Build a cul­ture of own­er­ship at your company

CityPress - - Oppurtunity Index - JOEL BASGALL ca­reers@city­

Just about ev­ery business preaches about the ben­e­fits of build­ing a cul­ture of ac­count­abil­ity.

“Lead­ers need to be ac­count­able,” man­agers say. “Em­ploy­ees need to be ac­count­able. We must do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to en­sure ac­count­abil­ity at all lev­els of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.” They say it, but they’re wrong. Why? Most or­gan­i­sa­tions strive to build ac­count­abil­ity, but that kind of cul­ture ac­tu­ally cre­ates prob­lems in­stead of solv­ing them.

What ev­ery or­gan­i­sa­tion needs to build is a cul­ture of own­er­ship.

Ac­count­abil­ity vs own­er­ship

As I de­fine it, ac­count­abil­ity is some­thing as­signed or given. I can as­sign ac­count­abil­ity. I can in­struct an em­ployee to per­form a task or even ac­com­plish a goal.

But in ef­fect, I still own that task or goal. I tell the em­ployee what I want, I de­fine suc­cess and I cre­ate met­rics to mea­sure that suc­cess. That’s ac­count­abil­ity. The em­ployee takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for get­ting done what I want.

Own­er­ship isn’t as­signed or given. Own­er­ship is taken. I can’t ap­point own­er­ship. It hap­pens when an em­ployee comes for­ward and says: “I’m go­ing to make this hap­pen. Here’s what I will do. Here’s what I will ac­com­plish. And here’s how I will mea­sure progress.”

Own­er­ship makes say­ing “you will” un­nec­es­sary be­cause the em­ployee has al­ready said “I will.”

Peo­ple who take own­er­ship (be­cause again, own­er­ship is taken) nat­u­rally have the habit of ex­pos­ing prob­lems be­cause those is­sues get in the way of their suc­cess. They want to over­come prob­lems.

So they’ll raise is­sues, ad­mit short-term fail­ures and ask for help – all be­cause they want to suc­ceed.

Peo­ple given ac­count­abil­ity, on the other hand, tend to hide prob­lems. They tend not to raise is­sues. They tend not to ask for help.

Su­per­charg­ing a business

If you have just one or two em­ploy­ees and you love to mi­cro­man­age, you can get by with hir­ing peo­ple you will sim­ply hold ac­count­able.

But if you’re truly try­ing to scale your business for growth, mi­cro­manag­ing soon fails. There is sim­ply no way a chief can be in­volved in ev­ery task, process and decision.

If you foster a cul­ture of own­er­ship, you don’t need to be in­volved in ev­ery de­tail.

You can fo­cus your at­ten­tion else­where, se­cure in the knowl­edge that own­ers will al­ways come to you when they have prob­lems or need help.

Why? They’re driven by their own de­sire to suc­ceed.

Tak­ing the right di­rec­tion

Since lead­ing own­ers in­volves in­flu­enc­ing rather than di­rect­ing, ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion is the key. Say, for in­stance, the company leader doesn’t know the nuts and bolts of a par­tic­u­lar work func­tion, like mar­ket­ing, but he or she will def­i­nitely know the re­sults de­sired from the company’s mar­ket­ing ef­forts.

The con­ver­sa­tion is easy. The boss can say: “This is what I want. What do you need?” The mar­ket­ing team then comes up with its ideas, projects and met­rics. The leader then en­sures that the vi­sions are aligned.

If I do know the nuts and bolts of a par­tic­u­lar func­tion, I spend time with the per­son who will own it to share how I per­form such tasks, how I think about them and what I worry about. In that way, the em­ployee can take that func­tion and re­shape it within his or her vi­sion. Our vi­sions also then be­come aligned.

Em­ploy­ees in­volved have the free­dom to bring their thoughts and ideas to the project.

The way to hire

When you hire your first em­ploy­ees, you’re mak­ing a def­i­nite choice about the kind of company you will build be­cause your first em­ploy­ees of­ten grow into lead­er­ship po­si­tions.

If you hire peo­ple such that you have to as­sign ac­count­abil­ity, you build a company where lead­ers im­ple­ment their ideas by en­forc­ing pro­cesses and pro­ce­dures.

If you hire own­ers, you build a company where em­ploy­ees are en­gaged and sat­is­fied be­cause they thrive in a cul­ture of au­ton­omy and in­de­pen­dence.

Hire own­ers

Peo­ple care a lot more when some­thing is theirs: their idea, pro­cesses and re­spon­si­bil­ity.

They care the most when they feel they are de­pended on – and given the au­thor­ity – to make im­por­tant de­ci­sions and do what’s right.

Out­stand­ing lead­ers cre­ate broad stan­dards and guide­lines, then chal­lenge their em­ploy­ees by giv­ing them the au­ton­omy and in­de­pen­dence to work the way they work best.

They al­low em­ploy­ees to turn “yours” into “ours”, trans­form­ing work into an out­ward ex­pres­sion of each per­son’s unique skills, tal­ents and ex­pe­ri­ences.

That’s a chal­lenge ev­ery em­ployee wants to face – and one that great lead­ers in­stinc­tively pro­vide.

Hire own­ers and foster a cul­ture of own­er­ship. Not only is it the best way to grow and scale a company, it’s a lot more fun.

– En­tre­pre­

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