In the business world, many things are out of our control. The economy, the stock market, interest rates, natural disasters, and world events can all impact our organizations in ways we can’t change or predict.
But there is one thing that we can always control: our attitude and our response to what happens around us.
When we take ownership of our mindset and actions at work, we set ourselves up for success no matter what challenges come our way.
Moreover, when we encourage our employees to take ownership, they become more empowered to achieve their goals, more committed to their jobs, and more engaged with their work. And when they’re more engaged with their work, they’re more likely to produce better results.
Tangible benefits come from taking ownership at work, too. Studies have shown that employees who take ownership are more likely to be promoted and receive raises than those who don’t. They’re also less likely to experience burnout or turnover.
Encouraging your team to take ownership doesn’t mean you need to start micromanaging them or increasing their workload. Instead, it’s about setting high standards for your team and encouraging them to take responsibility for their career and personal development.
Leaders often talk about the importance of taking ownership at work. But what does that really mean, and how can you make it happen?
What does taking ownership mean?
At its core, taking ownership at work means taking initiative and responsibility for your growth and the success of your team or organization.
Every good team needs players willing to step up and take ownership of (as opposed to wanting to blame others for) mistakes or challenges. In practice, taking ownership at work means being proactive, solution-oriented, accountable, and committed to continuous improvement.
Those who take ownership at work are prepared and ready to take on whatever challenges come their way. They have strong problem-solving skills and anticipate problems to prevent them before they happen, rather than waiting for things to go wrong and scrambling to fix them.
They are also always looking for ways to improve things. They’re the ones who come up with new ideas and find creative solutions to complex problems.
Finally, employees who take ownership also take responsibility for their own actions. They own their mistakes and take responsibility for their successes. Good team members don’t shy away from accountability—they embrace it.
Ownership is key to having a high-performing team. When your team members buy into your company’s mission and vision and feel they have a stake in its success, they’re more likely to be engaged in their work. As a leader, it’s your job to foster an environment where a sense of ownership can thrive.
The benefits of taking ownership at work
When we take ownership at work, we open ourselves up to a world of possibilities.
Keep in mind that it is not about being perfect; it is about taking responsibility for our actions and doing the best we can with what we have. When we take ownership, we set ourselves up for personal and professional success.
Let’s unpack more of how taking ownership benefits your team:
- Taking ownership boosts employee confidence and makes them feel more accomplished. It makes them feel proud and skilled at what they do. This is why self-confidence enhances job performance and vice versa. Encouraging your employees to take an active role can give them a sense of fulfillment and reduce work-related stress and anxiety.
- Taking ownership provides a sense of responsibility and control over their work environment. This allows them to enjoy their job more. Trusting your team to be the owner of their work can also provide a sense of accomplishment, making their tasks and additional responsibilities feel more meaningful and enriching. This also creates self-sufficient workers and, potentially, self-managed teams.
- Taking ownership encourages and celebrates creativity. With everyone feeling empowered to develop new ideas and find better ways to do things, you create an organization constantly moving forward and improving.
- Taking ownership increases your team’s trustworthiness and enhances their careers. When your employees take ownership at work, people tie results back to them, and they begin to build a portfolio of evidence of their work and value. This shows integrity and consistency, allowing them to bolster their resume and confidence.
- Taking ownership can lead to promotions and raises. Taking ownership is a surefire way to encourage career growth and upward movement within your company. The more you let your team take ownership at work, the more leadership skills they’ll develop and demonstrate value to the business. Moreover, they’re more likely to stay with the company for the long haul, saving time and money in turnover costs.
- Taking ownership leads to a successful work culture. Holding yourself and others accountable for their actions leads to the success of your employees and the company. Employees perform better when they know their efforts will be noticed and rewarded—it gives them extra motivation to do their best work. Looking at the bigger picture, teams function more effectively when everyone pulls their weight and does their part.
What do teams need in order to take ownership?
Developing a culture of ownership is essential for any organization that wants to be successful.
Employees who feel a sense of ownership over their work are more likely to be engaged and productive. So how can you develop a culture of ownership in your organization?
Here are three things teams need in order to take ownership at work.
Healthy feedback loops
The success of a team can depend largely on the relationship between the manager and their direct reports. If a manager has trouble communicating with their team, there is likely to be a negative impact on morale, productivity, and confidence.
