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The OWNERSHIP Mindset: The Most Powerful Weapon in Business

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“Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership. And a sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organization can have.”    ― Pat Summitt

“I own that”. You have heard the saying. You have heard of people taking ownership but what does it really mean? What does it mean to operate with an ownership mentality translates into today’s business world?

While ownership denotes control, it does not always manifest in actions. People can ‘own’ an idea or even a company but if they do not have an ownership mindset, they often fall short of the results they want. Ownership can start at any level of the organization and is fueled by passion and commitment.

Owners within an organization are clear about accountability and building trust. They understand that stepping up means following through and ensuring that quality is the focus. Ownership is caring about the outcome regardless of where your position falls on in the organizational chart.

“Ownership means I have an obligation to the organization in terms of results, and that I have an obligation to act on the items that impact those results. I may have to assemble a team to help me bring about results, but ultimately, I must be accountable and own the results of my actions” (Wilms, 2017)

Building a culture of ownership takes time and consistency and needs to be led by the top levels of the company. There are several steps you can take to build a culture of ownership throughout a company. Forbes.com in 2017 outlined five steps to encourage an Ownership Mindset at all levels of your organization that ring true today.

  1. Support Freedom and Responsibility
    Empower employees to drive change, innovate, and improve processes and practices so that they can build customer intimacy and loyalty
  2. Change the Mindset
    Focus on contribution vs. control and encourage employees to add value, knowledge, and innovation to the company
  3. Embrace Shared Values
    Communicate that success of the company hinges on the values that guide the desired behaviors and actions of employees
  1. Focus on Positive Reinforcement
    Encourage employees to use discretionary decision-making to solve a problem or to better serve the client, aim to give that person positive reinforcement
  1. Support Entrepreneurial Thinking
    Promote transparency and support a focus on generating sales, cutting expenses, and looking for alternative sources of revenue

Setting the tone of ownership is the first steps to getting a culture moving in the right direction. Employees will understand their role even more if you and your leadership team actively practice what you preach. It is impossible for leaders to know it all, so you must operate ownership by relinquishing control.

Share your vision and ensure that all employees at every level of the organization understand the “WHY” of decisions and direction. Get your teams involved in goals setting and planning so they feel part of the process and not just cogs in a wheel.

Often, allowing creative approaches to finding solutions may take teams in different directions. Allow them to find their own way, define processes and chart a course whenever possible. Being a task master is much less inclusive than instilling creative problem solving within groups.

Delegate and spread the responsibility of solving problems and finding solutions so that everyone in the organization feels the power of the ownership mindset. Absolutely hold the team accountable and recognize positive behavior to reinforce the actions. Offer regular feedback and check in on progress to demonstrate your commitment to the process.

“The biggest opportunity for improvement is typically with the skills on your team. Underutilized skills are hidden yet huge areas of waste. Start by appreciating that all employees are different and have different levels of potential (Inc.com)

By instilling ownership and encouraging team members to step up to get involved to improve systems, processes they feel a part of the change instead of spectators. Getting involvement and instilling an ownership mindset across your organizations ensures you are tapping into skills and resources you might have left undiscovered.

“Bureaucracy is a construct designed to maximize the distance between a decision maker
and the risks of the decision.” ~ Nassam Talib

Reducing the bureaucracy in your company can be the germination of an ownership mindset that spreads throughout the teams. Modeling the behaviors, you want to foster in your teams is a great way to start so start by working on the following.

  • Take time to do critical reflection
  • Communicate consistently but with brevity
  • Manage upward, down and across your organization using different skills and methods
  • Demonstrate time management skills
  • Take time to learn and skill up on your own
  • Anticipate questions and obstacles and consider solutions
  • Learn from failures and mistakes and do not allow either to stifle your progress

The Institute of Leadership and Management says, “Ownership includes being decisive, solve problems, delegating, abstaining from blame, taking responsibility and regular objective reflection on events and their own actions”.

Start by finding a spark in your organization to blaze the trail to establishing an ownership culture in your company. Identify team members who are looking for a challenge and are accepting additional responsibilities before being asked. Find those that react to problems quickly and decisively. Recognize those who are delivering more than expected and harvest their passion.

Encourage ownership by sharing it. It’s not about what or how much you ‘own’, it is more about how much you are willing to give away to gain.


Carmen Gigar is the Chief Marketing Officer for ActionCOACH Global.