Last week we discussed that in order to have your employees take ownership of a task you first need to define what taking ownership means to your business. If you haven't yet defined taking ownership, we encourage you to do so now or at least look at our sample definition
. This week, we recommend you focus on one task one employee should take ownership of.
We'll focus on how to walk an employee through discovering what needs to be different. But before we look at the process of ensuring an employee is set up to take ownership of a task, there are two factors you need to consider regarding the tone of the conversation:
- Keep the conversation focused on systems and structure This should not be a personal or emotional conversation. It should be about what the employee needs in place in order to take ownership of the task. At this point, what has happened in the past should be discussed; NOT to place blame, but instead as examples of barriers they need to overcome.
- Be willing to adapt Asking others to take accountability sometimes forces a spotlight on weaknesses in your business. We've seen these conversations lead to the discovery of failures in a system, highlight inefficiencies in manager's or owner's responses to employees, or showcase the lack of tools to get the task completed. It can be embarrassing to go from asking your employee to take ownership of a task to realizing that there is something in your business that needs to be fixed.
In truth, often times the lack of taking ownership is a mixture of lack of structure in the business AND employees not taking ownership. Just as an employee shouldn't take this conversation personally, neither should you as a business owner. Sometimes you may be the bottleneck, but this process is all about solving the problems not about placing blame. Keep the focus on what results the business needs and be willing to adapt the design of the business to reach those results.
At times, the conversation may shift to blame and venture away from the results that the business needs. It's up to you to truly facilitate the conversation. You do this by walking through each bullet point in the definition with the employee and ask them what stops/prevents them from fulfilling this part of the definition. Your goal is to be curious and really try to help understand what is causing the issue. Using our definition from last week, sample questions might be:
- Results: What are the defined results of this task? Do we have a documented system that we can reference that defines the results? Can the employee tell you in their own words how they know the result has been achieved?
- Resources: What do they feel they don't have that they need in order to take ownership of this task? What systems/tools do they have access to, but may not know, or use? Have they had any issues accessing tools or resources in the past for this task? What do you need from the business moving forward?
- Pleasantly Persistent: What language do they use when following up with someone who hasn't gotten a step done when they said they would? What systems or structure do they use to know who they need to follow up with? If they are waiting on someone else to take action, who else needs to know and when do they need to know? What issues have they had with this in the past and how can they handle that moving forward?
- Problem Solve: What barriers do they typically encounter? How can/should they handle them? Do they have any tools or resources they use for problem solving? Is there a mindset of giving up that needs to be addressed?
- Ask for Help: For this task, who and where can they go for help? What's the best method of seeking help from that person or resource? What barriers have they encountered in the past when seeking help and how might they handle that in the future?
- True Delegation: What tools do you use to delegate a task? How do you communicate with someone you've delegated a task to? How do you remember who to follow up with when you have delegated a task? What issues have you run into with delegation in the past with this task? Does the employee understand, even with delegation, that they still own the task?
If your definition is different, you will need to customize the questions that you ask. Be sure to ask and don't just tell the answer. If you want the employee to take ownership you'll want to understand how they think about the task and what truly is getting in their way.