Ownership fosters authenticity, builds productive awareness, and reinforces trust in relationships; but, as a leader, if you want your employees to take ownership in their jobs and work for the organization the way they’d work for themselves, you must work on cultivating a culture of autonomy.
Often, employees don’t make decisions or take ownership of work because they’re not quite sure if they should. They feel like they need to check in with you — or they’re afraid of making a decision with which you won’t agree – or afraid of making a mistake. Some might have reached a stage of complacency where they just stay safely below the radar but do a mediocre job.
If you want to develop the value of ownership in your team then it’s time to take action as a leader as your leadership determines their direction.
To kick-start the process, we have come up with the following twelve ways of encouraging people to work on the value of ownership:
Share Your Vision.
Help employees feel part of something bigger than them. Communicate your mission and vision to them o en, and ask for their continual input so that they see what you see and are committed to working toward that result.
Involve Employees in Goal Setting and Planning Activities.
Seek out their ideas, knowledge, and insights, and invite them to help make important decisions. At the very least, let them see your process for making difficult decisions.
Explain The Why.
Don’t just tell someone what to do without making absolutely certain they also understand why that task needs to be completed and why you’ve selected that individual for the job. Give the job context in the bigger picture of your operation.
Let Them Choose the How.
Whenever possible, let your employees decide how to achieve the task you’ve assigned. Agree upon what constitutes a successful outcome, and then let them chart their own course. is builds ownership in the process and they might figure out a method for getting the job done that is superior to the one you would have assigned. If that happens, call attention to it. If they choose a poor methodology, don’t jump in and scold them, but rather ask questions that enable them to see better options.
Stop The Blame Game.
When you feel the impulse to blame someone or something, pause. Take a couple deep breaths and zoom out to cultivate objectivity. Ask yourself: What would an unbiased third party say about the situation? How would you characterize your role in creating this situation? See the complete picture - which includes any mistakes you may have made. Put your ego aside, take ownership for your leadership and model the way with your words and actions.
Trust Them Before You Have To.
Eventually, you’ll have to trust them, but sometimes it’s worth the risk to trust them before that point to make a decision or step into a role that pushed them to the limit. Your trust in them will give them confidence, and that confidence is crucial to their personal development.
Encourage Them to Solve Their Own Problems.
Listen to their problems but don’t give the answer immediately. Instead, ask probing questions that will lead them to determine the right answer. When they get it, compliment them and tell them they they don’t need to ask you about similar situations; that you have faith in them to figure it out. Don’t abandon them, but prove that you trust their judgment.
Hold Them Accountable.
Remember that employer trust and employee autonomy is a two-way street. Holding employees accountable for their work and for meeting established goals and deadlines motivates them to achieve better results. Demand their best effort and if it is shortcoming, hold them accountable.
Provide Constructive Feedback.
Regardless of the results, let them know how they’re doing, and give them the coaching and mentorship that they need to improve. Although they might not always ask for it, they require your feedback to further develop their knowledge and skills.
Take away the Fear Element
A lot of people resist owning up to making honest mistakes because they are afraid of being seen as inefficient and the fear of failing gets in the way of the value of ownership. Create a culture where mistakes become opportunities for learning. Explain to your staff that making a mistake isn’t bad, it just means you’re human.
Acknowledge Them on the Spot for Stepping Up.
A few seconds of genuine one-on-one acknowledgement and recognition can go a long way toward reinforcing an employee’s willingness to step up and stand tall. Show you appreciate their above-and-beyond commitment with a reward that matches the result. Often times, the best reward is additional trust and an added level of responsibility.
Delegation is more than just assigning projects— it’s about clearly communicating where the decision-making power lies and allowing your team to hold themselves accountable for their results and act as leaders. Give employees a leadership role in some of the meetings they attend to encourage ownership. Leadership skills develop over time, and require practice.
Taking ownership is not always easy, but the good news is that like most skills the more it is practiced, the easier it becomes. And once your employees develop a culture of ownership they will reap the benefits by improving the way they feel about themselves, each other and towards you as a leader. It then becomes a win-win solution for all.