Over the course of my career, I have had the great privilege of working for a wide range of bosses, from micro-managers to laissez-faire leaders, inspirational visionaries to practical nuts-and-bolts technicians. In every case I have taken away and absorbed some lesson or characteristic or way of being. In some of those cases, the lessons have been in the negative (“Don’t do that!”), but mostly what I have absorbed has been positive and life-affirming.
About a decade ago I got to work for my alter ego, Priscilla – a high-energy extrovert with sleek black hair, an air of undaunted confidence, and a penchant for rock climbing. She was everything I wasn’t, including an amazing door kicker-opener (being the head of sales, she kind of had to be).
While I have yet to rappel down a sheer rock face, Priscilla did give me one thing that I have grabbed onto and made my own. I like to call it “idea ownership.” Priscilla had a habit of popping into an office or showing up in a meeting with the pronouncement, “Here’s my idea.” There was a humble boldness about the declaration, owning the good, bad, and potentially ugly aspects of the idea, not pushing it off diplomatically as the result of a team effort or a committee decision.
Idea ownership embraces the reality that ideas don’t come out of committee. An idea comes from the inside of one person’s gray matter. A team can bat around that idea, assess it, enhance it, add it to someone else’s idea to create a fully-orbed solution. But a group does not have an idea. Individuals do. You do. I do.
And here’s the other thing: an idea is not a solution, but a starting point.
Priscilla knew these things and accepted them as fact. What she showed me is that by declaring, “Here’s my idea,” you make it okay for everyone else to have ideas and to get their ideas out there. That’s when it gets really interesting, when your idea and my idea start mingling.
I think it’s nice to know where those first ideas came from, even as they morph and change into something unexpected, something no one could have anticipated before all those ideas started playing together. Tag the DNA as “mine” and see where it goes.
What’s your idea?