4 Reasons People Take Ownership That are Easy to Identify

“I’m concerned this one is going to fail,” my predecessor said. He set me up for success, except for one looming project. I was stepping into a new leadership role.

I sweat bullets over that first public event.

My boss’s boss showed up when things kicked off. I think he wanted confirmation they’d hired the right person. All my projects weren’t successful, but thankfully he was smiling at this one.

Image of small child that looks curious.

People take ownership for their reasons, not yours.

Reasons to own it:

I took ownership because I cared for myself. Failure reflected on me. I needed to prove something.

Failure is painful to owners.

We find a way to get it done when we own it. We identify with the results when we own it. Success or failure reflects on us when we own it.

People take ownership for their reasons, not yours.

4 reasons people take ownership:

#1. Success is defined.

A person who takes ownership has a clear picture of success. You won’t go all-in until you know what winning looks like.

Ambiguity dilutes passion and limits ownership.

#2. The path forward is clear.

You might not see every step, but you need to see the next steps before you take ownership.

Discuss next steps when giving ownership.  

#3. Responsible failure isn’t punished.

Your response to someone’s failure determines their willingness to own the next project. When you punish responsible failure, you teach people that taking ownership isn’t worth it.

Lousy managers figure out who to blame. Really lousy managers choose scapegoats before projects begin.

When something goes wrong, an owner says, “I made a mistake.” Owners aren’t blamers.

Say, “Next time,” in the face of responsible failure.

#4. Success matters.

Sometimes people don’t take ownership because it doesn’t matter to them. You don’t wash a rental car.

People take ownership because they care.

What might leaders do to elevate ownership on their teams?