Ownership is the Best Motivator

“It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.”

If you’re an Office Space fan, you remember this classic quote that Peter used as an explanation for why he wasn’t putting a lot of effort into his job. While the movie was dramatized, I have felt exactly what Peter has felt – a lack of interest and care for work because I didn’t feel any attachment to it. But have no fear, there are ways to instill feelings of attachment among everyone in your team through an effective company culture.

The key is ownership. I care about my stuff a lot more than I care about yours. And the same goes for every other human being on this planet. When my parents spent money on dinner, I didn’t look too closely at the prices on the menu. But suddenly when it is my money… well hold up on that $25 entree! That’s basic human nature: we care the most about our stuff.

So if that is true, what if we can make it so work is owned by the person doing it? As a leader, there are a lot of effective ways to give your team members ownership over their work:

1. Ask for input and ideas

Instead of force feeding your team ideas or tasks, ask them what they think the organization needs and how they would execute a plan. I bet they come up with something similar to what you already thought of, but the difference is that they feel like they invented it, and thus it is theirs.

2. Assign project leads

Give junior team members lead roles on less important projects. This gives them the opportunity to show you what they are capable of and make real decisions. If they fail, who cares… it wasn’t an important project and it is an excellent learning opportunity for them. They probably won’t make the same mistake next time.

3. Always give credit

If someone on your team does a great job on a project, tell everyone. Publicly congratulate them. It should never be a mystery whether someone did well or messed up. Make it abundantly clear either way.

4. Call out mistakes

It’s a lot more painful when I make a mistake and know I am ultimately responsible for it. Make sure that you team owns their mistakes just as much as their successes. Every mistake is a learning opportunity. 

I execute all of those 4 points regularly with my team at the Entrepreneurs Club. As a result, I am thrilled to have a team of happy, committed, hard working and passionate student leaders.

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