Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Responsibility and Owning Your Job

I recently read a speech by Admiral Hyman Rickover, the Father of the Nuclear Navy, that he delivered at Columbia University in 1982. He was one of the most successful - and controversial - managers of the 20th century. He was big on providing clear purpose, emphasis on staff development, and a willingness to give them ownership. Admiral Rickover was definitely a management visionary. Trivia: Admiral Rickover and his team designed and built the first nuclear submarine in just 3 years.

This week I'd like to share the following few paragraphs from Admiral Rickover's Columbia speech:

"When doing a job - any job - one must feel like he owns it, and act as though he will be in the job forever. He must look after his work just as conscientiously, as though it were his own business or his own money. If he feels he is only a temporary custodian, or that the job is just a stepping stone to a higher position, his actions will not take into effect the long-term interests of the organization. His lack of commitment to the current job will be perceived by those who work for him, and they, likewise, will tend not to care. Too many spend their entire working lives looking for their next job. When one feels he owns his present job and acts that way, he need have no concern about his next job.

In accepting responsibility for a job, a person must get personally involved. Every manager has a personal responsibility not only to find problems but to correct them. This responsibility comes before all other obligations, before personal ambition or comfort.

A manager must instill in his people an attitude of personal responsibility for seeing a job accomplished. Unfortunately, this seems to be declining, particularly in large organizations were responsibility is broadly distributed. To complaints of job poorly done, one often hears the excuse, 'I am not responsible.' I believe that is literally correct. The man who takes such a stand in fact is not responsible; he is irresponsible. While he may not be legally liable, or the work may not have been specifically assigned to him, no one involved in a job can divest himself of responsibility for its successful completion."

There is no substitute for hard work and determination. Take responsibility. Do these things, as the leader, and staff will follow your "lead".

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