Employee Ownership: Three Ways Companies Get It Wrong

What does it really mean for employees to demonstrate ownership? Taking care of every detail? Stepping up to take blame and correct mistakes?

Amazon characterizes the best of employee ownership this way:

“Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”

For Amazon, ownership goes beyond looking out for one’s department; it is a customer focus that outstrips subculture loyalty to encourage a long-term orientation and a “one culture” mentality that responds to customers first and takes the long view. 

It seems reasonable enough, so why do so many leaders fail to create an ownership mentality across their organizations?

1.     They don’t empower their people— Clearly define the authority team members have, and allow them to use it. How many organizations claim to value the customer as the top priority, and then drive them away by keeping employees waiting for approvals from management to make front line decisions? If you are having difficulties both empowering and holding your frontline employees accountable, then maybe it's time to hire a COO.

2.     They make moves based on assumptions— Not confirming what the customer wants and acting on assumptions can jeopardize the customer experience. This shows a lack of attention to detail, which also demonstrates a lack of care for customers’ needs. Simply asking the customer and confirming next steps are two ways to avoid this misstep.

3.     They don’t allow for flexibility to meet customers where they are— Bogging your employees down in red tape is one thing, but not allowing them to create unique, customer-focused solutions practically drives customers to competitors. Focus on values and principles rather than a cookbook of “What to do when…”

Where can you empower your people to increase ownership? Do they understand how their behaviors impact the company's P&L? 

What do you do to recognize or reward those who demonstrate ownership? How do you communicate successes across the organization?