Unlocking an Ownership Culture: Understanding Owners, Rentals, and Vandals #CUE40

  • May 8, 2017

At first glance, it’s hard to tell the difference between an owner and a renter.

During the CUE spring 2017 conference, Greg Hawks delivered a highly entertaining and enlightening keynote session on how we can unlock an ownership culture at our companies. We got so much good information, that we’ve divided his presentation into three parts. In this article, we’ll explore what an ownership culture means, and how accountability comes into play. Please click here to learn more about how owners increase value and assume responsibility. In the final article in this series, we’ll take a deep dive into an owner’s mindset.

But what exactly does an “ownership” culture look like?

Defining an Ownership Culture

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. By working with a myriad of renters over the years, he’s been able to identify an “ownership” culture.

It’s difficult to tell who is an owner or a renter in a workplace. Some employees come in to change the world, and others are just using their job as a means to get by. Since 2008, Gallup has released the State of the American Workplace, which reveals that:

  • 30% of employees are “owners”. They’re engaged employees who bring passion, creativity, and a high skill level to their function.
  • 50% of employees are “renters”. They’re disengaged and bring their hands, rather than their hearts, to work. These are the employees who show up every day, adhere to meal and rest breaks, and leave on time every day. They are critical to your company’s success, but they’re working for a paycheck. Period.
  • Then there are the “vandals”. 1 out of 5 employees in the US are actively disengaged, and trying to sabotage forward momentum. These are the blockers who create division among teams and hinder the forward progress of a leaders’ vision. You can recognize a vandal by the division and discord they bring to the workplace.

Investment Matters

If you’ve ever purchased a home, you know that it requires a significant investment in the form of a down payment.  On the other hand, renters make a smaller investment by simply making a security deposit.

This illustrates another major difference between owners and renters. Owners invest a lot of money, and time, to their properties. Renters pay the minimum amount required to take possession of the property.

In the workplace, we define this investment as commitment. Using the correct, and accurate, metrics for recognizing commitment is more difficult than it appears at first glance. Most people use time (in the form of tenure) to measure commitment. But tenure doesn’t indicate commitment. Your employees may just have a high tolerance for pain. Or, they could just be a renter, who’s been there since the company started, outlasted all kind of management initiatives, and has the intestinal fortitude to withstand the next painful change.

 Contribution versus Accountability

Employees start their first day of work as an owner. It’s human nature to want to validate the fact that you were hired. New employees are anxious to prove their value and contribute, especially on the first day of work.

Sadly, all too often the tenured employees are put out by the new employee’s passion. Leadership often contributes to this dynamic by shutting down new employees in meetings. This crushes the passion out of them.

How often have you heard this exchange at work?

New employee:  “When I worked at Company Z, we did this. Have you tried this yet?Leader:  “Oh sure, we tried that 3 years ago and it didn’t work.”

Leader:  “Oh sure, we tried that 3 years ago and it didn’t work.”

What are the chances that the new employee will contribute in the future? Sadly, at some point, the leader begins to question why the new employee was even hired – never realizing that they created this dynamic. Then the leader begins to hold the new employee accountable, although the leader themselves created that mindset. This sets off a perverse cycle of performance management and pretty much ensures that the employee will leave the organization.

Let’s pause for a minute, and consider that most companies proudly articulate a vision and values that ask employees to bring their best effort, every day, to benefit the company. Yet they also unconsciously foster an environment that shuts down the creativity, passion, and collaboration that their new “owners” bring.

 Accountability is a Hard Sell

Many leaders still haven’t learned how to put their ego aside and ask for help. It’s even harder to say, “Even though I’ve worked here for many years, I need to develop and grow.”  If you or your organization can do this well, kudos to you.

Some leaders think they’re expected to have all of the answers and solutions. So, it’s hard to acknowledge weakness and ask for help. Others lack a servant leader’s heart. And, let’s face it: even the best servant leader occasionally struggles when people ask for help but then fail to follow-up on commitments and action items.

Extremes in management styles are difficult for leaders and their teams. Hard-nosed leaders who hold people too accountable aren’t respected. But, neither are leaders who avoid conflict and refrain from holding people accountable.

Accountability can create awkwardness in relationships. This is especially true when a former peer gets promoted to supervisor. If you’re not spending time working with these new supervisors, you’ll probably end up with a supervisor who knows the technical job very well but will never become a true leader.

Without accountability, you can’t have sustained excellence. You can have world class processes and systems, but without accountability for their maintenance and continuous improvement, they will eventually fail. For sustained, long-term excellence, accountability has to be part of the equation. It’s just like owning a house. You can put off making that repair, and pay for a bigger repair later, or you can be accountable for your investment and make things right.

 Exercise the Spirit of Ownership

We all know that humans are multi-dimensional, so people aren’t always owners or renters. Their mindset may be fluid depending on the situation. Consider how you relate to ownership with your team, supervisors, spouse, kids, or anyone else. Let it resonate with you. Be mindful of yourself, and see what situations trigger the owner, renter, and even the vandal in you.

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.