If you are like most people you want better results in some part of your personal life or business and you are not the only one with some effect on your success. Being part of a team makes it much easier to succeed. I have more support to tackle bigger missions. It's also much more difficult to prevent failure. Many issues and problems can fall through the gap between "me" and "us".
My second year of university was also my second season of ice-climbing. That winter, I went with another engineering student I met in my physics class to climb the large mass of ice up the Banff-Jasper highway called Weeping Wall.
We got up super early on a Sunday morning, drove for almost four hours through a white out on sketchy roads, got our boots on with frozen fingers, shouldered our packs and trudged up an unbroken trail in the deep snow to the base of the route. As Andrew and I geared up for the climb, we each dumped the contents of our bags in the snow and then looked at each other dumbfounded, "I thought you brought the rope."
Nobody died that day, because nobody climbed that day. We failed. The comedy of planning errors did not end in tragedy but easily could have. This was one of my earliest encounters with accountability. Fault, blame and excuses, though tempting, would not have solved the problem.
The fundamental building block of any mission is a leader and team.
A team is any group of two or more people with a mission. An organization is a network of such teams. "We" are always smarter and ultimately more capable than "me". I rarely accomplish anything really interesting by myself, unless it is a piece of artwork, and even then I create as part of a large community or curated influencers. Even though I am writing this post "by myself", it reflects a long-term collaborations with Phil Holcomb, "the coach".
So when do I speak for myself and when do I speak for my team?
While there may be an assigned manager of the team "sanctioned from above", any member can take the role of leader the moment they decide something needs to change. I use the singular, first-person possessive voice when I step into leadership mode: "I have a new vision, purpose, goal or strategy for this team". I am not in this moment speaking for the team: I am declaring my intention to change the mission. I am sharing what I want, what I think, what I have observed and what I feel. When I succeed in enrolling my compatriots into the change, I switch to what I'll call the third-person collective voice: "our success" at achieving "our mission". As the leader of a climbing team, I forgot to check if we had the rope and we failed to climb that day.
Both language and results betray intention.
In a partnership like yours and mine (writer and reader) there is me (the first person from my perspective), you (the second person) and us (the third person). We have a shared mission, whether we realize it or not: making a positive impact on the world. If that was not true you would not choose to keep reading my shit. Our relationship is like a third-entity. Partnerships, teams and organizations have individual members with individual aspirations and individual intentions and opinions. But the collective has a mind and body of its own with aspirations that are sometime at odds with the individuals. How we are together might be quite different that how I am by myself, for both the better or worse. When people come together, the things they create are synergistic reflections of the contributors but have their own culture and character (like two people procreating to make a baby, only they are cocreating to make a team). When we are working in concert I speak in the "we voice" and when I disagree with the group in the moment, I use "me voice". My individual contribution to our joint success requires I know who I am speaking for in any given moment. Switching my voice from "I" to "we" signals my shift between leading my team to a new place and supporting my team to accomplish our existing mission.
Ownership prevents things from falling through the cracks.