Would you like to get your employees to take more ownership of their jobs and the well-being of your organization? Of course you would, but how to do it is the problem. One answer lies in what they value versus what the organization values.
When we feel stressed, it is often because we are doing things that we do not value highly or we are unable to do the things we value highly. However, we all make time for things we truly value in life when it becomes a crisis. In the meantime, we tolerate incongruence in our lives between what we believe in and what we actually do.
Personal values vs. your business values
It boils down to your personal values vs. your business values. The more similarity you have between your personal values and your business values, the more you will feel satisfied in your work. Whether you have actually put a label on them or not, people know what is valued at work. The more the values on your walls match the values that are practiced every day, the clearer the values are to the people in the organization. If your organization lives by its values, all business decisions should be within the value structure.
Employees as their first customer
While teaching a course on the philosophy of Southwest Airlines recently, I was reminded that they treat their employees as their first customer so the employees can treat their external customers as well as they are treated. If this value is actually lived in the organization, think about the kinds of decisions that would be made. Employees would help each other out routinely without being asked, management would keep employees informed, and everyone would respect each other and help them be successful. In fact, I have heard many stories where employees go beyond their jobs to help others out so passengers get to their destination on time. They also value having fun and love for each other. They carry that out in everyday work by laughing, joking with themselves and customers, and having internal contests and activities.
Does Southwest Airlines have a monopoly on people who take ownership of their jobs? No, but they hire people who have the right attitude and train them for job skills. Whether you are an owner or an employee, you do yourself and the organization a favor by thinking about what your personal values are and aligning them with your organization. If you are unhappy with where you work and what you do, it could be that you are not able to live your personal values and the incompatibility of that situation is causing you a lot of stress. If you cannot resolve that, it might be healthier for you to find another place to work.
If you are in management and you find that your people are not taking ownership of their jobs, step back and look in the mirror. What are you doing to invite them to take ownership? Are your actions consistent with what the organization says it values? If you say that you value quality, yet you ask people to take shortcuts that make quality inconsistent, people don’t believe you value quality. If you say that you value new ideas, but you are too busy to listen to new ideas, people don’t think you value them, so they stop giving you any. If you say you value innovation, yet you punish mistakes, people believe you value the “tried and true.”
If you want to build ownership, clearly develop and communicate your corporate values. Then talk to people about their values and try to find the harmonious matches. Hire new people who have the same values as your organization. Begin a dialog of how those values translate into how people behave at work. Reinforce the positive efforts when values are demonstrated and redirect actions that do not match your values. Soon you will see a change in the direction you seek.
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