10 Ways to Create a Sense of Ownership
“Act like you own the place,” is a silly slogan when people are treated like expendable cogs in machines.
Hypocritical leaders expect people to act like owners while being treated like employees. Everyone knows its sleazy manipulation.
Employees don’t take ownership when they are treated like employees.
Owners run the place.
Compliance is easier and simpler than dealing with people who feel a sense of ownership. Leaders who emphasize control want compliance.
Ownership declines where people feel controlled.
Where taking ownership prevails:
- Organizational mission feels right. Compelling mission drives organizations where taking ownership rises above sleazy manipulation. But, where mission is obscure, people just go through the motions.
- Information flows freely. It’s unethical to keep information from owners. Organizations that reject transparency hide inequities.
- People do what they love and love what they do. How can you get people doing more of what they love?
- People feel valued. Cogs in a machine feel used. People who feel valued, value the organization. Forcing people into conformity destroys ownership.
- People feel powerful. Ask, On a scale of 1 to 10, how much control do you feel over your work? How much control should you feel? How can we more fully align those numbers?
- Goals are agreements not declarations.
- Equity prevails. Perks, favoritism, and tolerating freeloaders undermines a sense of ownership. Why should anyone be an owner when others take advantage of the system?
- Drifters are eliminated. Tolerating drifters makes others question their commitment. Why should they act like an owner when dead weight is ignored?
- Bureaucracy goes down. Standards go up.
- Accountability flows up and down the organizational chart.
Bonus: Those who act in isolation or with disregard for others, lose the rights of ownership.
How can leaders create a sense of ownership within organizations?
Owners can practice what they preach, therefore, do not have 2 sets of rules where the “special” owners do not have to follow the official rules for that organization. Leaders who want to create a sense of ownership must band together with other leaders with the same ambitions. They then have to find the leaders demoralizing and skirting the rules … shine the light on them … expose their selfish needs. Shame unscrupulous leaders/owners … it is not time for mercy since these leaders already know how to work the system and take advantage of people’s “benefit of the doubt” mindsets. If these unscrupulous leaders/owners cannot wise up … get rid of them for the well being of your organization.
Thanks Michael. Your comment reminds me that an important aspect to finding good is removing bad. Teams and organizations rise when bad is eliminate. Cheers
For me the last point relating to Accountability holds the key to unlocking a 100 to 300% improvement in performance.
One of the biggest bottlenecks to inculcate ownership attitude in employees within organisatiions is the Accountability agreements which only flow one way i.e. from top to down but never the other way. Owners and Top management selectively use Accountability agreement to punish people but are not willing to accept their part of the agreement.
I am left wondering what needs to be done to change the above mindset.
Thanks Shakti. Organizations where there is distance and inequity between managers, leaders, and employees de-moralize those who are left on the fringes. Ownership requires a sense of equality even withing divergent roles and various levels of responsibility and compensation.
Great list. It revealed something new to me. I am a firm believer in people behaving as stewards of their organization. However, no matter how committed a person may be to stewardship and altruistic behavior, when someone is manipulated they will naturally question whether they are wasting years of their lives trying to contribute to a cause they no longer believe in, or contributing actively to a cause while others tear it down.
Thanks for your actionable list.
Thanks Marc. It’s a pleasure to be useful to you and your leadership journey. Best wishes.
Great topic and post today, Dan. I just lived through a scenario almost exactly like this over the past several years. The CEO held regular “management” meetings, where no real or transparent information was shared – all while rewarding and/or allowing dead weight, showing favoritism and granting perks. If anyone dared to point out the obvious, they would be branded as “not being on the bus”. He forfeited his ownership long ago in many people’s eyes.
Giving people a stake in their environment and future through listening and transparent leadership provides True Ownership.
Thanks Chris. “Give people a stake in their environment…” Bingo! At the same time, expect all parties to take responsibility and deliver results. We can’t make exceptions for “special” people.
