Those who follow the part of themselves that is great will become great.
Those that follow the part that is small will become small.
—Mencius (372-289 BCE) Confucian philosopher
The people you work with will tend to divide themselves into two categories: owners and victims.
Owners are people who take full responsibility for their happiness, and victims are always lost in their unfortunate stories.
Victims blame others, victims blame circumstance, and victims are hard to deal with.
Owners own their own morale. They own their response to any situation.Victims blame the situation.
At a recent seminar, somebody approached me during the break.
Let’s call her Cindy.
“I have a lot of victims working for me,” Cindy said. “It’s a part of our culture today,” I answered.
“Yeah, I know, but how can I get them to recognize their victim tendencies so that they become owners?”
I get this questions a lot by the way. When people see the difference between the ownership mindset and the victim mindset, the first question always is “How do I chance the Victims?”
I said to Cindy: “Don’t try to change them. People don’t want to be changed. We resist that. Instead, you can acknowledge their ownership actions. Try acknowledging them when they are proactive and self-responsible.”
“Okay. What are the best techniques to use with each type of person?” Cindy asked. “I mean, I have both. I have owners, too. Do you treat them differently?”
“With the owners in your life, you don’t need techniques. Just appreciate them. And With the victims, be patient. Hear their feelings out empathetically.
You can empathize with their feelings without buying in to their victim’s viewpoint. Show them the other view. Live it for them. They will see with their own eyes that it gets better results. The worst thing we can do for victims is buy in to their stories about themselves and about the world.”
“Can’t I just have you come in to give them a seminar in Ownership?” Cindy asked.
“Sure, the absolutely makes a huge difference, but in the end, you would still have to lead them there every day. You need to “create” what ownership looks like every single day. What’s really important here is that you have to figure your own ways to lead them there. Design ways that incorporate your own personality and style into it.
There is no magic prescription. There is only commitment. Do it in your way, what’s true and works for you.
People who are committed to having a team of self-responsible, creative, upbeat people will get exactly that. Leaders whose commitment isn’t there won’t get it. The three basic things you can do are:
1. Reward ownership wherever you see it.
2. Be an owner yourself.
3. Take full responsibility for your staff’s morale and performance.”
Cindy looked concerned. I could tell he still wasn’t buying everything.
“What’s troubling you?” I asked.
“Don’t be offended.”
“Of course not.”
“How do I turn around a victim without me appearing to be that annoying ‘positive thinker ?”
“You don’t have to come off as an annoying positive thinker to be a true leader. Just be realistic, honest, and upbeat. Focus on opportunities and possibilities.
Focus on the true and realistic upside. Don’t gossip or run down other people.
There is no reliable trick that always works, but in my experience, when you are a really strong example of ownership, and you clearly acknowledge it and reward it and notice it in other people (especially in meetings, where victims can hear you doing it), it gets harder and harder for people to play victim in that setting.
Remember that being a victim is essentially a manipulation.
You don’t have to pretend that it’s a valid point of view intellectually, because it is not.”
“Okay, I see. That sounds doable,” Cindy said. “But there’s one employee I’m thinking about. He started out great for a few months, but now he seems so lost and feels betrayed. That’s his demeanor, anyway. How do I instill a sense of ownership in him?”
“You really can’t ‘instill’ it,” I said. “Not directly.
Ownership, by its nature, is grown by the owner of the ownership.
But you can encourage it, and nourish it when you see it. You can nurture it and reward it. You can even celebrate it. If you do all those things, it will appear. Like a flower in your garden. You don’t make the flower grow, but if you do certain things, water it, nurture it and it will appear.”
Cindy started watering the flowers the next day.
She also saw where she was not Owning parts of her own life.
Cindy is now doing much, much better.
Have a great week and water the flowers!