Cultivating an Ownership Mindset

Many years ago, when I was lecturing in Human Resources, one of the stock standard assessments was a group assignment. Essentially a group of 5 would research and present on a topic relevant to the curriculum. My memory was that it was a mixed bag. There were those groups that did an incredible job and then those who looked like they were meeting for the first time at the group presentation. Often one person took the responsibility of doing much of the work and corralling the others to be there on the day to do their part. What stood out with those that were very good was that each group member took pride in the overall outcome. They each contributed their part but their interest was not just about what they contributed but in working together with the rest of the group to produce a something everyone could be proud of. They had what I would call an ownership mindset. Unsurprisingly, those with this mindset tended to perform better than other individuals who didn’t.

I have been working with a client for the past 9 months embedding an ownership mindset across 1300 people who have to work together to delight their internal and external customers. What’s been pleasing is implementing some of the ideas below have helped green shoots to emerge. A wonderful example of this is one of the participants on one of my workshops decided to go off on his own and research and develop a pack on an ownership mindset and what it meant for the organisation and, led discussions across the divisional teams to embed some of the language and ideas of an ownership mindset. A great case-in-point in what an ownership mindset looks like.

So, let’s define an ownership mindset?

“An ownership mindset means I am responsible for my actions, and we are mutually accountable for the outcome. It’s working with others to deliver an outcome that delivers success in the eyes of our customer”

I have underlined ‘responsible’ and ‘mutually accountable’ as they are at the heart of an ownership mindset. I take responsibility and I am accountable with others for the outcome we produce.

So, what does it look like?

This is not an exhaustive list, but an ownership mindset includes:

  • We do what we say we will do.
  • Taking on roadblocks and obstacles rather than walking away and leaving it for others.
  • It’s having a learning agility mindset with a commitment to experiment and learning from our successes and failures.
  • It’s about self and team improvement. An ownership mindset is about striving to get better.
  • It’s coming together, collaborating and creating value.
  • It’s a willingness to challenge the status quo and innovate.
  • It’s a willingness to challenge each other.
  • It’s in the language you use
    • “What can I do to help..”
    • “I will do that…”
    • “How does this help our customer?
    • “I need your help on this…”
    • “What can I be responsible for…”
    • “How can I improve my contribution..”
    • “How can I find a way…”

So how can we cultivate an ownership mindset?

  1. Talk about what an ownership mindset looks like with your team?

It’s so important to get on the same page. Everyone in the team should be clear about what an ownership mindset looks like. Develop some guiding principles or behaviours that demonstrate what an ownership mindset looks like in your team. Then on a regular basis review how you are going against each one. Where are we seeing it exhibited? Where are we not seeing it? What’s been the impact? What do we need to do more of? If we don’t know what it looks like, it’s going to be hard to embed it.


  1. Build leadership density across the team

An ownership mindset sees everyone stepping up to exercise leadership. When leadership is centred in a position there is less ownership mindset. People look to the leader to lead and take ownership and individuals just focus on their part. Creating the conditions for leadership to emerge amongst all team members helps build an ownership mindset. This might look like; mutual accountability, any team member can bring ideas and experiments to the table, a willingness to challenge the status quo and encouraging the team to look for solutions rather than look to you for guidance. Mutual accountability means it is about us not just you.


  1. Seek to constantly improve as an individual and as a team

Those individuals that have an ownership mindset are always looking to improve themselves and supporting others and the team to improve. An ownership mindset means stepping up and asking how can we get better, how can we grow as a team, how can learn from each other, how can we can learn from our successes and failures. One measure I look at in teams is how often do they talk about their team behaviours and dynamics and what they could to differently to be the best they can be. If you are not having this type of conversation then you are diluting your ownership mindset.


  1. Celebrate and reward an ownership mindset

Behaviours and culture emerge when they are known, seen, celebrated, and rewarded. If you want to enable an ownership mindset then look for it, celebrate it (tell stories where you have seen it done well) and reward for it (monthly recognition awards, acknowledge at all hand meetings). Some teams I have worked with start each meeting with an ownership mindset story. This highlights not just the importance of an ownership mindset but makes it known what it looks like.

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