The Owner Mindset

I get asked this by virtually all business owners I meet. How do I get my employees to think and act more like business owners rather than just employees. It is a difficult question to reply. First of all, the culture context does not help. Many employees are short sighted enough to think that they would have some sort of upper hand if they screw their bosses – we even devised a Maltese word for it “nikolielhu”.

Owners act and think differently than employees. Owners are naturally passionate about their company and deeply committed to its success. The business is more than a source of income — it’s part of their identity. Consequently, they view its success as their own.And why not? No one starts a business because they simply hope it will work. It is a livelihood, and thus, it has to work: to feed your family, to put a roof over your head, to give you a sense of purpose and direction. Having skin in the game helps you to drive innovation and stickiness in the business itself.

So, helping your employees develop an ownership mentality benefits them and the organisation as a whole. Ownership thinking means taking accountability for the quality and success of the outcome of your work. A culture of accountability, where employees are able to make decisions and are encouraged to take ownership is a powerful characteristic of a successful work environment. This takes an emotional and mental commitment—it takes engaged employees. Thinking like an owner with an ownership mentality comes from within a culture that promotes trust, communication, objectivity and gives employees a stake in the outcome.

TRUST IS EARNED: Trust is a key part of healthy relationships. Relationships between employers, managers, and employees are no different. Employees are more likely to be engaged if they believe they can trust the leadership of the organisation and understand how their contributions impact the success of the company. Empowering employees to think like owners helps develop this trust and understanding. An environment of trust has no surprises—plans, business objectives, and goals, and financial results are discussed and shared at all levels.When it comes to nurturing a culture of ownership, it is important to establish realistic and clear goals for the entire team. This further enables accountability. Also, as a leader, you being clear on the expectations from each team member will establish trust. This, in turn, will push your team to be committed to a collective singular vision. Trust is a fundamental part of ownership and the members who are given responsibility, take responsibility.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY: Whether it’s through meetings, instructions, reviews, or handbooks, employees need good communication of what is expected of them. When employees understand their role within the organization everything flows more smoothly. Effective, honest communication can bind employees together and maintain engagement within the organization. Hence, please do communicate openly and consistently with your team members to make sure they understand exactly what is happening at your business. If you want to encourage every employee to have an owner mindset they must be provided with the information that you know as an owner.Include team members when you make decisions that are important to the entire company. Transparently communicate information about business objectives, goals, financials, and long term plans with your employees.Most importantly, show your employees that you yourself are accountable and value communication. Employees must trust in you and your owner mindset to most ideally develop ownership skills of their own.

MISTAKES HAPPEN, ALLOW THEM: ‘To err is human, to forgive divine.’ Leaders should create room for improvement with timely feed-forward on each team member’s performance. However, it is essential for companies to enable a safe space for teams to make, and own up their mistakes. This doesn’t mean that the mistakes go unnoticed. But, rather, mistakes made are looked upon as instances to learn from.

BE OBJECTIVE: Fair and balanced criteria for making decisions also promotes positive employee engagement. When thinking like an owner everyone is more likely on the same page and focused on the same goal. Objectivity is not a lack of concern or care for employees in the organisation. Instead, it allows leaders to facilitate factual and sound decisions; this helps employees develop the same habits in making decisions that affect the company. Making decisions and staying engaged in the business is a constructive environment for success.

BE ACCOUNTABLE: Success promotes healthy accountability and teamwork. In order for an individual or a team to be held accountable for their decisions, they need to have the appropriate information. This starts with transparency about the strategic decisions that are being made. When information is shared and everyone is vested, then successes and failures are also shared.

INSPIRE EMPLOYEES: Words of affirmation go a long way in inspiring your employees. Step up as a mentor to your employee, making sure to provide them with advice, and positive feedback will boost employee engagement levels and make employees feel more secure in their role. When you frequently provide employees with positive feedback you are communicating to them how important they are to yourself and the company. It is easy to forget to acknowledge all the great things that your employees do when your company is going through a rough patch, but that is the most important time to do so.When employees are worried about their job security and feeling down, their productivity will suffer. Too often feedback is strictly or mostly negative in nature. However, research finds that people function best if they are given 5 to 6 positive interactions to offset each negative interaction.If you notice an employee who is struggling in the workplace, address them quickly and thoughtfully. Consider stepping out of the office for a cup of coffee and providing them with actionable feedback while expressing any concerns. When employees feel that you care about them as more than just workers and see the potential that they have, they will more likely develop ownership mindset capabilities. Remember, even employees who appear confident still need to receive encouragement. Top performing employees who do not feel that their efforts are noticed and appreciated may lose motivation quickly. When promotions or other career opportunities are available in your workplace, make sure to consider your employees before outsourcing. If you see an employee with a lower level position who has exceptional decision-making skills and shows a willingness to grow with your company, invest in them and their growth as much as possible.

BE REALISTIC: When employees feel stressed, overworked,and that they are always struggling to stay afloat with their responsibilities, they will not likely develop an ownership mentality. A common mistake that business owners make is expecting too much from a new employee much too soon. Another common mistake is increasingly requiring more of top-performing employees to the point where they are demotivated and discouraged. Give new employees plenty of time to adjust to their new role and provide clear expectations about what success in their role looks like. One best practice technique is to set obtainable objectives and slowly raise your standards and expectations over time. Remember, do not increase work objectives or KPIs to an unobtainable level or you will demotivate employees and their ability to develop ownership over their own work. When you establish attainable goals, your employees will feel successful and be consistently assured that they are performing their role well. Most of all avoid perfectionism or micromanaging your employees. Employees who are given the ability to take ownership of their own work and processes will be more productive than those who feel their employees do not trust them. Provide ample opportunities for employees to make decisions about their work processes and company objectives whenever appropriate. Encourage team members to develop ownership skills and remind them why they were a great choice to hire them as often as you can.

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