We often hear frustrated business owners question why they can't get more of their employees to take ownership of their roles. Is it the hiring? Is it the culture? Can you not hire great employees anymore? We've covered this in other articles and know there is a combination of factors at play here, but mostly it's that your business is designed to get the results you are currently getting. If you want more employees to take ownership, your business needs to do something different. This month we're going to look at what "something different" means.
As a business owner how you define "take ownership of a task" may be very different than your employees. Your definition has been crafted over years of experience and the sheer knowledge that your business depends on the results of the work that you do. Most business owners have a personal connection to their business. It's your name, your reputation, and your livelihood at stake. You see a bigger part of the puzzle and understand how it connects in a way that some employees may not need to ever know or experience. Thus when you hand a task over to an employee, you know what it means to be "done" with the task, but do they? If you don't define it then you are asking your employees to read your mind or depend on their past experiences which are often limited and/or filled with bad habits.
Now you may be thinking of a key employee that you can simply turn a task over to and know that it's done. An employee who is persistent, has great follow through, and simply gets things done. You may be thinking, if only I could clone that employee. Well, we don't have the cloning machine ready to go, but we can assure you that you can clone the process needed to train EVERY employee to take ownership of a task.
The first step is to define what taking ownership of a task means. It seems simple, but putting down your expectations in writing is a huge first step. It sets the foundation for all future conversations and more importantly sets the point of view everyone in your company needs to hold. The definition becomes a guide to redirect the conversation back to the results the business needs each and every time there is an issue with someone not taking ownership of a task. A sample definition is below.
What Does Taking Ownership of a Task Mean?
- Results: Finished means that it is 100% done to the satisfaction of the business and the agreed upon result has been reached.
- Resources: If you don't have the tools, the data, or resources to complete a task that has been assigned to you then you speak up until you get what you need.
- Pleasantly Persistent: If you are waiting on someone else, even your manager or the business owner, to provide you with an answer, or for them to take an action so you can move forward with a task, then you keep following up with that person until you have what you need.
- Problem Solve: If you run into a barrier, you keep searching solutions until you solve the problem and reach the result - never stop!
- Ask for Help: If you need help, proactively ask and do not stop until you have what you need.
- True Delegation: There is no handing off of the task. You follow it through until it is done. In some cases you might delegate parts of the task,but it's your responsibility until the agreed upon result has been reached.
This week we challenge you to define what taking ownership of a task means to you. You can start with our sample above or write your own. We encourage you to make it sound like your culture. It should be something that is easy and familiar for you to repeat. Then join us next week as we look at the process for getting an employee to take ownership of one task.