This word is thrown around a lot, to the point that it has become a motivation of sorts.
When something goes wrong, you can look at the people involved and just say, “Ownership”, and watch their heads drop, with their gaze dropping in the direction of their motivation – downwards.
Ownership is actually an empowering tool. Like all tools, its use is dependent on who is wielding it.
I have worked with the tool for empowerment purposes, so I will talk about my journey with it in that light.
Why is Ownership important?
No one can get satisfaction or find meaning in any undertaking, unless full responsibility for the success and/or failure is first embraced.
It is easy to take responsibility and even share commendation for successes in any undertaking.
The fulcrum of Ownership is taking the blame for failures.
Blame game is a multiplayer game. Ownership is a single-player game.
When people complain about blame game, neither party (the complainer nor the blamer) is demonstrating ownership.
Ownership says I take the blame, now let’s pay attention to ways we can move forward.
Easier said than done, because as leaders, we forgive and forget our past mistakes but hold the mistakes of our teammates up as a prism, through which we view them and act accordingly.
We wittingly or unwittingly create fear of failure and of course fear of blame, by disproportionate reactions to learning opportunities.
We get away with it under the cover of demanding high standards. Standards that if we had held in our time, will not even come up for discussion in the present time.
We ignore the logic and intent, because in the short term, we want to win.
Most times, what we are actually perfectly designing our Organisation for, are mercenaries, not owners.
Owners play the long game. They are in it for good.
Mercenaries play the short game – get everything now, if it goes south, there’s always someone else that will require immediate wins.
As you demand for the best, ensure you check regularly that you are not designing mercenaries while talking about Ownership.
How does Ownership work?
It starts with the Leader. Demonstrate the type of Ownership you want from your team. They can not take more Ownership than you. You must be their ozone.
The number 1 taboo should be blame game. No matter the justification. If you are responsible for a beat, you own all choices and chances.
Vertical blame game (hierarchical) is more destructive than horizontal blame game (amongst peers).
Both are undesirable, but vertical blame game is a strong signal of weak leadership.
I see too many people in leadership positions deliberately throw their people under the bus, just to look good in something as ephemeral as a meeting. Stop trying to look good, be good.
Build your ability to tell compelling stories about the vision and give yourself the luxury of watching your people grow while owning the journey.
Learn to delegate. Delegation and Ownership work together like magic. Take off your hands, keep your eyes.
The goal is to flip what Ownership means when people hear it. It should mean leadership, not lack of it.
– Osasu Oviawe