• Caleb Nel

OWNERSHIP - THE MOST VALUABLE QUALITY IN ANY EMPLOYEE

I love car rentals. Taking corners fast. Wheel spins. Not being concerned about climbing into the car with muddy shoes. All that good stuff. You see, rental cars provide an opportunity to use a car (sometimes to the max!) with very limited responsibility attached to it.


On the other hand, when it comes to my own car, my approach is very different. I am thoughtful about how fast I take the corners. I am thoughtful about the tread on my tires. I am thoughtful about how dirty my shoes are before I climb into the car. The reason for all this is because the responsibility of the car rests solely on me. If the car gets dirty, I must clean it. If it gets damaged, I must pay someone to repair it. I am ultimately the one who will pay for all maintenance when any part is worn out.


Think about this. The moment you return home after renting a car on your vacation or a business trip and then climb into your own car – that’s the moment a mind-shift takes place - and that mind-shift is called ‘ownership’.


I talk to business owners and leaders almost every day regarding what they want most from their employees and each time the same desire gets voiced in a myriad of different ways. “I want them to go the extra mile.”, “I want them to think about this scenario like I do.”, “I want them to work as hard as me.”, “I want them to do whatever it takes!” Universally, business owners and leaders find themselves leading and managing employees who do the bare minimum. Employees who don’t go above and beyond. Employees who don’t want to grow. Employees who don’t work with a sense of urgency and who don’t have a strong desire to follow through and finish a project/task to completion. These employees arrive at work on Monday morning with the same mindset that I have when I climb into a rental car. Limited responsibility.


And so, business leaders keep voicing the same question – “Why can’t my employees and leaders act/think /decide more like I do?” What the business owner is NOT saying is that he wants every person to adopt his/her style or personality. Instead, the desire is more foundational than that – the desire is for the owners mindset to prevail in the business – a mindset of ownership. It’s important to note ownership is possible throughout the business or team, without having to compromise on the key factors that make everyone unique (i.e., personalities, values & strengths). Ownership is not uniformity.


True ownership also has nothing to do with who holds the shares of a business or who finds themselves appointed as directors. Instead, ownership is the way an employee or team member acts, thinks, and behaves when no one else is looking. It has to do with their mindset and disposition toward their team and the overall business.


I believe ownership can change everything in your business and team. Why? Because ownership unleashes the possibility of growth and expansion. This means that the growth of your business does not bottleneck with you as the person on top of the organogram. Ownership breeds employee loyalty. Ownership unleashes employee innovation. Ownership allows for others to grow. Ownership unleashes leaders to focus on what only they can do. Ownership unleashes the full potential of your human resources. A culture of ownership can change your business and team.


At this point, I am sure you are wondering - how can I grow a culture of ownership in my team/business? How do I get my employees to shift their mindset away from just being an ‘employee’ to one of ownership? Well, here are 5 easy first steps:

  1. Ask your leaders and employees to think this way from this point forward. Use the language of the “ownership-mindset” in your meetings, in the hallway, on emails, in all communications. Make it part of your culture and make it the new standard for ‘the way we do things around here’.

  2. Start saying these simple words to those around you: “You decide”. Slowly start giving decision-making power back to your team members and coach them along the way. If you find that step to be too big then start with these words: “What would you do?”

  3. Provide real responsibility and opportunities for leaders and employees. Nothing accelerates ownership like positive pressure and a genuine sense of reliance on that person.

  4. Celebrate & encourage employees and leaders who adopt and practice the ownership mindset. The number one way to ensure that behavior is repeated is to publicly endorse that behavior. So publicly encourage and celebrate this behavior and mindset as often as possible.

  5. Reward everyone when one person in the team or business wins. The spirit of true ownership is that if one of us succeeds, then we all do. The responsibility is collective, and so the reward should be too. But for this to be well-received in your team and business, a vital ingredient must be present...trust.

You see, a culture and mindset of ownership can only be cultivated in soil that contains high levels of trust. Trust allows ownership to grow. Stay tuned for more on this topic in my next blog.

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