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4 signs you’re the master of your domain

September 24, 2011 - Professional Development, Project Management

top of the mountainWorking regularly with Leadership Development Program candidates at our organization, I’m privy to feedback given to them in small team meetings.  One particular piece of feedback is given frequently and stands out to me:

“Own your assignment.”  Own x or y.  Own the project.  Own it.

Danger! Danger! Vague feedback alert! “Own your assignment,” “Own your work,” “Own your project” could mean different things to different people.  What exactly does it mean to “own” work assignments?

I decided to take a stab at translation.  If someone wants to be the master of their domain at work, these four critical behaviors need to be habits:

1. Prioritize and focus

No one can do everything they’re asked to do at work.  If we made everything a priority, we’d never catch up even if we worked 24 hours a day.  It’s important to identify work priorities, and be deliberate about it.  It’s easy to make the latest request a priority, or the squeaky wheel a priority, or the latest fire drill a priority.  But in doing so, you aren’t making your own decisions about what’s truly important to focus on, and your focus will probably jump from fire to fire throughout the week.  The last thing you do Friday afternoon, or the first thing you do Monday morning should be to make a prioritized list of work for the upcoming week.  Priorities may still change throughout the week, but they should be deliberately changed by you.  In order to deliver results, focus is required, and focus can only be achieved through establishing priorities.

2. Be detailed in your plans

When you’re planning your work, be painfully execution focused.  Rolling out a process change?  Get your details down to the hour in your communications plan.  Running a pilot for new software?  Be so explicit in your expectations of the pilot members that they couldn’t fake ignorance if they tried.  Tasks, dates, people, and dependencies — understand down to the day what needs to be done, when, and by whom so you know at any moment the status of the work you’re accountable for.

3. Bring solutions, not problems

I know this one’s kind of cliché, but it’s still incredibly relevant.  If anything ever needs to be escalated to your boss for resolution, bring two or three options to him/her (don’t forget to include the option you don’t agree with!) and make your recommendation on the solution.  Running into an issue in your project?  Don’t just put the problem in your status report.  Indicate the challenge and the steps you’re taking to resolve it.  Don’t let a problem become a brick wall.  Immediately go into solution mode, and get the help you need to jump over that hurdle.

4. Don’t ignore gaps

ignoringThis one’s probably the hardest of all.  Are you ever sitting in a team meeting, listening to upcoming objectives in the plans, and get a feeling in your gut that screams, “Uh-oh… what about [this thing] they aren’t thinking of?”  Or perhaps there are synergies between your objectives and someone else’s objectives, and they aren’t aware?  Yes, I’m going to say it… It’s time to speak up.

This one’s the hardest because it probably means more work on your plate.  Making sure activities are integrated between projects isn’t easy.  Speaking up about a gap in a team meeting may potentially get the resolution assigned to you.  But it’s your duty as Domain Master to say so, and prioritize the work as always.  “Owning” an initiative means not only owning the work, but also owning the gaps and their resolution.

What does “owning a project” mean to you?

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