4 ways to promote ownership while remaining a present leader
Blog: Monday Project Management Blog
It’s fair to assume that most business leaders have either mentioned or heard the term employee ownership referenced in the context of work. The idea is that employees who are owners of a given project or process are held accountable for the quality and timeliness of an outcome, even when they’re working with others. These individuals are expected to care about the work results in the same way they would care as an owner of an organization – acting as their own CEOs, in a sense.
Managers that promote ownership build a culture in which team members are encouraged to take initiative and address challenges head-on. This produces more strategic thinkers and better leaders. When employees feel accountable for getting their work to the finish line and resolving any roadblocks that may arise, they seek out the right support on their team and become more confident and independent contributors.
So, what’s the catch?
It can be hard to find the right balance between giving your team member ownership and making them feel neglected. Often, in an effort to provide employees with a sense of control and responsibility, managers remove themselves too much and become somewhat absent leaders.
An Interact and Harris survey of 1,000 working adults showed that eight of the top nine complaints about leaders concerned absent behavior, and that feeling ignored by one’s boss can actually feel more alienating than being treated poorly. When team members get the sense that their managers are overly removed from their work, it can trigger miscommunication due to a lack of direction and result in weaker performance.
How can you promote ownership while remaining a present leader?
1. Create clear goals
Before you can effectively hand off responsibility to your team members, it’s important to clearly establish how you’re defining success. Simply giving an employee an assignment without any real direction is not the way employee ownership is supposed to work. In fact, it will likely leave you with team members who don’t even know where to begin. That’s why it’s your responsibility as a manager to sit down with the employee to establish goals and expectations. Only then, once you’re on the same page about the vision and desired end results, can you give them the reins and let them determine how to get there. For ultimate success, be sure to empower your employee to take initiative with a clear understanding of how you’re measuring their progress and success.
2. Encourage problem-solving
Employee ownership doesn’t mean closing the door when your team member confronts a challenge and is unsure what to do. It means giving them the resources and tools they need to solve the problems – helping them identify teammates they can leverage with relevant insights and expertise, suggesting existing resources to reference when they’re weighing solutions, and serving as a sounding board to work through things out loud if they need it. When a team member comes to you with a problem, you can listen and guide them, without simply telling them what to do – ask what solutions come to their minds. How do they think this issue should be handled? Show your employees that you are confident that they have the answers while making it clear that you’re available for support.
3. Check in and provide feedback
Be a present manager by following up with your team members. If you know there’s a major project your employee is working on, make time for frequent check-ins to discuss how things are going and offer supportive feedback. Show them that while they are the owners and decision-makers, you are still invested in them and their success. Create space for them to voice any challenges they are facing, and when relevant, offer your two cents. Make an active effort to show your employees that you trust them to manage their own work, and you are around to offer support and guidance when they need it.
4. Give credit and recognition
The best way to avoid any sense of neglect when you encourage ownership? Recognize your team members’ efforts and achievements. According to a recent Gallup study, employees are four times as likely to be engaged at work if they feel strongly that they receive the right amount of recognition for the work they do. So, while you might not be involved in their day-to-day tasks, stay informed on how things are going so that you can provide relevant feedback and authentic recognition. Reach out when you notice an employee did something great and spotlight their impact in larger forums so that others can acknowledge them as well. Be sure to give your team members credit for their contributions and offer them opportunities to present their own work so that they can really feel seen, empowered, and valued.
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