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A Culture of Ownership

We are now firmly in the midst of the festive feeling. Can you feel the productivity dropping? Some of your colleagues might already be telling everyone when their last day is and where they are going for the holidays. For some, work responsibilities are starting to fade into the background of priorities. This is probably the best time to figure out if you are engaged at work or not. The list of possible and completely understandable excuses are growing each day. Some people simply choose not to use those excuses and seem like they are never going to take leave. What do these people have in common?

Ownership. Usually the product owners, the team managers, the person with whom the buck stops are always ready to go the extra mile. When you understand that the things you are busy with are your responsibility, the list of excuses start shrinking. So, everyone can’t be product owners or managers, right? We’ll just have to live with it…

No. Creating a culture of ownership does not imply everyone has the title. It implies that everyone understands two very important things about the work they are busy with. Firstly, you need to understand where your team is going, how your team is going to get there and where your work fits into the picture. Secondly, you need to understand that you have complete authority and sole responsibility for the execution of your work. Of course, you depend on those around you and sometimes you have to wait on external forces, but once you understand ownership, your list of excuses remain small.

When trying to force the issue of ownership, lazy managers fall into the habit of being overly strict and are quick to use the disciplinary code to its full worth. Ironically, that behaviour drives ownership down! Fear and ownership do not mix. Empowerment and ownership however do mix, and it means that leaders need to be able to release some control and authority, and for some, it’s simply too much to bear.

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Groups of Authority

Achieving mass participation in an era where no one cares

Ever received mass-invitations for company-wide blood donations, wellness seminars, team building actions, that sort of thing? Yes we all have, and unless you truly care about the topic, chances are that you did not attend. These events are almost never compulsory and there is a very neat little excuse you can give – “I would love to attend, but I’m too busy”. This shows that you care more about the company making a profit, while you get out of those ‘boring’ events. In a large organisation, these events are consistently poorly attended, and only the regular suspects attend; those that organised it, their friends, the newcomers and those that actually care.

The organiser’s friend – that is the inspiration for this article. It is also where authority comes to play. Between the organiser and the organiser’s friend there exist some obligation, mainly due to the status of the current and future relationship. This obligation also exist in small, connected teams. If the team culture is great, people start viewing each other more like friends than competition. A mutual expectation between team members is not only great for task completion, but the expectations extend to extra-curricular activities also. If your team decides that it’s a good idea to attend the next wellness seminar or the company wide team building action – chances are you are more likely to attend.

Company-wide inclusion starts by building great teams where the individuals depend on one another, and then by addressing these teams for participation. There are some clear pitfalls if this approach is overdone.

  • Teams need to be interconnected to reduce silo-thinking
  • No individual can be left out
  • The team can never be more important that the company

Overcoming these items will be addressed in future articles. But for now, start building your team one cup of coffee at a time!