Thinking like an owner

think like an ownerEvery so often I’m asked by frustrated business owners, “How can I get my employees to work the way I work, take care of our customers as passionately as I do, bring the same commitment I have?” 

Again tonight a frustrated business owner asked, “I pay everyone very well, I offer great benefits, I pay for people to have their cell phones and all the tools they need. Why am I the only one responding to customer’s calls over the weekend? Why am I the only one jumping in the truck after hours to go fix a problem at a customer’s site? Why don’t my employees make this same commitment?”

In sum, “How do I get my employees to act like an owner?”

In my experience, accomplishing this is an evolutionary process. Employees don’t naturally come into a job thinking like an owner or acting like one. They think and act like an employee wanting to do a good job, but they’re doing a job.

The challenge is to move them past that so they willingly giving of their discretionary energy to the company’s success.

Your work as an owner or CEO is to develop employees into “FANS” who promote the company, their association with the company and their celebration of the company as much as you do. Accomplishing this takes effort and consistency. This work will challenge your leadership, your values, and your behaviors. It’s a process. There is no magic bullet or one-time workshop or seminar. It is a combinations of levers from which you select to pull, combined with a consistency of focus, communication and action over time.

Here are some of the factors I’ve found key to accomplishing this:

  • Clarity of purpose, mission, vision and values for the company. What purpose does your company fulfill beyond making money? Why do you exist? How do you make anything or anyone better because you exist?
  • Values stated as behaviors – use verbs, not nouns. And, choose the 4-6 that really matter for your organization.
  • “Walk the talk.” As the top leader, your people are keenly observing you in everything you do. It’s about what you DO, not what you say. Your actions must match up with the values you’ve espoused for the company. You don’t ever get a pass. Every employee is watching what you do — always.
  • Align employees’ understanding of their roles to your company’s purpose, mission and vision. Give employees a “sight line” for how each person and the work he or she does makes a difference to the success of the company.
  • Understand your internal Net Promoter Score given you by your employees. Success is not about employee satisfaction. It is about employees being engaged and aligned to the success of the company, then being willing to promote the company to others.
  • Develop your supervisors and managers. Ensure they have the skills to coach, develop and accelerate performance of their team. Train them in the skills of Situational Leadership and educate them on their key role being entrusted with your most expensive, and most valuable, assets. The worst mistake many companies make is leaving these skills to chance. Never assume the right skills are being applied.
  • Invest in team building and norms building. High performing individuals and teams out-perform others by two to one. Invest in building trust, learning how to engage in debate and argument, and committing to team success.  This is where you establish the behaviors to which everyone is committed and to which everyone agrees to hold each other accountable. Start with YOUR direct reports, your senior management team.
  • Build a culture of accountability. This includes allowing individuals to fail and learn in the process. In the process, teach your managers to stop “enabling” poor behavior.

If you are starting out in this effort, begin with the first two bullets above.

Then consider conducting an employee engagement survey that generates a net promoter score along with other information, followed by cascaded team conversations. This is a very specific process. My experience is that you don’t get candid information from the survey unless it’s administered by an independent third party. People just don’t trust an internally administered questionnaire.

This is a starting point. It is not the complete and ongoing process. Achieving a great workplace culture that delivers sustainable results takes commitment.

For an example of the results we can achieve when working with you, see Case Study #3 and Case Study #5.

If you would like to learn how to align and engage your company in 2014, let me know through the Contact page.  I will schedule an initial conversation to discuss your needs and how I can work with you.

When employees drive your business success…
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