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Greenspring Advisors Core Value #2: Own Your Stuff

Joshua P. Itzoe, CFP®, AIF®

Welcome to my fourth in a series of seven blog posts about the importance of culture, core purpose and core values at Greenspring Advisors.

In my first post, I shared the significance of culture at our firm and how our Core Purpose and Core Values form its cornerstone. In my second post, I discussed our Core Purpose which is why we exist and what we stand for at Greenspring Advisors. In my third post, I wrote about our first (and most important) Core Value which is to “Love Your Neighbor”. It means to think about others before yourself.

As a reminder, our Core Values are principles that define our company’s personality and life at the heart of our identity. They also provide clarity to our team about and how we expect everyone to act.

This week I am going to cover our second Core Value which is to “Own Your Stuff”. In a nutshell, this means taking responsibility for your actions. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

Owning your stuff requires you to be accountable for whatever you do. When you screw up, you take ownership of your actions, you deal with the consequences and you don’t make excuses. Sometimes you hurt other people and when you do you say things like “I’m sorry” and “please forgive me”. Nobody’s perfect and we don’t expect our people to never make mistakes. Sometimes things happen and when they do, we expect everyone to take responsibility and not “pass the buck”.

Periodically, we fall short of the expectations of our clients, our business partners and even our colleagues have for us. When it happens it’s disappointing and even embarrassing. It’s a humbling thing to have to apologize and ask for forgiveness. But there is also strength in character when you mess up and own it. I’ve always found that people tend to be very forgiving and understanding when someone is accountable for their actions.

I’m the father of four kids under 11 and one of the things my wife and I constantly try to do is to teach and encourage our kids to tell the truth. Like most parents, we make sure they understand that being proactive is always going to yield far better consequences for them than lying or hiding things from us.

What I’ve learned over the years is that how we respond when they’ve kept their end of the bargain determines how likely they are to do so in the future. If we “blow up” on them for doing what we’ve asked them to do (i.e., be proactive and tell the truth) they are going to be less likely to come forward in the future. Alternatively, when we take a more measured and understanding approach with them, it makes them more likely to open up in the future. In each case, the environment we’ve created, and how we respond, conditions how they will handle similar situations that occur down the road.

Similarly, part of fostering this Core Value at Greenspring Advisors means doing all we can to create a safe environment for our people to take responsibility. It means encouraging people to come forth when mistakes happen and responding with a measure of grace and understanding when they do. Between the character of our people and the environment that exist means there tends to be very little finger-pointing at Greenspring Advisors and lots of ownership. I’m proud of that.

Owning your stuff also means being dependable and someone that can be counted on to get the job done. If you make promises, you do everything in your power to keep them. Our other founder, Pat Collins, is fond of quoting Ben Franklin who observed that “Well done is better than well said.” He’s right. In our industry, pretty much everyone talks a good game. But saying all the right things is the easy part. Doing the right things, and doing them consistently over time, is much more difficult.

One of the things I admire most about my teammates at Greenspring Advisors is that they are consummate “doers”. And because our people embody the mindset of “Love Your Neighbor” we know we can count on each other to get the job done. This gives us confidence when we are making promises to people who are depending on us. And it also sets a high standard for each of us to make sure we follow thru when we say we are going to do something. It’s the positive aspect of accountability which pushes us to do our best and deliver.

Thanks for sticking with me so far! Next week, I’ll discuss our third Core Value which is “Have A Bias Toward Action”.