This article was originally published for Inc Magazine.
Over the years, I have had the honor of speaking with hundreds of business leaders in many industries through my podcast and my work with companies on rapid growth. Most recently, I interviewed CEOs from the 2017 Inc 5000 List about what it takes to motivate employees to take responsibility for achieving big-growth goals.
Great question, right? By the end of the fifth interview of the 50+ fast-growth leaders, a pattern began to emerge. The hyper-growth didn’t just want responsibility in their workforce. They wanted ownership within their culture.
Ownership is black or white. Ownership is yes or no. Ownership is the feeling of owning the results. When employees feel ownership for what they are doing, they go beyond just taking responsibility. They bring innovation to the job. They don’t turn off their brains at 5 o’clock.
Armed with that knowledge, my initial question morphed into this:
With big growth goals, how do you motivate employees to take OWNERSHIP of those goals?
Leaders told me to spark that sense of ownership, they tried the following six practices.
1. They create a one-of-a-kind brand
When leadership defines the brand as a unique player in the market, it sparks an inner drive to be part of something special. This creates ownership in the work everyone does. Commodity players in the market struggle making something one-of-a-kind.
2. They include people from all levels when crafting vision
Vision is usually defined at the highest levels of the company and communicated down. I have seen this as a roadblock for some companies when they don’t trust their employees to be part of the vision. Fast growing-companies include people from all levels of the company in crafting the vision and making big strategy changes. Those that participate in the vision will have more ownership.
3. They embrace radical transparency
To grow fast, you want to take every opportunity to enhance all parts of trust. If your leadership team has developed the habit of many closed-door meetings that never get communicated to the masses, it reduces the feelings of ownership. However, if you embrace radical transparency and openly share with everyone…it increases ownership. Fast-growth companies are willing to share everything that is legal to share with their teams to create radical transparency.
4. They empower others to take risks
Innovation can come from anyone. In fact, if you are a leader and you are the smartest person in the room, you have not created the kind of company that will weather the storms of change. But when you have processes in place to allow everyone to be heard and valued you increase ownership. When you allow others to take calculated risks, you also increase ownership. In your next meeting, ask your teams “where they failed this week?” to see how you measure on creating a culture of innovation.
5. They understand employees’ personal goals
I see some companies that have company goals and team goals. We talk about these goals in nearly every meeting. I rarely see leaders that take the time to listen to the personal goals of the people under their watch. Leaders that want to inspire ownership are great at understanding the personal goals of each person. They also have a keen sense of understanding how the personal goals align with the company and team goals. Shared goals are the easiest of the disciplines to increase ownership.
6. They allow employees to be brand ambassadors
When leaders encourage employees to share the message on stages and in the media, they are creating internal brand ambassadors. These brand ambassadors are so amped about what the company is doing and the impact it is making that they challenge themselves in new ways to share the company message. Companies that create brand ambassadors not only have evangelist in the company, but it increases the level of ownership at all levels
The six disciplines will increase ownership, and they enhance all aspects of the customer experience. Employees are willing to go beyond responsibility to feel like owners even if they don’t have formal ownership.
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