Ownership Mentality

How do you perform at the highest level within an organization (or really in any scenario in life)? 

Act and think like an owner..

The highest performing employee for any organization, especially in small businesses or small teams, is usually the owner (with the exception of irresponsible or immature leaders).

Why is that?

Because every good leader/owner knows that everything rises and falls on them. When things don’t go the right way, it’s the boss who has to take the hit and fix it, or fail. 

This is oftentimes why most ambitious, or Type-A leaders are also micromanagers or workaholics. They either haven’t built the right team or haven’t found the right people they can count on, so they end up doing most of the work themselves.

The “if you want something done right, do it yourself” mentality is actually really unhealthy and impractical as you grow a company. If you work for an exceptional leader, the best thing you could do for him or her, your team and yourself, is to act and think like an owner. 

So how do we acquire an “ownership mentality” when we aren’t the owner?

  1. Always ask: What would (insert boss’s or owner’s name here) do?

Assuming you work for someone you respect and believe in, this simple question should oftentimes lead you to the right answer. 

And if that doesn’t work, then try this: Something I always ask myself before I respond to hard questions or do hard things is, “what would a smart person do or say in this situation?”

This practice helps me step outside of myself and look at my situation objectively from a 3rd person point of view. I often will imagine being someone who is good at whatever it is I am working through, and ask myself what they would do. 

If you’re too uncomfortable moving forward with a decision, simply ask the owner, and make sure to give context! I’m a big believer in the worst questions are the ones you didn’t ask, so if you’ve done the work and still haven’t found a solution, practice quality communication and go straight to the source. 

2. Never stop learning

We’ve all heard this before, and there’s reasons why every iconic person has said “leaders are learners”, but what are they?

For one, your brain is a muscle. Although it’s much different than your biceps, it still needs to be flexed. Neuroscience proves that if you don’t work it out, per say, then it can atrophy. In other words, if you don’t use it, you lose it. 

Secondly, the more you know, the more valuable you become. In my experience, new employees are the most ambitious and eager to learn, since they have a fresh opportunity. Over time, and not necessarily with everyone, people can become complacent. In my company, I reward results and creativity over tenure all day. 

In my opinion, the fact that you’ve been with a company a long time only says that you were able to get the bare minimum done. If you are able to grow and advance within an organization, that shows me that you’re always adding value. The easiest way to add value is to by regularly increase your level of competency. 

If for nothing else but just making more money – this should motivate you. 

Additionally, more information can spark innovation and creativity. People get bored easily, and usually expect others to enhance their experience. Whether it’s expecting your boss to make work more “fun” or always counting on your coworkers for the next big idea. But by learning more, you will inevitably be inspired with new ideas that lead to positive changes within your company. 

Lastly, increasing your level of competence is not only an attractive quality as an employee, but as a leader. Which means if you have an ambition to be the type of leader that people want to follow, you need to constantly grow.

How do you start learning? 

Here’s 5 ways:

  1. Subscribe to valuable newsletters and blogs. I personally love New York Times, Morning Brew and Harvard Business Review. Also, I follow companies like Inc.com and Entrepreneur.com on Twitter and will read the short form blogs they post from time to time.
  2. Read books. Try switching from fiction to nonfiction each time!
  3. Listen to podcasts. Some of my favorite are anything by NPR, Business Casual, and the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. 
  4. Surround yourself with people at or above your level of competence in different areas of expertise and try to stay in touch with mentors. 
  5. Teach! Don’t just store everything you learn in your head or in your notes, because they have no value there. The point of acquiring more knowledge is to spread it, so tell people what you’re learning! Also, it’s proven that the best way to store information in your long-term memory is to teach it. 

I like to practice teaching by:

  • Writing blogs
  • Publishing podcasts
  • Posting on social media
  • Regular meetings with my teams at work

3. Count the cost(s) of every decision

Every decision, good or bad, comes at a cost. 

The question is: what is the benefit? 

The rule of thumb is if the benefits outweigh the costs, then it’s a sound decision. You’re getting a positive return on your investment.

But to understand BCR (benefit/cost ratio), we need to understand that there are multiple types of costs.

Below, I’ve outlined 4 types of costs I reflect on before making a decision:

  • Financial cost – which is what most people think of when contemplating cost. Is this worth the cost? Will it make us more money than it costs us? Will it save us money?
  • People cost – you have to consider how your actions will affect your team, family or clients. Will it bring them more value, or take it away? If it takes value away, how will you justify that decision?
  • Opportunity cost – basically, when you choose to do/buy one thing, then you are giving up the option to do or buy other things, whatever they may be. Is the potential outcome of this opportunity greater than the other opportunities you are forgoing?
  • Time cost – very simple; is the potential outcome of this decision going to outweigh the cost of my time that it’ll take to do it 

Here is a podcast that I have on the cost of time, and how to manage it better. (save for later)

  1.  Periodically ask, “what’s not working?” (or create a to-don’t list)

We are creatures of habit, and that’s a great thing. It’s creates consistency and productivity in life and in the workplace, but it can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Technology advances, people grow, procedures shift, client’s needs change, companies evolve– and so should you. 

Periodically, I would say every month or so, it’s important to block out an hour in your schedule to simply ask yourself the question: “what’s not working”, or “what do I need to put on my to-don’t list?”

If you work with or lead a small team, I would get them involved and set a meeting to discuss this question. But only get with your team after you’ve assessed yourself personally. 

Here’s my easy 3-step process of elimination:

  • Eliminate – what can I eliminate from my day to day that won’t negatively affect anyone? What am I doing that is simply a habit, but not necessary at this point?
  • Automate – what part of my daily routine can be automated to free up more time to work on other things?
  • Delegate – what am I doing that I should delegate to others within my team? Have you brought on more people that are capable of absorbing some of your responsibilities?

Here is a blog and podcast I wrote on mastering delegation (save for later and keep reading)

Once you’ve assessed this personally, whether it’s in your personal or work life, then assess it as a team. Just change “I” to “we” and go from there!

  1. ABC (always be closing)

This is more of a mindset than it is a practice. 

When I worked in sales and eventually as a GM for a large health club chain, we did periodic sales training. One of the acronyms that they drilled into us is ABC, which means “always be closing”. I’ve carried that mindset into everything in life, just with different context. 

To me, it means always look for opportunity in every situation, and close on it. Someone who takes ownership of their craft doesn’t wait for others to close, they do it themselves. 

This translates from sales, to negotiating, to customer service, to adversity. 

So if you’re on the phone with someone who’s struggling to navigate on your website, answer their questions, but always make sure to ask for the sale. 

Alternatively, if you’re experiencing an unexpected downturn from economic conditions that are out of your control, ask yourself what the opportunity in this is. 

In conclusion, these are the 5 ways you can begin to think and act like an owner:

  1. Always ask: What would (insert boss’s or owner’s name here) do?
  2. Never stop learning
  3. Count the cost(s) of every decision
  4. Periodically ask, “what’s not working?” (or create a to-don’t list)
  5. ABC (always be closing)

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