Leaders can create a sense of ownership by empowering and delegating. There is perception that top management own the organisation, and lower level employees do not have any roles. In case of meeting objectives, similar perceived difference emerge. Top management think their job is to set goal and units have to achieve it. Unit people think it as compulsion. They work hard to achieve it since their job is connected. They do not do this with passion. Passion will come only when there will be feeling of collective responsibility.
When employees feel that they are empowered to take decision and to say in decision making process, they will feel ownership.
So, management need to create feeling among employees that they are important. More autonomy, enthusiastic reward mechanism and equity in practice can create feeling of ownership. When employee do not get justice and fairness, they will definitely disconnect with the organisation. Though he or she keeps coming to duty since he or she has no other choice, but sooner he or she get better opportunity, he or she will leave the system.
I appreciate your point that “ownership declines where people feel controlled”. Creating of environment based on ownership is top down approach. It is the management who has to create feeling of respect, autonomy, fairness among employees.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. It is interesting that creating an environment of ownership is, at the heart, the leadership/management teams responsibility. Front line people may want to take ownership. But, upper management determines just how far ownership goes.
You remind me that no one is empowered until someone loses power.
Thanks to all for such amazing discussion and topic I really appreciate that, as far as I have seen in my personal career most of the leaders and managers are confused, they do their jobs and cover their responsibilities but they don’t know what really needs to be done, they should realize what leadership is and what is management in practice, we all know that Leadership is the essential resource for creating and sustaining organizations, communities, and societies and management is to manage the internal and external environment of the organization, this is the same which we apply at home, father is a good leader and he knows how to manage the things around his family. So this was like a simple example, coming to the ideal point of the topic, as it said by one of you that creating an environment of ownership is, at the heart, the leadership/management team’s responsibility. Front line people may want to take ownership. But, upper management determines just how far ownership goes. I do agree with this, but unfortunately there are some empowered that they do not want to lose their power and always are looking to be on the top. The best leader is to make the opportunity to individual where they can progress and having the ability to contribute for the achievements of goals, so what I say that
The exceptional leader is always thinking three steps ahead. Working to master his/her own environment with the goal of avoiding problems before they arise. As a leader, one must listen…a lot! You must be willing to work to understand the needs and desires of others. A good leader asks many questions, considers all options, and leads in the right direction, treating others with respect will ultimately earn respect and he/she should be sure of themselves with humble intentions. They should know that excitement is contagious. When a leader is motivated and excited about the cause people will be more inclined to follow. A leader will take into account all points of view and will be willing to change a policy, program, cultural tradition that is out-dated, or no longer beneficial to the group as a whole.
Great list Dan.
This line got me thinking-
“People feel valued. Cogs in a machine feel used. People who feel valued, value the organization. Forcing people into conformity destroys ownership.”
So true and so important.
The best organizations make room for each individual to develop and contribute his/her individuality, unique perspectives and full humanity.
A sense of ownership ( or full employee engagement) seems to flow quite naturally from organic rather than mechanized view of leadership and organization. Great leaders it would seem, are like gardeners. They recognize and cultivate each unique seed of potential in the organization with appreciation- even love, encouragement, guidance- some pruning here and there, space- a healthy amount of autonomy, and the necessary resources to thrive.
And they recognize and eliminate the weeds.
Thanks for sharing!
Have a great day!
Thanks Lori. I get the sense that creating ownership cannot be contrived or manipulated. It must be organic. That makes perfect sense to me. Glad you stopped in.
Great article, Dan. I really appreciate it. Hit home to what I need to do as a leader in a ministry organization. You didn’t make a distinction between owners and management as Mr. Gupta did. Is there a difference between leaders and management or are we all leaders in our own right? Shouldn’t we all take steps to create the feelings of respect, etc. among us all? Would you comment on this idea below, please?
The comment I didn’t understand that Mr. Gupta made was: Creating of environment based on ownership is top down approach. It is the management who has to create feeling of respect, autonomy, fairness among employees.
