Without this mindset you won’t climb the career ladder
Taking complete ownership of your outcomes by holding no one but yourself responsible for them is the most powerful thing you can do to drive your success - Garry W. Keller
This week, I once again reflected on my professional development. I asked myself “Did I progress?”, “What helped me to progress?”, and “What prevented me to progress?”. Thereby, I came to the conclusion that my progress was mainly due to my end-to-end (E2E) ownership mindset.
Ownership is when we assume that taking action isn’t someone else’s responsibility but ours and that we’re accountable for the quality and timing of an outcome, even when we're working with others.
In this context, E2E implies assuming ownership from identifying a situation requiring action and drawing conclusions on its significance to tackling it and making sure the situation is handled.
In today’s article, I will write about what assuming E2E ownership looks like, why it's a prerequisite for fast career development, and what you can do to adopt this mindset, too.
Assuming E2E ownership makes you care. You continuously look for situations requiring attention and make sure they are handled
What executives look for in their managers and successors are people who (A) solve problems and (B) are great leaders
Showcasing E2E ownership is one of few factors that make you fulfill these criteria and hence accelerate your career
What would I do if I were the owner of the company? - By answering this question and thinking through a situation, you better sense whether it requires attention and what you could do
If that doesn’t help as you cannot imagine what the CEO/ owner would do, you could try to view the situation from the perspective of your manager’s managers as their work is closer to you
A great exercise to put that into practice is to think about the potential next 3 steps before and after every meeting you have
What does E2E ownership look like
Essentially, E2E ownership comes down to 3 aspects:
(1) You proactively assume responsibility for issues or opportunities.
(2) You think through those and potential outcomes. Thereby, you contemplate at least 3 next steps.
(3) You ensure the issue/ opportunity is taken care of and necessary actions are taken.
Here is an example:
Imagine you work in the logistics department of a fashion retail company, e.g. H&M. Let’s say you're in inbound logistics and responsible for the coordination of good intake. Your company lacks transparency over its overall logistics flows, particularly due to the increase in the e-commerce business, which requires smaller and faster shipments.
Usually, you wouldn’t care. It’s an issue that neither directly affects you and your work nor is acute. Assuming E2E ownership, though, makes you care. You continuously look for situations requiring attention and make sure they are handled.
In this example, you could proactively estimate the business impact of the increase in the e-commerce business. Once you have a rough estimate and can conclude that’s an issue worth handling, you could devise an approach on how to handle it and what it will take. Then, you could talk to your manager and, even in case of resistance, ensure the issue is handled.
Fast career development
What executives look for in their managers and successors are people who (A) solve problems and (B) are great leaders. Showcasing E2E ownership is one of the few factors that make you fulfill these criteria and hence accelerate your career. The following 3 reasons explain why.
First, E2E ownership is the prerequisite for being a leader. Even though it’s only the CxOs that must assume E2E ownership, taking a “low-level” managing position requires assuming ownership, too. And the higher you climb the career ladder, the greater is the amount of required ownership.
The thing is that you often won’t be promoted unless you’ve already showcased the necessary skills of the designated position. Therefore, to become a candidate considered for managing/ higher positions, you have to showcase ownership to the desired degree.
Second, the earlier you practice taking (E2E) ownership, the faster you’ll learn and the lower the stakes. As in lower positions you’re not required to assume (E2E) ownership, mistakes and failing, in general, have less severe consequences. Hence, the earlier in your career you start to practice this skill, the better.
Third, those who take ownership and are granted the responsibility to tackle an issue, have (more) control over their work and hence a higher degree of freedom. This will allow you to do more of the work you like and are good at, making you solve problems better.
Adopt an E2E ownership mindset
What would I do if I were the owner of the company? - By answering this question and thinking through a situation, you better sense whether it requires attention and what you could do.
If that doesn’t help as you cannot imagine what the CEO/ owner would do, you could try to view the situation from the perspective of your manager’s managers as their work is closer to you.
Yet, it’s key to not view the situation from your manager’s or your own perspective since that won’t yield the desired results.
Adopting an (E2E) ownership mindset though takes a lot of practice. It’s not that you just remind yourself to view a situation from a certain perspective and you’re suddenly able to be E2E responsible, but rather it takes practice, a conscious effort, and stamina. Your managers might put down your effort to take more responsibility. You might not know what to do next. Or you might don’t have the energy to take more responsibility.
Yet, that’s what (E2E) ownership takes. There are no excuses. Leaders have to get things done. And if you want to climb the leadership ladder, you have to learn how you can showcase (E2E) in every situation.
A great exercise to put that into practicece is to think about the potential next 3 steps before and after every meeting you have.
Here is an example: A 2-hour workshop on a market analysis is coming up. In the workshop, you will discuss insights gained through customer interviews and potential implications for your product portfolio. Potential next steps could be to (A) prepare and conduct a follow-up workshop to refine the analyses and make decisions based on them (B) distribute the insights gained in the organization by synthesizing them and sharing them with the relevant teams (C) conduct further interviews to validate new hypotheses coming up in the workshop. You propose these next steps at the end of the meeting. Once agreed upon them, you ensure every next step is performed and follow-up actions are defined.