How To Create a Culture Of Ownership In Your Company

By Robin Stevens, Internal Operations Coach

Do you or your team members make excuses or take ownership?

Let’s face it, you may be the leader, but you can’t do it all. Creating a culture ownership in your business is so important. But how do you actually have the conversation with your team about stepping up and taking ownership? Do you have one-on-one conversations or address them as a team? This depends on the outcome you’re looking for and if it requires individual action or group action.

Either way, be sure the responsibilities and goals are clear and they understand what you are asking of them. Be sure they have what they need to complete these goals and that you have trained them properly. Helping them to understand that ownership is necessary, beneficial and that you will help them through the emotional process of taking that ownership.

Establish ownership as a common theme in your business. This begins with a common understanding of what ownership means. A good way to explain what ownership looks like is to explain the difference between “to,” “with,” and “for.”

Example: Attending a training session to learn a new skill.

The training is something that happens “to” you – when you can show up, sit uninterested and wait for the class to be over.

The training is something that happens “with” you – when you are engaged, participate and make an effort to learn with others and the trainer.

The training happens “for” you– when you ask that it be taught in a particular way or that it cover certain topics. Asking questions that direct the dialogue in a certain way, bringing up topics that might not be on the agenda, and preparing ahead of time to make the training your own are all examples of what ownership looks like.

Example: A conversation with a staff member regarding taking ownership of a daily task.

In this example the person receiving the feedback is a customer service representative. She does some of her daily tasks well, but let’s other tasks slip and then makes excuses.

The conversation might sound like this:

Manager: “Peggy, I think you are great on the phones with our clients and completely understand how to book service calls and dispatch technicians and that is a great benefit to the company. What I’m looking for in this next review process is that you take more ownership in the processing of paperwork and pre-night preparations.

Team Member: “Thanks. I appreciate the positive feedback. What do you mean by taking more ownership?”

Manager: “This is when you have a sense that the task is yours and when you feel 100% responsible for not just your part in its completion but for everybody’s part in its completion. It’s your task – you feel like you own it.”

Team member: “But what if I don’t own it? What if I only have control over part of the task and someone else has final decision-making authority? Won’t I step on people’s toes?”

Manager: “That’s probably the best question you can ask, Peggy. I’m telling everyone involved to take ownership for it. We’re going to have to work hard to not step on each other’s toes and not get in each other’s way, but I’d rather deal with that challenge than deal with a lack of ownership. If everyone takes ownership this task will always get completed and everyone benefits.”

Recognition feeds ownership

As the manager your greatest role in creating a culture of ownership is in reinforcement and recognition. Acknowledge your team members for their ownership and recognize them for the accomplishments. There is intrinsic pride is ownership when a job is done well. Publically recognize individuals and teams for their accomplishments and the impact on the business. Give credit where credit is due. By doing so your team will strive to take on more ownership.

Helping team members to take real ownership for things makes them happier, makes you happier, and makes the team work more effectively. It’s worth the time it takes and worth the effort you’ll put into it.


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