Jason Foodman is an Entrepreneur, Board Member & CEO. Foodman is the Strategic Advisor for Leaf.page.
Four words almost every business owner hates to hear from an employee: “It’s not my job.” When an employee says this simple phrase, it is a sure sign that a certain culture and expectation has failed to be established within the workplace.
Each task a business needs completed has to be done by somebody, so what environment would incline an employee to have this feeling of detachment from the overall business goals? What can a leader do to quell these bothersome tendencies and create a sense of pride and ownership among an entire organization?
More Kitchens, More Cooks
When starting a brand-new business, the owner naturally feels a very personal and direct sense of ownership. After all, at this stage, the new owner is typically responsible for every facet of the company, large and small. Success and failure ride solely on the owner’s shoulders; every job is their job.
However, as the business expands and more investors and employees are added, that original sense of ownership among each participant is often diluted. This is not how every business evolves, but it’s not at all uncommon, either.
Companies implement various measures, such as stock-option plans to try to create and instill a sense of ownership, but it takes more than a piece of paper or complex financial incentive to do so. Furthermore, smaller company employees are often working solely for a salary or hourly pay and have no ownership in the business. The lack of participation in the outcome results in a lack of ownership sense from the employees.
Consider what the phrase “it’s not my job” implies: The reason the employee is unwilling to do the work is that it does not fall under their specific “job description” at that time. It’s not a lack of time or ability; it’s a lack of teamwork and desire.
This mentality is a sign that the employee feels they have no sense of ownership whatsoever within the company and, thus, no responsibility and no reason to act outside the specific parameters of their role. While an employee may lack a literal financial investment in the company, they should have a personal one—their job rides on the company’s success, and hopefully, the company’s growth and success will result in greater rewards for their work.
So how does a leader create that sense of responsibility? Here are the five key factors that help develop a sense of ownership among your workforce.
1. Vision: Everyone should be aligned on a company vision. It’s easy to say, easy to write and easy to put on a slide or in an email. It’s not so easy to make others see the vision with the same clarity and feel the same amount of passion around it as the company leader. Do so by making the vision something very concise and very specific. An ideal vision is one that every participant easily grasps and understands their part in.
2. Empowerment: Each employee is given some amount of responsibility, and with that responsibility should come a commensurate amount of authority. You hired that person because you believed in them, at least for that role, so give them the authority to represent the company in the capacity of that role and to make decisions within the scope of that role. Showing that trust will not only create a sense of ownership but also require less management and thereby make the company more efficient.
3. Acknowledgement: When employees are doing something well, tell them. When their efforts garner praise from inside or outside the company, shine the light on them. Reward their efforts monetarily and with opportunities for growth and career progression. Further, well-intentioned failures should be embraced as learning, growth and improvement opportunities.
4. Transparency: Aim for maximum transparency, shielding only highly confidential and private information such as personnel records. In terms of the core functions of the company—for example, sales, marketing, operations and customer service—every member of the company should be able to see the discussions happening. Modern-day group collaboration tools enable this, allowing for open discussions and effort. That level of transparency creates a feeling of ownership and helps keep everyone in sync, so embrace it.
5. Leading By Example And Being Heavily Involved: A leader sets the standard for how their subordinates will act, whether they want to or not. So the leader should be as involved with the company’s activities as any other employee. The leader needs to be working at least as hard as any other employee and just as involved in the work they delegate. For example, to instill a sense of importance in taking care of customers, the leader needs to take a hands-on approach to taking care of customers.
It Is Our Job
Using the techniques above, you can create and enhance a sense of ownership throughout a team. There are huge benefits to having this mentality exist throughout an organization; employee satisfaction goes up and customers get better products and services. Simply put, it’s worth the effort to create and cultivate an environment where everyone is emotionally vested in the success of the company and every job is everyone’s job.
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