Spotting the Ownership Mentality in Employees

November 6, 2014 •

Spotting the Ownership Mentality in Employees

I have no ownership stake in Right Source Marketing. But I approach everything I do as if I own the place (some of my colleagues will chuckle at that). That means that I am incredibly invested in the company’s success, and everything I do reflects that—from the tiny details to the big picture. I think it makes me a better employee, and I wholeheartedly believe it’s better for the company if I operate that way.

Here’s the part that may surprise some people: I don’t believe that my ownership mentality has anything to do with my position in the company. Sure, I have a fancy vice president title and am part of the five-person leadership team that includes the three actual owners of the business, but any employee at any level can have the ownership mentality. Even more powerful is when all the employees in a company have an ownership mentality. The company thrives, and the people grow both personally and professionally. And overall, you will have a bunch of happier people.

Here are the key areas in which you can really see ownership mentality in people, and why I think it’s so important:

Work Ethic — People with an ownership mentality have a different work ethic. It doesn’t mean working all the time, although you can count on this group to get the job done well every time and especially when it’s crunch time. What it really means, though, is that they will do their work with the big picture in mind. They think about how the work they do affects the company, and the clients, and the reputation, and the future. They are high-level and future focused, not only right-here, right-now focused. These people derive great personal satisfaction from not only what they do, but also satisfaction from the benefits to the overall organization. And they are never people who hate their jobs. Those people will not have ownership mentality.

Innovation — Employees with ownership mentality are willing to contribute ideas and information that impact company change and will ultimately propel the company forward — and to success. They are the types to put thought into a proposed plan, not bring up half-baked, unsupported ideas. They will be the ones to bring research, data, and supporting evidence to the table, and present ideas thoughtfully and thoroughly.

But these employees will only continue to contribute if their feedback is welcomed and implemented. That doesn’t mean that every idea is a winner. But employees have to know that their feedback is meaningful and will be considered, or they won’t speak up.

Hiring — For those employees who have a role in hiring for your company, the ownership mentality is key. There is a big difference between thinking about how a prospective employee will fit in as part of MY department, or as someone who works for ME, versus thinking about how they will fit in with an entire organization (this is especially true in small companies). A hiring manager with ownership mentality will be concerned beyond his or her own department, and will look for how a prospective employee will mesh with staff in other areas, how they will fit into the culture, if they will be able to embrace the company’s philosophies, and how all of that will impact the organization LONG TERM.

I have been told I am too picky about hiring. I don’t buy it. I am looking for the best possible person to fill the current content manager opening at Right Source. Even though being “picky” means more work for me short term, I’m not going to settle, because I believe we should only hire the best of the best for our company. I want our employees to be a great fit so they want to stay here, become stellar contributors, and grow with our company. If that takes a long time, I think it’s worth it for our organization. When it comes to hiring, your employees should be looking at not only immediate needs, but also for the long-term good of the organization.

Relationships — The types of relationships that employees form with colleagues, clients (both internal and external), vendors, and other partners are important to a business. Someone with ownership mentality understands the importance of upholding and building your company’s reputation with clients, vendors, and partners — and works at it.

Just as critical as forming and building those external relationships is the formation of internal relationships. An employee with an ownership mentality will always be a team player, and will invest a significant amount of time and effort into nurturing relationships with other team members—even when some of those team members aren’t people they get along with easily.

Decision Making — People with ownership mentality will frequently tell you that they are people who feel empowered within an organization. Regardless of their level within that organization, they generally feel that they have the power to make decisions within their sphere of influence. Even the best leader shouldn’t be making every decision, and if you have a staff of smart people with ownership mentality, and you are making all the decisions for them, you won’t have them on your staff for long. These folks want some ability to influence how things happen, so let them have it. Give them decision-making power (based on their roles) and hold them accountable. The two go hand in hand.

You can’t force ownership mentality on your employees. You build it as part of your culture, how you manage, how you incentivize, who you hire. It’s a whole package. But when you can get everyone to embrace it as a philosophy and have a whole team working that way, you will see a difference.

If you have a team with ownership mentality, let me know what traits they have that I might have missed. Did those traits have to be developed or were they inherent?

About the Author

Yvonne Lyons is Right Source’s vice president of content marketing, overseeing content strategy and creation for all of our clients. She ensures that all content produced at Right Source is of the highest quality and is aligned with our clients’ business strategy and goals. Yvonne received a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University in writing and literature and has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, branding and communications. You can find Yvonne on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or read her other posts.

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