3 Steps To Fostering An Ownership Mentality In Employees

You’ve worked long and hard at your desk all day. It’s a minute past five o’clock and you’ve still got a couple of hours worth of work ahead. You step out of your office to refill your water bottle and freeze as you turn the corner.

Crickets.

The place is a ghost town. It’s a familiar scene that happens all too frequently. You pay them to work until five but that’s all they do. Why do they not care about your company as much as you? Are you doomed to a “what’s in it for me” company culture?

I see it every day: companies plagued by a cancer of “employee mentality,” which can affect the health of your company:

  • “I’ll work just hard enough to not get fired.”
  • “I’m not doing that- it’s not my job.”
  • “The company is LUCKY that I work here.”

Employees with an ownership mentality think quite the opposite. They see the bigger picture and understand some of the best rewards will come down the road as the company thrives. They are selfless, dedicated, happy, and they don’t need their noses wiped.

Ownership cannot be handed off. It must be voluntarily received.

As the owner of your company, you naturally think like an owner. It’s all you know and it can be difficult to imagine how someone could think any other way. Often, employees must learn to think this way- it doesn’t come natural.

If your company has too much employee mentality, all is not lost. Here are three steps to foster a business owner mentality.

First, get some buzz going.

Meet with each employee individually and let him know you could use some help cultivating a different culture. Find out what motivates him. Listen as you ask for feedback and ask if he would be an “ambassador” you can count on for this movement. You may be surprised at who steps up to the plate.

After you’ve gathered your research together, bring your executive team together to develop a plan. Since ownership comes from within, you must give everyone a reason to want to change. Look through the lens of your employees: what incentive do they have to want to think like a business owner?

For example, as an owner, you will benefit from a more profitable company. Will your employees? Maybe it’s not monetary. Do your employees feel empowered to make decisions (and mistakes) on their own? Micromanagement is the opposite of ownership.

Consider some new ideas. You could start a reward program for anyone who contributes ideas that you implement. This encourages employees to always be on the lookout for new and better ways of doing things. If you have the bandwidth, let employees shadow you for an afternoon so they can see what it’s like to run the business. It also gives you a chance to do some mentoring.

Second, make it public.

Formally announce the “exciting new changes” that will benefit everyone and ask for their support. Adjust your employee reviews and meetings to include discussions about the big picture stuff so they are exposed to similar data as you are.

The plan should be simple and direct. The goal is to get your staff looking outside their boxes. Be as transparent as you comfortably can about your growth, numbers and progress. Give your staff access to KPIs that you see every day and may take for granted. Being connected to progress keeps everyone engaged and vested in the greater good.

Make sure you spend enough time. Some ideas sound good on the surface but are a pain to execute. Vet out each idea carefully with your management team before implementation.

Third, implement and follow through.

Your staff will need to be taught and nourished. Consider starting lunch-n-learn seminars where you teach your staff these principles or a book club where everyone learns new ideas together. Topics like time leverage, profitability and going the extra mile can reap big benefits.

I know companies that encourage their employees to build a side hustle, provided it does not compete and they don’t do it on company time. Those who do will feel more fulfilled and appreciate your mentorship. Best of all, as they develop an ownership mentality in their own business, you will reap the benefits as it spills over into yours.

Don’t underestimate the value of an outside consultant to help train on the benefits of thinking like a business owner. Consultants bring many advantages. As a fresh face, they come in with new energy and perspective. They are positioned as experts on the topic so your staff will listen more intently. And, the extra horsepower helps take some of the burden off you.

Creating an ownership culture is not quick and easy. As your company culture pivots, those stuck with the old thinking will naturally weed themselves out or need to be let go. Whatever you do, make sure you keep it on your agendas. The last thing you want is to announce a new “program” and not follow through with it, which will do more damage than good.

Culture problems are systemic; a group of employee-mentality thinkers can contaminate a new hire within days. But with some patience and persistence your company culture can be turned around.

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