Thanks again everyone.
As always, Dan, a thought-provoking way to start my day. In my mind, ownership is not something that can be delegated. For the most part, it belongs to the person who created it or bought it. One can have a sense of ownership, of course, because one might be in charge of a project or a department where there is accountability for the results.
I don’t think a compelling mission is enough to impart a sense of ownership to employees unless the employees participated in the process to create the mission statement and that statement is revisited regularly. Equally important, though, are the shared values which should also be a routine discussion. We take ownership of those activities that align with our values, which drives commitment.
Good stuff, Dan.
Good morning Dan;
Any employer who ‘does not’ treat thier employees as well, or better than they do thier customers,, probably won’t have customers for long. Management must commit to a continuos effort of finding new ways to empower employees while giving them a real sence of ownership in the organization.
It starts with getting to know your people while allowing them to get to know you. In doing so you’ll discover skills and talents that can lift your organization to new heights. Identify opportunities to praise positive attitudes, (they’re contagious you know). Celebrate victories, performance, and exceptional efforts, even small milestones. “Everybody appreciates a pat on the back”. Include lower level employees in steering committees and discussion groups and empower them with dicision making authority. And quite possibly the most important thing to do is, “keep the lines of communication open, WIDE OPEN”! The more informed your workforce the better they are at effectly expedititing more efficiantly without hesitation. Promote and advance those who ‘Get the job done’. Nepotism, promoting or hiring unworthy candidates, is a sure way to distroy all your positive efforts aimed at employee morale and detroy the feeling of team cohesiveness. Eventually, bottom line revenue will likely take a negative turn. Which should come as no surprise, you’ve alienated your most reliable trustworthy performers. Instead, promote those with a track record of inspiring others by thier work ethic, morale values, and charcter befitting a Leader. “NOW your company is heading in the rite direction”…
Gota get back to work my friend. Just wanted tho share a few thoughts.
So true regarding transforming conversations Paul. “Thanks”!
Love this Dan! I really resonate with how mission, vision, and values are the foundation to any GREAT organization. The more leaders effectively tell stories around these three foundational points and live it out on a daily basis, the culture is transformed and aligned!
Paul// Leadership Blogger, http://www.paulsohn.org
I think a great quote by James B. Stockdale fits this post where he said, “Great leaders gain authority by giving it away.”
As leaders, it seems that some of us get so scared of giving up ownership to those we lead. How are we going to empower those we mentor if we never give them the chance to shine? Inevitably, we then get stressed out and overloaded ourselves because we can’t give up control.
Trust becomes a huge factor in this. You’ve got to slowly relinquish control and trust those that you are leading. If you’re truly leading them well, then your organization will run like a well oiled machine. Knowing the individuals and what they can handle will help with this. Not just knowing what they’re talented at, but what makes them tick, what encourages them, how much they can handle, etc. It’s a tough job but in the end you’ll have a team that’s behind you no matter what happens.
Really getting to know your people. Now ‘THATS” where it’s at!
Control and compliance are two biggest hurdle in creating the sense of belonging. generally, when the management is not able to build up the sense of ownership among the employees. they resort to the last tool of control, compliance and follow the rule method. On many occasion, I have observed that when the management feels that the situation is not under their control than they decide to impose the brutal force of strict compliance, without understanding the prevailing sense in the organisation, this act of theirs instead of bringing people closer to the organisation, drift them away. Transparency in the dealing with the people is one tool which can automatically bring the sense of ownership, attachment and belonging. An organisation which is culturally strong and away from prejudiced and bias automatically create the sense of ownership and that is without any force or compliance.
Good observation. Transparency automatically creates sense of ownership. Adhering to rules is a good concept, but when it becomes force and selective compliance then differences are tend to arise. Selectivity brings into prejudiced intention and it again demotivate people.
“Drifters are eliminated. Tolerating drifters makes others question their commitment.”
Love that line.
Thanks Colin. A good word feels good. Best