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On Ownership and Responsibility
One of the most common complaints of business owners is their team not meeting expectations in terms of creativity or problem-solving. Another one is team members are not doing as asked to or agreed to. Most leaders want their employees to think like an owner, but unfortunately, it’s rarely the case.
Getting team members to think and act like owners isn’t just about asking them to. It’s actually promoting an environment of ownership. So many leaders, despite their best intentions, go on preventing that ownership from happening in practice.
You cannot be involved in every decision of your team if you want your business to scale. Promoting ownership is one of the best things you can do for the team to succeed. Here are the basics you need to put into place for employees to feel ownership of their work.
Your employees understand your team’s purpose.
What is your vision for the long term? What goals do you need to achieve in the next 3 to 6 months? If team members know the vision and goals, they’ll understand how their actions affect the team goals and will be able to make the right decisions.
Your employees understand your team’s values.
Strong values are a powerful guiding force for your company. They describe how employees are expected to behave and the culture you’re building together. They allow you to attract employees who embody those values, not just those who show a minimum level of competence.
Your employees know your team’s principles.
Principles give employees the guidelines for making decisions. They should be stated to provide team members the elements they need to make the day-to-day choices essential for your company’s success.
Your employees are allowed to make mistakes.
See mistakes as a teaching moment, both for you and the employee. Are there any processes you need to implement or modify so that an error isn’t repeated again? Does the employee need to get specific training or coaching that you aren’t providing them already? Do they feel psychologically safe to take risks?
Your employees have all the information they need to make decisions.
It’s a waste to hire intelligent people and not give them the information to make the right decisions. Suppose your employee is just as smart or preferably more intelligent than you. Why aren’t they coming up with similar or even better ideas than you would? Try to understand their interpretation of the situations and why their conclusions aren’t ideal.
Maybe they don’t see the same data as you do? Perhaps you aren’t explaining things as clearly as you think you are? The ideal would be to give employees fully transparent access to most/all business information. But if you aren’t ready for that amount of transparency, at least identify information gaps and close them.
You are setting the right example.
If you’re doing all the above and most of your team still aren’t acting like owners, also look at your own behavior. Are you effectively treating them like owners? Or are you questioning all their decisions or ideas? When you let go of your control, you’ll notice your team members will step up and be confident in taking ownership and responsibilities.