Here’s how you get employees to take ownership over their work (part III)

Last week I took a closer look at what ownership in the workplace looks like, why it matters, and how to achieve it.

Now I want to discuss the role culture, responsibility, and ideas play in employees taking ownership in the workplace.

The outcome of a culture where employees take ownership

The most successful and productive employees are those who actively identify and solve problems. They are comfortable acting with autonomy and decreased oversight. In the workplace where problems become increasingly more complicated, dedicated and innovative problem-solving will come from those who live as though help is not on its way. Responsibility makes us stronger and more action-oriented people. 

Being able to make personal choices frees us from this. Though we cannot control all situations, we do have a choice in how we respond to any given scenario. Those who are responsible take charge of their behaviour and don’t point fingers at others for what they do or don’t do.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey divides life into two circles: the circle of influence and the circle of concern. The circle of concern contains things that affect you but which you have little or no control over — the weather, the economy, traffic congestion, etc. The circle of influence contains the things you can actually affect, such as your personal fitness level, your relationships, tasks, or issues in the office. Covey believes that the most successful people focus time and energy on the circle of influence. This is a more positive outlook, as you focus on what you can do, rather than wasting time worrying about what you can’t change.

Ownership doesn't mean taking the fault or responsibility 

When a problem is caused by someone or it’s someone’s responsibility to get something done, you want those people to have ownership over fixing it or ensuring something is done. That being said, it doesn’t mean that others can’t or shouldn’t also take ownership in helping this person fix issues or taking responsibility for what happens. In team environments, ownership means problems are everyone’s responsibility. This is especially true of leadership. This is best understood when you think of a leader taking ownership of results or mistakes within the organisation, even though he or she may not have had any direct involvement in the activities that caused the issue.

Have an outlet for taking ownership

One challenge can be finding the right place to send ideas. Taking ownership is straightforward when the problem or opportunity discovered aligns closely to the individual or team the individual is part of. However in large, complex organisations, this may be difficult. The problem may reside far up the value chain in a different functional area or a different physical place.

Idea software is an example of a tool and process that can facilitate this. There is one place to go to easily submit ideas and the software and processes take care of sharing, building on and routing the idea to those who can ultimately best evaluate and implement the idea.

Check out the first two pieces in the ownership series:


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