10 Ways to Get Employees to Step Up and REALLY Own Their Job

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Every employee who works for you will eventually arrive at a crucial intersection, if they haven’t already.

At that point, you hope they turn right and buy-in to your leadership and the vision and values of your company. Turning that direction means that they see a future for themselves with your organization so they’ll invest themselves fully and go all-in.

Unfortunately, some will turn left and quit on you without actually quitting. They’ll take on the “me against the machine” mindset and begin looking for shortcuts and ways they can do just the MDR (Minimum Daily Requirement) that it takes to fly below the radar and avoid getting called out or fired.

How to encourage workers to own their job

Your leadership determines their direction. Here are 10 ways to encourage your people to turn right, own their job and control their future in your organization:

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  1. Share your vision — Help employees feel part of something bigger than themselves. Communicate your mission and vision to them early and often, and ask for their continual input so that they see what you see and are committed to working toward that result.
  2. Involve employees in goal setting and planning activities — Seek out their ideas, knowledge, and insights, and invite them to help make important decisions. At the very least, let them see your process for making difficult decisions.
  3. Explain the “why” — Don’t just tell someone what to do without making absolutely certain they also understand why that task needs to be completed and why you’ve selected that individual for the job. Give the job context in the bigger picture of your operation.
  4. Let them choose the “how” — Whenever possible, let your employees decide how to achieve the task you’ve assigned. Agree upon what constitutes a successful outcome, then let them chart their own course. This builds ownership in the process and they might figure out a method for getting the job done that is superior to the one you would have assigned. If that happens, call attention to it. If they choose a poor methodology, don’t jump in and scold them, but rather ask questions that enable them to see better options and give ‘em another chance.
  5. Delegate authority, not just work — Give employees a leadership role in some of the meetings they attend. Leadership skills develop over time, and they require practice.
  6. Trust them before you have to — Eventually, you’ll have to trust them, but sometimes it’s worth the risk to trust them before that point to make a decision or step into a role that pushed them to the limit. Your trust in them will give them confidence, and that confidence is crucial to their personal development.
  7. Encourage them to solve their own problems — Listen to their problems but don’t bark out the answer. Instead, ask probing questions that will lead them to determine the right answer. When they get it, compliment them and tell them they don’t need to ask you about similar situations; that you have faith in them to figure it out. Don’t abandon them, but prove that you trust their judgment.
  8. Hold them accountable — Remember that employer trust and employee autonomy is a two-way street. Holding employees accountable for their work and for meeting established goals and deadlines motivates them to achieve better results. Don’t let ‘em off the hook. Demand their best effort.
  9. Provide constructive feedback — Regardless of the results, let them know how they’re doing, and give them the coaching they need to improve. Although they might not always ask for it, they want and need your feedback to further develop their knowledge and skills.
  10. Acknowledge them on the spot for stepping up — A few seconds of genuine one-on-one acknowledgement and recognition can go a long way toward reinforcing an employee’s willingness to step up and stand tall. Show you appreciate their above-and-beyond commitment with a reward that matches the result. Often times, the best reward is additional trust and an added level of responsibility.

ON POINT – If you want your employees to take ownership in their jobs and work for you the way they’d work for themselves, you must invite them to be more than just an order-taking drone by cultivating a culture of autonomy.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s blog Chester on Point

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at EricChester.com and follow him at @eric_chester

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9 Comments on “10 Ways to Get Employees to Step Up and REALLY Own Their Job

    1. Throw Away – If you’re waiting for better pay to step up your game, it’s no wonder you come off sounding jilted. You don’t put the log in after the fire starts, you throw the log in first. The employment market is pure. You’re getting exactly paid what you’re worth. If you’re not, then take responsibility and ask for more or find a job that’s willing to pay you more. If you can’t find an employer that’s willing to pay you more, then the market has spoken. Of course, a cheerleader could have taught you that cheap economics lesson back in grade school, …right, my man?

      1. So your stellar synopsis of economics is that since I’m being paid I must be getting paid at the market value/rate. Stunning analysis. So, in the future, perhaps you should refrain from learning your economics from that same aforementioned cheerleader. Or at least you could pretend that you mastered arithmetic during your tenure in grade school likewise. Anything else you need unconfused about there Einstein?

  1. Eric I actually agree on the suggestions given to encourage better employee engagement. ThrowAway, vacations and better pay incentives work well too, but the impact of their effects are temporary. The suggestions Eric gave last a lot longer and appeal more to a value based culture rather than giving hand outs for a specific moment in time.

    1. Thanks, Tamara. I’m delighted that you took away some actionable ideas for creating a culture of autonomy where leaders are developed.
      Like you, I am always searching for meaningful ideas and techniques that I can apply to my personal and professional life.
      The ideas I find useless or irrelevant, I simply throw away.

  2. Great article Eric. Quick question regarding Item 8 – Accountability. Would you be able to share suggestions regarding what kind of consequences are appropriate when employees don’t meet their goals (apart from the extreme ones of suspension and termination)? Would like to hear from the readers as well regarding this.

    1. Thanks for asking a great question, Chuck. However, your question begs a series of other questions. What kind of employee? What goal did they miss and by how much? Was missing the goal their fault, or are there some other people and/or factors that need to be considered? And here’s the question that I think is most important: Did the employee OWN the goal? Was it set for them or did they have an input on what those goals were?

      I wholeheartedly believe in the adage “punishment should fit the crime.” But before doling out any consequences, a manager must know if they have any culpability in the ‘crime’ and what consequences could be most helpful in correcting the situation so that the ‘crime’ will not occur in the future.

  3. Leadership must see the real cause of organization failure include Personal Agendas and Human Complication aside from the #1 cause: System Complexity. Leadership involves gently guiding employees through the organizational rat maze to their cheese. An effective course of action is to collaborate to simplify the system’s complexity and enhance its Transparency so folks can see what they’re doing has an impact and what kind of impact. Hence a sense of their efficacy and import.

  4. While pay is important to make ends meet…true leadership is why people stay. As long as pay is fair, I have found people will walk without good leadership and equally they will stay for great leadership. Fostering an environment that people enjoy going to and where they are valued for their strengths makes people want to give their best for themselves, their team and the organization. Clear expectations, vision, trust and communication encourages accountability and an environment that breeds results.

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