When was the last time you washed a rental car? If you are like most of us, you probably never washed one, and you probably know why haven’t done it! It’s not your responsibility, as it is not YOUR car; and you just don’t have that feeling of ownership.
With this in mind, what happens in your organisation when your people don’t have the feeling of ownership for what they are doing (and achieving)? There are probably some bad things happening, such as people missing deadlines and a lack of teamwork to resolve problems quickly or people simply avoiding doing what they should be doing. In fact, if you leading people at a distance, you can’t even see them not doing what they should be doing.
For today’s leaders who are often required to lead people across distances and cultures, getting your people to both take on the Feeling of Ownership and keeping that ownership is key for your leadership success. It all starts with the right mindset, a mindset of Outcomes & Ownership (Achievement Ownership).
An Outcomes & Ownership Mindset
There’s a great story that highlights the power of your people taking an outcomes mindset to their work versus an activities mindset. Many years ago, General Bill Creech took over the TAC – Tactical Air Command in the U.S. Air Force, an organisation then of about 170,000 people spread around the world and focused on repairing and maintaining airplanes.
When General Creech took over the organisation, it was organised by function, with workers directed by sophisticated computer systems to each aircraft to maintain and repair the airplanes. He understood the power of teamwork, and re-organised the entire organisation into teams, and assigned teams a number of airplanes to maintain (to keep flying). The teams shared best practices with each other and performance for the whole organisation increased dramatically.
General Creech went around visiting all the locations, and was always asking his people how they liked the new way of working (in the teams). One team member replied with a question back to the general:
When is the last time you washed a rental car?
This team member was saying to the General…
Before: They were activity focused – on their individual activity
Now: They are OUTCOME focused – is the plane flying?
There’s a huge difference when YOUR people are outcomes versus activity focused.
An OUTCOMES focus is a focus on Achievement.
An activities focus is a focus on busyness.
This team member was saying that the teams now took ownership for the outcome (the plane flying), and helped their fellow team members to fix the plane faster. Because…if the plane has 5 problems and only 4 problems have been fixed, it’s still not flying! In fact, they painted their team names on the side of the airplanes, and that signalled real ownership. They realised that:
OUTCOMES drives Ownership, and Ownership drives Commitment.
Actually, the General’s target was beyond OUTCOMES, Ownership and Commitment, and to the word PRIDE. People who have pride in what they do, will do it well; and also continually search for ways to do it better. Now in today’s world, PRIDE often gets a bad name. Why?…because pride is often confused with EGO. Pride without humility is ego. However…
Pride + Humility = MAGIC
When you instil pride in your people and throughout your organisation, they will truly deliver magical performance for you. Do your people feel the pride in what they do?
Delegating & Asking Questions
Remember, as a leader, when you are discussing and delegating outcomes, you are first talking in the language of achievement, and getting your people to take ownership of the achievement (the OUTCOMES). If you delegate an activity to your people, who owns the outcome it supports? That’s right, you do…the leader.
Successful leaders focus on delegating outcomes (not just activities) and asking their people for the milestones on how they are going to achieve them. Your people will take far more ownership in milestones they give you, than in the milestones you give them.
Don’t be too quick to provide your people the answers to all their questions too! So, here’s a question for you. Two people are having a conversation, one is asking all the questions, and one is giving all the answers. Who controls the conversation? That’s right…the one who controls the questions. Now, what this means is…If you are a leader who is answering your people’s questions all day long, then that means that they are in control of every conversation with you! Is that good? Probably not…
Every time you provide an answer to your people’s questions, and you could have asked some questions for them to find their own answer, then you have saved them from thinking.
Save them from thinking, and you save them from growing.
Also, will your people have more ownership in your answers than in their answers? Now, you can’t go all day without ever giving an answer! However, getting the right balance of questions and answers will drive more ownership in your people. How was the balance of questions versus answers for you this past week?
Powering the Ownership (the WHY)
Getting your people to “Own” what they are achieving is your goal, and especially if you are leading people at a distance. You’re not there to see them not doing what they should be doing (& achieving), and there’s an equation of success that really applies to leadership and ownership, and it’s…
WHY > How
Think about it for your own life first. How many times have you wanted to do something…the how was difficult and your WHY just wasn’t strong. You didn’t do it, did you? However, you can probably think back to those times when your WHY was so strong, that you would do ANYTHING to do it (& achieve it).
So, here’s what happens when this equation is out of balance (WHY < how). Your people find the how difficult, they don’t really have a WHY or understand it, and then they simply avoid doing what they know they should be doing. When you are leading at a distance, you are not there to see them not doing it, and pushing them to do. You need PULL power, and that comes from the WHY.
Successful leaders use a combination of PULL & Push. They communicate a powerful WHY that creates the PULL power, and pulls people to WANT to do what they need to. Push power comes from the leaders position, with people feeling they HAVE to do it. When leaders rely on using too much push power, their powers reduce a little each time they use it. Successful leaders use both PULL (the WHY) and Push (their position) to gain the achievements from their people. A key question for you… During this week, have you used the right balance of PULL and push in your organisation?
Outcomes Focused Meetings
How many times have you been asked to attend a meeting, and you’ve heard others say this? (“We need a meeting to discuss…..?”) If you are like many others, you have probably heard this quite often. Is discussion an activity or an outcome? Right, an activity… That means that most people and their organisations are framing their meetings in an activity focus, and not an outcomes focus. Actually, a meeting can only have three outcomes…
1. Agreed decision
2. Agreed action
3. Everyone understanding the issue in a consistent way in order to take consistent action after the meeting.
Remember, running poor meetings equals (in your people’s minds) wasting their time. You get more achieved, more ownership, and more commitment when you focus your meetings on OUTCOMES, and not on discussion (an activity).
Your INBOX is Telling You
Actually, your inbox could tell you a great deal about your leadership, and whether you are focusing on OUTCOMES or not.
If you are getting more emails (and questions) from your people than you think is necessary, and if those questions are quite detailed in nature, then you might not be delegating outcomes (and responsibilities), but just activities to your people. They don’t feel the ownership for the achievement, so they keep coming back to you on the activities.
Also, the level of cc’d emails is a strong indicator that you could have some ownership problems in your organisation, as your people feel the need to keep you informed of everything or they don’t want to take ownership on their own.
What is your inbox telling you about your leadership?
The Language of Achievement
Successful leaders think, discuss & delegate OUTCOMES to their people. They know that discussing in outcomes is the language of achievement.
When you speak in OUTCOMES (the language of achievement) in everything you do (including meetings), you get more OWNERSHIP, commitment and achievement from your organisation.
Mark Fritz is an international leadership speaker & Managing Director of Procedor, an international consultancy focused on helping international business leaders to achieve even greater success in leading across distances & cultures. He has lived & worked across the world, teaches leadership at the IE Business school in Madrid, Spain, and speaks regularly on the Power of Ownership in leading today’s organisations. (www.markfritzonline.com / www.procedor.com)