Effective managers must recognize their employees’ strengths and weaknesses and effectively use these insights to build a team. They must also be able to motivate team members by helping them understand the importance of their work and identifying areas to take responsibility and ownership.
Employees who take ownership of projects and KPIs do so at the risk of making mistakes. But mistakes are not uncommon in the workplace, and how managers approach constructive criticism and negative feedback can dictate their employees’ confidence to take a risk and move forward again.
When criticism is required, managers should present negative feedback constructively and according to each employee’s communication preference.
One of the best ways to develop a culture of ownership is to recognize and reward good work. When employees feel their hard work is being noticed and appreciated, they are more likely to continue going above and beyond in their roles. Furthermore, publicly recognizing and rewarding employees helps set the standard for other employees and encourages them to do their best work.
Resources and autonomy
Employees are more likely to take ownership of their work when they have the resources and freedom necessary to do so. These include time, budget, educational resources, and opportunities to collaborate with other employees.
One way to increase employee ownership would be to offer them more autonomy and opportunities for training, either internally or externally. Encourage them to attend webinars, listen to podcasts, or even attend relevant team meetings to learn from their peers.
Employees who feel like they are learning and growing in their roles are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. Furthermore, investing in employee development shows employees that you value their contributions and want them to be with the company long-term.
In addition, give your team space to take ownership by delegating decisions, not tasks. Don’t micromanage—give your direct reports the freedom to make decisions within their area of expertise. This will help them feel like they’re truly contributing to the company rather than just following orders.
Trustworthy company leadership
Fear of retaliation is one reason an employee might not take ownership. Employees with this concern often won’t speak up because they feel it will affect their status, productivity, or job security.
A lack of employee ownership can stem from this fear, a lack of trust in the organization, or a feeling of low influence.
For employees to take ownership of their work, you must ensure your leadership invests in building trust with employees. Employees want to know that the person overseeing their work has the company’s best interest at heart. So when leadership works to build trust with their employees, employees are more likely to take ownership.
3 ways to foster an inclusive culture while taking ownership
As a business leader, you have the power to foster an inclusive culture in your workplace. This section will discuss how to create a welcoming environment for your employees and encourage them to take ownership at work.
Here are three ways you can take ownership and foster an inclusive culture in your workplace:
1. Encourage mentorship, networking, and collaboration
Your team can learn to take ownership at work by learning from others. Allow employees to take on personal mentors who help them grow their careers, increase their confidence, and navigate difficult situations. Consider setting up a formal ‘buddy’ program or connecting individual contributors with experts.
A key element of an inclusive culture is ensuring everyone feels like they belong, and this extends to the process of taking ownership. One way to make employees feel comfortable taking ownership is by encouraging networking and collaboration.
This can be done through structured mentorship programs or employee resource groups. By creating opportunities for connection, you’re fostering a sense of community in your workplace. This makes it easier for employees to take ownership at work.
2. Communicate and ask for feedback
Communicate openly and frequently. Keep your team updated on company news, both good and bad. Share information about upcoming projects, changes in strategy, and other important information. The more your team knows about what’s happening, the more buy-in they will have.
Encourage feedback—and act on it. Make it clear that you want to hear from your direct reports about how things are going, what could be improved, and where they need help. And when you receive feedback, take it to heart and make changes accordingly.
Your team will feel valued and appreciated and more likely to speak up next time something comes up.
3. Set an example
As a leader, it’s important to lead by example. This means living out the values you want to see in your team—including taking ownership of your work. It also means modeling the behavior you expect from others, which often resembles servant leadership. Taking ownership of your own development sets the tone for those around you and creates a culture of learning and growth.
Taking ownership at work is about much more than accountability—it’s about being proactive and leading by example. When you take ownership of your leadership role, you create a ripple effect that positively impacts your team, your company, and yourself.
Encourage taking ownership across your organization
Ownership is related to buy-in. For it to thrive, your team members must believe in your company’s mission and vision and be committed to helping achieve company goals. When team members take ownership, they’re not just going through the motions; they’re invested in their work and looking for ways to improve.
Creating a culture of accountability starts with each team member taking ownership of their work. When everyone takes responsibility for their actions and strives to be proactive and solution-oriented, your entire organization will reap the benefits.