Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ownership is a two-way street!!

This was a lovely article in the The Star newspaper on Friday 11th Sept. one of the most popular ones in Malaysia with lot of pages in it which tends to make it weigh about few 100 gms..:) 
It's a fact today that the job cycle has shifted its focus from employees to employers to customers and back again to employees.. although we all know for all of them to survive, the eco-system has to be well organised and maintained.. we have seen one of the worst recessions that we are passing by.. which hopefully has taught us few more good lessons... and more the need for articles like this one........
here it goes.. 
TODAY, many organisations talk about the importance of “ownership”. They talk about how all employees need to act less like employees and more like “owners”.
The logic goes that when everyone starts thinking like an owner or a stockholder, there will be more drive and motivation, and less wastage and complacency.
I actually agree with this. It’s about a change in mindset more than anything and this can bring about positive change to an organisation.
Unfortunately, in some organisations there is a clear delineation between “management” and “staff”. A schism, whether real or perceived, is created. “Management worries about the bottom line, while staff worry about themselves”.
In this sort of environment, the mindset among many staff members is self-centred. “I’m just here to look out for my own needs, my own career, and I will do all I can to get the most out of the company. Why should I bother whether the company is doing well or not. Those things affect the upper management, not me.”
This kind of mindset creates a very antagonistic work culture, where employees are incredibly resistant towards change and any initiative that may involve sacrifice on their part is quickly rejected. There is very little willingness to stretch, to adapt, to compromise, or to go the extra yard; all of which are important to attain the organisational fluidity needed to compete in the global arena.
Conversely, when you have a high level of ownership in the organisation, you find that the general culture is open and receptive of change. People are willing to think and act for the good of the organisation even though it involves sacrifice and extra challenges.
Similarly, in their efforts to rationalise cost, many companies implore staff to treat company resources with the same care and prudence they treat their own personal resources.
“Turn off the lights and air-conditioners when not in use. Don’t waste water. Don’t overindulge using the company expense account. Be restrained when photocopying and printing.” In other words, “if this was your house, you wouldn’t be wasting all of these resources because you’re the one paying the bills.”
Ownership among staff certainly has the potential to change the organisational culture for the better.
However, don’t expect staff to take ownership of the organisation unless the organisation takes ownership of its staff.
You see, ownership is a two-way street.
When we expect staff to go beyond the call of duty, to go the extra mile, it is only fair that the organisation also goes the extra mile in taking care of its staff’s welfare and needs.
The form of “ownership” that management should show is to consider all the issues and problems the staff are facing, whether in the workplace or outside, and say “these are our problems and issues too and we want to help you deal with them. We don’t need to. It may not be in the employment contract or the company’s standard operating procedures but this company has a different culture. We care for one another as people, not just as workers. Just as you serve the company with dedication and loyalty that goes beyond what is expected, we too want to honour and serve you as one of our staff.”
If we want to nurture a culture of “ownership”, we need to meet more than just our financial obligations. We’ve got to make it part of the company culture that we take the needs of our staff seriously. We care for their physical and psychological well-being. We contribute meaningfully to their personal and career development. We ensure a healthy work-life balance.
I’ve often said that the leaders who command the greatest respect and loyalty are those who take care of their staff. They put their staff’s needs above their own. They are the type of bosses who are willing to take a pay cut to save the jobs of their team members in a time of recession. They are the army commanders who lead from the front and never subject their platoon to unnecessary risk.
In short, great leaders take ownership of their team. And one day, when they ask their team to walk that extra mile, their staff are only too happy to do so, because the sense of ownership is mutual.
l Dr Goh Chee Leong is vice-president of HELP University College and a psychologist. We welcome feedback on this article.

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