Reflections – A Message from SmarterServices’ President

Leadership is getting things done through people. There are two ways you can get someone to do something – (1) force them, (2) motivate them. Obviously as educational leaders we are not in a position to force someone to do something. Who would want to work in an organization that forces people to do things? So how then do you motivate people? There are thousands of answers to that question. Based on my experience one of the most effective ways to motivate a professional working in an academic community is to give them ownership of a project, process, or idea. The article below is offered for your consideration. It is provided by a friend and colleague of mine, Dr. Nathan Mellor, President of Strata Leadership.

Transferring Ownership to Your Team

One of the toughest things to do as a leader is to help create an environment where everyone on the team feels a sense of ownership in the organization. Until your team is willing to claim ownership for their work however, it is unlikely you will have the level of buy-in needed to create a truly transformational organization. A few thoughts on building a culture where people feel a sense of ownership:

1. Hire and promote for character and competence. My grandfather was a postal carrier, a janitor and a wood craftsman. In each of these jobs, his character was revealed. As a postal carrier, it was a point of personal pride that the mail was delivered in spite of the weather. As a janitor, his work revealed his commitment to doing a great job by keeping the floors clean. As a craftsman, he enjoyed making rustic rocking chairs. On the underbelly of each his creations, he took the time to engrave them with his name and address. He didn’t do a great job because of the pay. He did a great job because of his character. His character was revealed in the way he chose to do his job. His job didn’t define him but the way he did his job revealed who he was. A handful of leaders like him change everything in an organization. Don’t settle for less.

2. Establish expectations. I own my home. When I rented, I treated the rental home differently than my own home. I didn’t abuse the home we were renting but I didn’t look at it the same as I do my own home. When we have ownership, we look at things differently. In the same way, leaders must constantly transfer ownership of problem solving to the rest of the team. Let your team know they are expected to identify the problems and are responsible for addressing them. Let them know that you will work with them to assist as needed but that you are work towards creating a self-correcting team.

3. Evaluate and Redirect. Giving people ownership when they aren’t ready is similar to giving a new driver a sports car without driving lessons. It isn’t safe for them nor is it safe for the other people on the road. As a leader, you are working with them with the clear goal of allowing them to drive alone. When giving your team direction about ownership, let them know of your desire to assist them in taking a more active role. To do this requires establishing both the continual and terminal goals. A continual goal is a way of doing something (I want you to be a careful and attentive driver) while the terminal goal is a specific goal (I want you to pass your driver’s test on your 16th birthday). These goals need to be written down and the evaluation process needs to be agreed upon. Work with your team along the way, evaluating their progress according to the agreement made. To truly make a difference, you must care about your team enough to redirect as needed. You must choose to truly care about those on your team. If you do not care about them, you are unlikely to take the time needed to assist them or the risk necessary to tell them the truth.

4. Celebrate. People tend to do more of what they believe will be rewarded. Celebrate the success of your team when they work together to address a real-world problem. If they have reduced scrap by identifying a new approach to dealing with excess, take the time to let them know how appreciated it is. If they have identified a way to increase safety by enhancing attentiveness, celebrate with them. It is difficult to underestimate the power of genuine gratefulness and recognition. You are making a difference. Don’t give up. Leadership is tough but it’s worth it.