How to drive strong ownership, commitment, accountability and passion in your team

As a leader – here are five practical things you can do to deepen the level of ownership, commitment, accountability and passion in your team:

  1. Make sure people are engaged in setting the goals early on. This practice would most likely be applied differently depending on the size of your team, and how dispersed it is. In a small team, it is easy to engage people in the strategy or goal-setting exercise. In a large organization, this principle will have to be implemented in steps. Step one – would be to get your senior team engaged and aligned. Step two – bring the middle managers on board. And step three – update and include the rest of the team. The application may be different, but the principle of engaging everyone in the goals early on is always relevant. This is because the more people feel listened to and engaged in setting the goals the more they will feel a sense of personal ownership and accountability toward them.
  1. Promote a culture of open, honest, authentic and courageous communication. The more your people feel they can speak their mind, especially addressing what is not working the more they will naturally gravitate toward feeling and behaving like loyal owners of the business. Regardless of what senior leaders often think, people will only speak up if they believe their leaders genuinely want them to. If you want to deepen ownership and accountability throughout your organization, you have to start with yourself and your senior leaders. You and your leaders need to show that you are open to honest dialogue, including feedback and criticism about yourselves.
  1. Instil the language of accountability as the norm. The language of accountability sounds and feels very different than the typical language of compliance that permeates throughout most organizations. In an environment of compliance, people tend to tolerate and indulge in excuses, justifications, blame and reasons why things can’t be done, why they didn’t get done or why they aren’t done with excellence. In contrast, the language of accountability is all about clarity and action. People make clear requests and promises. And these get responded to with clear and authentic acceptances, declines or counter-offers. People always know where things stand and they value integrity and honesty over appearances and political gain.
  1. Deal with failures, mistakes and shortfalls in an empowering way. In most organizations when people underperform or fail, senior leadership tends to look for someone or something to blame. The problem is that when people feel there is a witch-hunt going on to find a scape-goat they react by hiding, protecting their behinds, even lying. As a result, teams often don’t get to the source and root-cause of the failure in the first place, so they find themselves repeating the same failures in one way or another over and over again. If you want to create an environment of authentic accountability deal with all failures, mistakes and shortfalls only in an empowering way – don’t entertain the ‘blame game’. In fact, don’t be concerned with ‘whose fault it is’. Instead, be obsessed with learning from past failures and correcting the issues. Ask your team questions like: “What was missing?”, “What was in the way?” and “What can we change, correct and improve?”. You’ll see that your people will be excited to contribute to the investigation and as a result, you’ll come up with new ideas and solutions that will take you to new heights. In addition, you will strengthen your people’s sense of ownership and accountability to your vision.
  1. Highlight, recognize and celebrate displays of accountability. Most leaders don’t do a great job of acknowledging and recognizing their team members for a job well done on any day. I am not referring to the formal corporate human resources recognition programs that occur at best once a quarter or a couple of times a year. I am talking about creating an environment of day-to-day verbal recognition. People respond extremely well to genuine recognition. It makes them feel noticed, appreciated and valued and that causes them to want to do and contribute even more. If you want to create a powerful culture of ownership, commitment, accountability and passion, go out of your way to recognize small, medium or large displays of ownership and accountability. Make it a daily routine and practice. It’s so simple!

While I have directed this list to “leaders” and “managers”, these topics are so universal and basic that anyone in the team, no matter what level or position, could suggest them, promote them and bring about positive change with them…. especially if they are eager to make a difference and are willing to be courageous.

Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

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