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Driving Ownership as a Leader

Jun 14, 2021 | 11m

Gain actionable insights into:

  • Building foundations on shared values to drive ownership
  • Developing trust across different cultures
  • Manage mistakes without undermining your teammates

Strong Foundations

Think about people in your team, people you’ve worked with who have a sense of ownership in the work they do. From my experience, they’re often driven by a set of core values. They’re committed to completing tasks when they say they would, even without the external pressures of a deadline. They take responsibility and face the consequences when things don’t go as planned. They may not even be conscious of it – they do it because it’s who they are and it’s the right thing to do.

As such, before getting into the specifics of how you can encourage people to take ownership, it’s important to build a foundation of shared values that drives them to do so. But simply being aware of these values isn’t enough. They need to embody these values, and one of the best ways to do that is by seeing how someone else does it. That’s where you – their leader – come in. It may seem contradictory, but the best way to lead here would be to show them what a great follower you are. Specifically, how well you follow these values.

It’s likely you’ve seen and experienced this in other settings – whether it’s a teacher or family member you wanted to emulate as a child. Or a coach in a sports team. You might start your journey listening and mirroring their behaviour and lessons, but in time you internalise them. They become part of your instincts and how you use your abilities. So don’t shy away from taking time to build foundations. Establish shared values that your team, your company should follow. Let these values ground decisions to take ownership in everything they do.

Driving Ownership

Everyone on the team should be aware of the shared values as guiding principles and have regular dialogue on what this looks like in practice. Whether it’s over virtual chats or in person, let your team know that they can reach out to you. Encourage them to check in with each other. This ongoing dialogue builds a habit of reviewing whether or not everyone is on the same page as things inevitably change.

It also helps to ensure specific projects start on the right note. One of the things that can help your team to build ownership is getting clear on the project’s shared objectives. As a leader, you need to be absolutely transparent about your expectations and how the process of meeting these objectives will be assessed. If, like me, you intend to review the project on an ongoing basis, to see how things can be improved at every stage – whether it’s before, during or after the project itself – let your team know up front. Otherwise, your input could be misinterpreted as micromanagement, even if your intention was to support them, which sets back any efforts to build a sense of ownership.

Lastly, the project’s success should be shared by all, even if you’re the ‘face’ of the project. After all, achieving the project’s objectives was a result of the team stretching their capabilities and time. They should be given credit for their contributions.

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