the business you’re working for:

    Understand the whole thing; not just your seat. Know the services, the org charts, who the key customers are, who the bosses are. Be curious; ask questions. Ask people in other areas to explain what they do. Get to the point where you could explain your business to anyone. Why this is important: If you understand the inner workings of your company you better understand decisions that are made. Those insights also allow you to build on other skills below.

 

  • Get to know your own stakeholders well:

    Know the people who depend on you and the people on whom you depend. Again, be curious. What are their challenges? What are their goals? What do they need? How can you help/support? How could you collaborate? Why this is important: If you know and understand the challenges of running a business then you with have greater insight into how to make it run better. Seeing a company from only one perspective doesn’t allow for a team view of the company. All employees are part of a team the works together to create a company that everyone can be proud to work in. Knowing the goals for the team creates a team focus on those goals. In the military, the objects are clearly laid out for the mission to allow for all soldiers to perform their responsibilities and achieve those goals. In your job, knowing the company goals allow you to understand your role in the greater picture.

 

  • Develop great people skills:

    Connecting well with others is half the battle at work, making owning your job much easier. With strong people skills, others will be drawn to you, will want to work with you. These skills can make a huge difference for the rest of your career, so it’s never too early to work on them. If your company offers training, take it up. Otherwise, everything can be found in an online course. We at Phoenix Coach will create courses as we are inspired to by professionals like you. What are some great people skills? Listening (don’t skip over that one; everyone needs to be a better listener), connecting (often called networking), clear communicating, empathy/care, authenticity (so it’s the real “you” connecting with others), and influence. Why is this important: Imagine that everyone is carrying a backpack of rocks on their back. Your primary responsibility in life is to remove one of those rocks from their backpack. It can be something as simple as positive reinforcement, doing a small task for someone when they don’t have the time or simply smiling. The more freely you do this action the happier you will be and the happier people around you will be. On the flip side when removing that proverbial rock do not place it in your backpack. This rock needs to be left on the ground and forgotten. Basic human kindness and listening skills create lifetime relationships. Another technique is to learn one interpersonal fact about every person you meet in your company and if possible, with your customers. You don’t need to remember their name but if you remember that their child plays baseball you have connected with that person. Find the things that connect us.

 

  • Have a point of view:

    Think about what could make your business more effective or more efficient. Think about how it could be achieved, and the steps that are needed. Do some research here; don’t just toss a one-liner into a Monday morning meeting where there’s a risk that it will be immediately forgotten. Write a paper on it (writing a paper will help you clarify and challenge your thinking) but keep the paper simple: no more than one or two pages. If you can’t distill your ideas into two pages, people are much less likely to pay attention. Why this is important: A key growth strategy of any growing business is continuous improvement. Find techniques and philosophies that improve the overall health of the company creates a better environment in the long run. Challenging each other for positive changes keeps the vigor in the company. It is the enemy of complacency which is a career and or company killer.

 

  • Check-in on purpose and values:

    As you do this work, check your heart to see if you feel aligned with the purpose and values of your company. If you don’t approve of gambling, don’t work at a casino! Find a workplace you can feel good about. We all care about money and opportunities but don’t take the big offer if you know you don’t belong there. Choose the company you work for with care. Do your homework; ask questions. If you find that you don’t feel aligned with your current employer, start looking for your own right path. Better to get on that path now than to wait for your midlife crisis. Why is this important: If your purpose and values align with those of the company you work for owning your job become a pleasure, not a chore. There are always going to be bad days but if the core of your companies’ values aligns with yours then those bad days will be absorbed by the entire team and the good days will be celebrated together as a team.

All of the actions above take courage. You’ll need to step outside the numbing comfort of what you know and what you’re told, and that can be scary. But the results of owning your job will reap great rewards. You’ll feel good about going to work, spending time with your connected colleagues, and making a difference. You’ll be more successful as others see the added value you are bringing. And you’ll know that you are living on purpose. You will be a mentor and an inspiration to others that understand the value of owning your job.