Training & Development

Building a culture of ownership into your business

Quint Studer.

I was recently invited to speak with the staff at a local downtown business. I asked the owner what he was hoping would be accomplished with my talk.

I’ve never seen myself as a motivational speaker – there are many with more charisma and can garner more motivation. My goal is to be a facilitator. I hope that when I am done with a workshop or presentation, people leave with actions and skills that will help them improve.

And therein lies the motivation piece: Increasing skills so that when a person goes to work they can be better and enjoy their role is motivational to them and to me.

So the downtown business owner was hoping that his staff could act more like owners. I explained that before we can go there, there are a three actions you will need to take to make this happen.

Though the owner may say he or she wants to harbor a culture of ownership, many times they are unwilling to do these three things:

— Share the Financials. Owners see the financials. Most times an employee sees the money coming in and assumes the owner is making lots of money. Even worse, they go to the other extreme, assume the owner/company isn’t doing well so they look to jump ship or help create rumors that the business is in trouble. This creates even more trouble. Most times employees do not realize the expenses an owner incurs beyond the obvious. Sharing financials with an explanation creates ownership.

An employee came up to me and shared they liked seeing the financials and this was a first for them. He stated that it helped him understand decisions better and he could get a good idea if he would be working more hours than scheduled. If budget not being hit, there would likely be no overtime.

— Staff weigh in on hiring coworkers. A quick fix in hiring is to make sure co-workers, not the owner independently, have the ultimate “yes” or “no” on hiring. Owners can feel the heat to hire someone especially if the staff is saying “we need more help.” The coworkers are very wise on who will be a good fit and who they want. They will not support the hiring of anyone who they feel will not pull their own weight. They will even say “let’s wait and work short rather than hire the wrong person.” The employees will also be very helpful to the new person so long as they are part of the hiring decision. Again, owners hire. So let the staff hire. This means owners should not pass anyone on into a peer/staff interview stage who you feel will not be a good hire.

— Input. Though it sounds simple, if you want to foster an ownership culture, the staff needs to have input in decisions. In addition to the basic, “what do you think?”, go deeper. Ask “what are the downsides of the idea/product?” “What will it take to be successful?” “What am I missing?”

Near the end of my meeting with the downtown business after laying out these examples, we finished with a team building exercise that will be valuable in any work place: Each person had a blank sheet of paper. At the top they were asked to write their name. The papers were passed around and everyone was asked to write one positive item about that particular person. If they couldn’t think of one thing, they could pass. I find that never happens. After a little acclimation, the room was energized.

So all 20 people received their paper back with 19 positive comments from each of their co-workers. Workplaces get so busy that they miss opportunities to share compliments with each other. This exercise creates a sense of team and builds positivity into the workplace. Try it.

It’s just one more step you can take to continue the journey to creating well-run companies that make life better for employees, customers and the community.