Nobody arbitrarily hands out a promotion. We strategically observe and guide our staff, while assessing behaviors and attributes that show someone is a candidate for advancement. If you want to show others what it takes to succeed in an upward role, start by empowering them to act like they have a stake in the company’s growth. It begins by encouraging them to have an ownership mentality and showing them how to model owner-like behaviors day in and day out.
I have been supporting organizational development for over 20 years and no two company cultures are alike. In my experience, companies that foster a true ownership culture enable each employee to proactively take actions to improve the customer experience, increase organizational differentiation, and discover competitive advantages that will deliver better results for the company. When every employee is motivated to act like an owner, they take more pride in their work and they are more emotionally committed to their jobs. They value opportunities to prove themselves, they drive forward progress and they are more confident in their business decisions.
Marwaan Karame, one of our Partners at Fortuna, often cites 5 traits we observe within an ownership culture. Although these characteristics typically flourish in a governance system with the right measure of performance, processes and incentives, every individual can independently take steps to embody these attributes, whether you’re an employee, a boss, or both. Adopting these qualities can greatly advance your career and the career of others. Consider which of these are within your and your employees’ reach, and which you should advocate for on your company’s behalf.
First, because an ownership mindset means adding value to the organization, spend company money like it’s yours. Be disciplined and purposeful with your business expenditures and save money where it makes sense. For example, be frugal with supplies and make modest travel arrangements for business trips. Don’t order something on a menu that you wouldn’t order for yourself otherwise. Instead of spending money just because it’s in your budget, think like an owner and use extra funds to find creative ways to generate value for your company.
The second important ownership trait is knowing where to direct your attention and resources to get the most value, which we call extreme prioritization. Statistically, 80% of a company’s success comes from 20% of its activities, so owners should be hyper-focused on that 20%. Show off your ownership attitude by practicing extreme prioritization in your own sphere of influence. Devote your resources to investments that are profitable and pass on the ones that aren’t. Getting caught up a lot of mediocre projects distracts you from the bigger ones that deserve resources and attention. Be selective to maximize impact.
Being an owner also involves making tough decisions and taking risks that don’t always work out in your favor. Yet, a successful leader knows you have to be willing to fail in order to grow.
An even better leader creates an environment where everyone is comfortable taking risks. Eagerness to experiment and accept failure should be encouraged to fuel long-term value creation and nurture independence. Be bold! Offer new ideas but also be willing to admit defeat, when it comes, then course correct, and keep pushing.
Fourth, nobody wants to be responsible for making a hasty judgment, especially an owner. But failing to act on an opportunity gives you a 100% chance of accomplishing nothing. You will never have all of the information you need to make the perfect decisions, but owners and leaders learn to act on what is available. More doing and less talking is the solution to crippling inertia that results from “analysis paralysis.” Consider the pros and cons and do your homework but be decisive and drive results. In today’s rapidly changing environment, you don’t have time to overthink every detail, so be confident in your decision process and own it.
Lastly, by proactively developing new capabilities, you show that you are in it for the long haul, committed to your organization, and actively seeking opportunities to grow. Success is all about long- and short-term wins, and your decisions are guided by your vision for the future of your company. Seek opportunities to invest in your colleagues and focus on 3- and 5-year goals instead of only quarterly numbers.
Not every company instills an ownership culture among its ranks. Yet there are ways to evolve to embrace and support this type of change. It can start with you. Act like an owner, and let others, including your supervisor, know what you’re doing and why. Transformations can happen when everyone is focused on the common goal of adding value to the company.