A collaborative team environment is essential for success, which means it's imperative to build a strong foundation of trust, honesty and confidence. How is this achieved? Taking ownership. It's a fundamental element that is vital for a healthy workplace.
People who take ownership are seen as problem solvers, and that benefits teams, companies as well as individual career paths. However, the definition of ownership may seem unclear to some. It can create challenges when an employee, manager or other leader isn't taking responsibility for both the bad and good results of their efforts.
Why wouldn't someone take ownership for their work and how can leadership foster an atmosphere that brings about ownership in the organization?
Locus of Control
Are you at the mercy of fate or do you believe you control the outcomes of your own situation? The way you answer this question determines your Locus of Control. The Locus of Control is the extent to which individuals believe they can control events affecting them.
Today, many people believe that their lives are controlled by outside forces rather than their own internal efforts. This is what's called an external Locus of Control. If a person believes that they are the victim of circumstance and not able to control the outcome, they are less likely to take ownership.
For example, how many times have you heard another employee say it's not their responsibility when asked to help a customer, and then ignore the issue causing the customer to become very frustrated? By refusing to take responsibility, the problem only gets worse. Now, let's put the shoe on the other foot. Do you like it when you call a customer support line, are transferred multiple times and have to stay on the phone for hours because the company you are calling didn't take the time to try to resolve your request? The answer is, no. You expect them to take ownership.
Focusing on Ownership
Taking ownership means you hold yourself responsible for your actions, as well as holding your peers and team accountable. Ownership also means not waiting for someone to tell you what to do, but instead, proactively finding the solution to resolve the problem or finish the task.
Below are four skills leaders can use when demonstrating to the team what ownership is about in the organization:
- Be Willing to Get in the Weeds. One of the best ways to instil ownership in your team is to lead by example. Pitch in when it's needed, lend a helping hand and make sure that the work you do is clearly understood by your team.
- Take Responsibility. Although you've delegated tasks, you have to take responsibility at all times. Your team must know you'll be there for them through the good and the bad times. That doesn't mean you excuse sloppiness or ignore poor work, but it does mean you take responsibility for the big picture and the actions of your team. Don't make excuses for your employee's failures. Take responsibility and then take action if you expect others to do the same.
- Know Your Team. You have to know your people. This doesn't mean you have to be best friends or even socialize after hours, but you do have to know what makes them tick. Their lives outside of work drive a great deal of their success, or lack thereof, at the office. The more you know about your people, the better you understand what could be causing them to fail or succeed at their jobs.
- Be a Follower. Great leaders are followers too. If you're a leader without following, you're simply a dictator. Being a leader-follower means finding value in your team, getting inspired by your team and encouraging your team to openly communicate. This is critical in empowering your employees to take control.
By developing an environment of ownership, you will help employees understand the importance of taking responsibility. Your people will learn to accept what they do well, but also what needs improvement. Not only will this encourage healthy self-esteem, but foster a willingness to learn from the good and the bad creating growth opportunities.