- Do the work I’m passionate about,
- Make a broader impact, and
- Have greater personal flexibility while doing it
While I’ve found all of those to be benefits, I was taken by surprise with a realization that I hadn’t expected!
You see, throughout my career, I had been consistently described as “committed”, “dedicated”, “driven”, “passionate” and “results-oriented”. I worked longer and harder than expected and believed I put my all into every role I had. I took great pride in going beyond the call-of-duty to exceed expectations and felt confident these characteristics would serve me well in my own business.
Of course, I was right about all that, but my assumptions failed to consider one major difference: Ownership
Although there were definite parallels between the skills and capabilities needed to be successful in my own business and those for a company, there was little comparison in the realities of ownership between the two. This new level of ownership was something I had never experienced in my career and I was surprised to see my already high standards increasing substantially.
It got me thinking — what was it about ownership that triggered the change in me? And turning that question around, what can leaders do to increase a sense of ownership in their employees and teams?
I identified 3 key areas:
1. Foster innovation and creativity
As a business owner, your ideas and plans become the sources of your offerings and income. Starting my firm, it suddenly felt like my brain had been released from bondage! I was surprised by the ideas that came flowing out and I quickly learned that I had the latitude to be creative in all parts of my business – after all, it was “my baby”.
People own and take pride in what they create. As leaders, fostering an environment where employees have creative latitude in their jobs and contribute to the design of their work is a key way to build a high sense of commitment and ownership to it.
2. Assign relevance and importance
A few months in, on a Friday afternoon, I was looking at my to-do list from the week. While I had completed a lot of the tactical items, I saw that I hadn’t spent enough time on the important and impactful ones. Then it hit me like never before – every minute of my time was important and vital to the success of my business. I now had to choose to use this time more wisely.
As leaders, we must help our employees – regardless of their roles — understand how important their efforts are to the success of the business. Studies show that people who feel valued at work, work better. And leaders who help prioritize time and streamline non-value added activities will score productivity points as well.
3. Link rewards to performance
As my plane took off for a week’s vacation recently, I had another stark revelation — No progress was going to be made in my business while I was gone. I had been busy building new clients and opportunities, but without me, they would not move forward and may even move backward!
As an employee, I had always done a good job of planning around my vacation – moving things up or back as needed – but now this same performance approach would directly link to a personal impact in my pocketbook!
Performance-based rewards are common in sales, but studies show the benefits extend to all roles. If executed well, personal incentives help focus employees, increase employee engagement, improve motivation and ensure retention. As leaders, the more we can effectively connect employee results to personal rewards, the more pride of ownership they will have.
In my business, my ownership provides me with the incentive to make it successful both personally and professionally. I know that I have the latitude to make it or break it and my performance reviews come without scheduling them. As you seek to achieve your business goals and inspire your employees, a good look at the sense of ownership in your organization will tell you a lot as well.
QUESTION: Do your employees have a sense of ownership for the business? What tools and techniques have you used to help foster this? Share your experiences & answers with me below, on Twitter, or LinkedIn.
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