Sunday, February 20, 2011

Make the Naysayers Own It

I was just thinking how powerful it could be to give ultimate ownership to someone that shows initiative and passion for their job. It still sounds like a good idea. But how about giving ownership to someone who doesn't like how things are operating?

Recently, a mom at my kids preschool caused a ruckus. She thought parent-teacher conferences should be held in the early am, felt the music was too loud and lights too bright at nap time, and was upset that her toddler wasn't spoon-fed. The mother did not address any official at the school about these grievances, but instead created an online group for concerned parents to discuss.

The leaders at the school soon learned about this mother and her concerns. First, they asked her to discuss her issues with staff and allow a chance for them to be addressed as an organization. Then, in what I see as a mature and innovative move, they asked her to join the school's Board.

Why not take the biggest critics, the most vocal opponents, and make them the owners of the very process they have a problem with? Wouldn't a fox know best how to protect the hen house?

A leader would still have to provide guidelines, support, resources, and (maybe a bit more than normal) monitor as they would for any 'owner.' But I see a questioning of the status quo that might be helpful and a possible resolution that could be supported unanimously.

My guess is this mother would argue her child won't get nourishment unless they are spoon-fed. And my hope is that others would help her see that preschool is a time to learn to grow up. A time to learn that if you are hungry you can't always rely on being spoon-fed.

For someone who finds problems, making them responsible for a successful resolution could drive the best results. Maybe this means changing what is accepted. Maybe this means this person discovers the path to success is different than they imagined, becoming a new advocate and eliminating resistance. Maybe they don't like these options and leave. All good results I say.

What problems to you see with this plan? I don't know yet what will happen with our school board, or with music at nap times - but my kids seem to be eating fine by themselves.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to Give Ownership

My last post talked about the value of making your employees 'owners'. It's clear why this is good for everyone, but how do you give ownership?

Agree on the tasks/functions to be passed off. Hire smart people and maintain real connections with them. Find areas of their work and of their interest and officially relinquish 'authority' in that area. Give them real guidelines for what you consider them responsible for. Don't fake giving ownership. Pass along real concerns, real parameters and authority to control the situation.

Demonstrate commitment and support. Create a simple owner board in the office or use an online tool. Direct others to these owners - until people go to them on their own. Defer to the 'owners' - listen and consult with owners who make it happen. Don't get involved in making it happen. Finally, deliver the resources necessary to be successful, like budgets and new hires.

Regular feedback. Meet regularly to hear the plans of your owners, to guide and to ensure their activities are connected to company goals and priorities. Give them feedback and suggestions. This takes work - planning, time and real thought, but should pay for itself many times over. Follow up again, encourage and correct. Ask for regular progress reports and ask for impediments to their success. Intervene and arrange for training where it is needed and wanted.

Hold these owners accountable. Have time frames and expectations for your owners and stick to your guns. If an owner doesn't get the job done, move them out of ownership gracefully. When your employees demonstrate successful ownership, reward them with praise publicly and financially wherever appropriate.

BOOM. I think that sounds easy. People thrive when they have a sense of purpose in their job and a feeling of accomplishment. Giving employees true responsibility and ownership lifts them, and ultimately helps you get things done, too! Have you been successful at wholeheartedly delegating? Had any trouble with it?