Unlocking an Ownership Culture Part 2: Owners Increase Value and Assume Responsibility #CUE40


During the CUE Spring 2017 meeting, Greg Hawks delivered a highly entertaining and enlightening keynote session on how we can unlock an ownership culture at our companies. In the first article in this series, we discussed what an ownership culture is, and how to foster that culture through leadership and accountability.  In this article, we’ll explore how owners add value and best practices to invest in them. You can read more about cultivating an owner’s mindset in the final article in this series.

Owners Increase Value, and Renters Only Maintain

Greg has two jobs. By day, he works as a Corporate Culture Specialist, where he mentors leaders, develops teams, crafts culture, and empowers employees. After hours, he’s a real estate investor who manages rental properties. His real estate strategy is simple: buy nice houses, and put nice people in them.

Greg’s not a handyman, but as an owner, he wants the people who rent his homes to have safe, functional, and beautiful homes. One day Greg received a call from a renter who has a large family, and who cooks a lot. The renter disclosed that the oven was broken. The oven was part of a combination oven/stove appliance.  When he got to the house, Greg learned that not only was the oven broken, but three of the four burners weren’t functioning.

Greg was surprised that the renter didn’t call him sooner about the stove. Perhaps the renter wanted to maintain the situation and was concerned that if she called to complain about the stove that her rent would go up. Or, maybe the renter was afraid that if she complained, Greg would accuse her of breaking the stove.

It’s tough to think about a positive outcome when you’re not sure what the consequences of your actions will be. This is especially true if we’re not sure what the other person’s response will be. The unknown is always scarier than reality. Our minds go to a dark place when we’re not sure of outcomes.

Have you ever been afraid to tell your boss about a mistake, a broken process, or an accident? If so, then you probably understand why the tenant was reluctant to call Greg.

Encourage and Invest

Most people show up to work intending to do a good job. No one likes the feeling of constantly failing. Unfortunately, we don’t encourage and invest in people enough. The great thing about this tactic is that it’s totally free. It just takes mindfulness and time.

First, be mindful of the specifics behind an employee’s actions. As humans, it’s easy for us to go to a negative mindset. In business, we’re taught look for mistakes, speed up production, and manage the numbers. We’re trained to look for things that are broken, but not for things that are going well.

Carefully observe behavior and provide specific examples, since generalities are easily forgotten. For example, if I tell you, “Thank you, you did a great job today,” you might feel good. But if I tell you, “Thank you so much for taking the time to clean your aisle. Your inventory is so perfectly straight that it’s practically saluting! You’re making it so much easier for our pickers since the aisle is so organized and clean. You’re doing a great job.”


Help Me, I’m Stuck

 People often come to leaders and say, “I’m stuck” or “Please help me.” The best gift you can give someone is to help them create more value to other people. It’s free, and it doesn’t take any skill. It just takes some patience, observation, and intention.

Best of all, creating more value for other people is not only free – it’s also accessible. If you want to learn something, you can learn it for free on YouTube or at the library. If you have a learner’s mentality, you can teach others how to adopt one, too.

Here are some ways that you can encourage and invest in people that are meaningful:

  • The gift of time and attention. Put your device in airplane mode and focus on the conversation.
  • There’s never enough humor in the workplace. Lighten up and have some fun.
  • Don’t just tell an employee that they’re doing a great job. Give them public recognition.
  • Consider your legacy. If you’re thinking about retiring or leaving the company, tell your successor how great your successor is. Be her ambassador even if you no longer work closely together. Brag about her to the CEO, because she is your legacy.
  • Let employees take pride in their work. Don’t make them invisible when the CEO or a customer visits. Let them brag about themselves and their team.

Owners Assume Responsibility; Renters Avoid It

As owners, we buy problems that we don’t create, so we are forced to deal with them.  If you’ve ever seen a makeover show on DIY, you know that there are always problems hidden in the walls, foundation, or attic. Owners determine the ROI on the solution and decide whether to fix the problem or resell the property “as is”.

At work, we always deal with problems that were created down the hall, or further upstream in the process. We fix the problems that started elsewhere, and it can be quite frustrating and disheartening. This is where positive employee relations can give you an ROI that can’t be quantified.

If we give people a platform to brag about how well they fixed a problem, or give them the opportunity to talk about creative solutions, they’ll start to adopt an owner’s mindset. They’ll also start assuming responsibility for fixing more problems. They may even start bragging on their coworkers. If we don’t, they will leave, because owners don’t want to be turned into renters.


Greg Hawks is a Corporate Culture Specialist who brings an expansive leadership portfolio to your service.  For two decades he has mentored leaders, developed teams, crafted culture, and empowered employees. His approachable personality and vibrant demeanor are useful attributes for attacking mediocrity. He is not a motivator, he is an instigator. His playful attitude cloaks a directness that pinpoints root issues. Through Hawks Agency, he has originated the Like An Owner® platform. Compelled by the belief that individuals who Think, Act, Lead, and Create Like An Owner® will be more fulfilled and productive. Also, organizations who commit to implement an Ownership Culture will find loyalty and rapid growth, regularly.

Guest blogger Liz D’Aloia founded HR Virtuoso to help companies optimize their employment application processes. HR Virtuoso creates customized, company-branded short form employment applications that work on any mobile device. This allows companies to get far more applications, and also keep their existing applicant tracking system. Prior to launching HR Virtuoso, Liz rose through the ranks of transportation, retail, and mortgage companies as a Senior Employment Attorney and VP of HR. Liz is a nationally recognized blogger, speaker, and HR practitioner. Please contact her directly at liz@hrvirtuoso.com with blog ideas, speaking engagements, and consulting requests.  Follow us @hrvirtuoso.

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