Overcoming the Danger of Taking Ownership

Don’t touch my things!

Ownership is dangerous when others are ruled out. “It’s mine! Don’t touch my things!” Individual owners do things themselves. That’s good unless it become exclusive, protective, and short-sighted.

Individual contributors:

The trouble with individual contributors is they create patterns and processes others don’t embrace or duplicate. They hoard expertise and knowledge. Some can’t share the spotlight; others don’t know how. Some refuse to invest in others.

Individual ownership is powerful. But, ownership is a dead-end, unless teams and partnerships are included and developed.

Individual contributors are essential;
team builders exponential.

Alone is ok; “with” someone is better. Leaders create “withs”.

Create ownership continuum:

Continuity, sustainability, knowledge transfer, and longevity are leadership’s responsibility. Take the long view rather than the easy out.

  1. Train everyone to replace themselves. If they can’t teach others to do what they do, they need to go. Move training from theory to practice with new opportunities.
  2. Provide job shadowing opportunities at least once a month. “Follow me around for an hour or two.”
  3. Engage in job rotation. At given intervals, every three years for example, people’s job should change in measurable ways. Mastery becomes lethargy without new challenges.
  4. Leverage leaving. When someone leaves your organization, don’t simply replace them. Change the position. Reassign responsibilities.

Caveat: It may not be feasible to rotate highly specialized, highly technical people. Do it everywhere possible.


Employee security includes sameness. “Don’t mess with my job.” On the other hand, disruption challenges, freshens, and invigorates.

What are the pros and cons of working toward ownership continuum?

How might you implement ownership continuum in your organization?

Where are these ideas unrealistic?