Sense of Ownership

I. The situation

In my team, I have great staff members and not so great ones.

Let’s talk a bit about definition about “great” and “not so great” before we continue:

Great: independent in completing a job; able to balance finding own solution with checking with me when faced with issues; take time to think about solution and their potential implication and alternatives, produce clean work (no typos; takes time to ensure that visual is nice); keep track of task to be completed and accomplish them one by one; take the time to accomplish a job.

In a world filled with parallel projects and limited resource, Life Is A Breeze with these guys.

Not so great: go to me for unimportant/silly/childish things; didn’t go to me for things that Do matter; forward his job to someone else who can help him then claim he did it while pissing his helpers with his forwarding of jobs; repeated typos (like, the same typo repeated 4 times); spending inordinate amount of time on a small piece of work by finding the most ineffective way to do something; keep proposing solution that would take large amount of effort to do but really is just a nice to have and won’t make much different to the end result; communicate ideas or situation without structure of information; jumping from talking about one topic to the other while having not finished on the previous topic; not being aware of communication cues such as when I switch language to English in the presence of a driver/janitor/security guard that means I’m talking things that are sensitive and he need to adjust; being rude and used expletives when communicating with peers; try to lick my ass when I need from him is to do good job; having sick days every month; showing juvenile behavior and content while in formal settings.

In a word filled with backstabbers, cynics, and naysayers, Life Is Hell with these guys

a detour from the topic above: i would say that the only good thing a not-so-great staff allows me to understand the things I shouldn’t do as my boss’s staff. Observing others mistake and internalize the “that’s something i shouldn’t do”

Since I need all members of my team to be functioning, I tried to understand the key factor that differentiates these two type of people. I thought it was intelligence, communication skill, diligence, self discipline.

I found that it’s not intelligence (their intelligence is about the same), not communication skill or the perception of communication skill (some evaluation had said that my not-so-great staff is a good communicator, which I disagree, he is awesome at smooching people, but when it comes to conveying ideas and situational awareness, not so).

Diligence? maybe; self disclipine? perhaps.

But there’s this one thing where all this things comes from isn’t it? that single things that produces excellence, showing itself in various forms

II. Ownership is not Sense of Ownership

And then, on a trip home, I found the answer. It’s Sense of Ownership.

Sense of ownership makes the difference between a great staff and a not-so-great staff.

What is it ? Sense of ownership means having the feeling of owning the job at hand, that the job success is your success, that it represents you. But…isn’t everyone success is, to some extent, dependent on the success of their tasks?

Now, we need to differentiate between ownership and sense of ownership. I can own something and couldn’t care less about it, someone else can steal it, burn it, destroy it, don’t care. If I was given a car by someone else, and I already have ten cars, I might accept the gift, enjoy it, but I may couldn’t care less if the car is destroyed or stolen. But I could the same person being given the gift, but I feel equal respect and care for all my car.

So, “ownership” and “sense of ownership” is 2 different things.

III. The difference that it makes

All my staff owns their tasks (I also own their task since my ass is on the line here), but some have sense of ownership over their job, and some, not so…

Having a sense of ownership allows one to devote care and attention to the thing he/she owns.

When you have a sense of ownership to your task, you would ensure that your output is well presented, not typos that would make you look bad, you would spend time to improve your slides that it looks nice and professionally made.

When you have a sense of ownership over your project, you would want others to support it, you would try to find the words and structure your information so that others understand and feel the benefit of the project, you would want to think if there’s something else your missing that could be damaging or an opportunity lost, you spend time to talk with people to check whether your ideas make sense to prevent blind spots, you spend time to talk with people to soundboard them on the project and enlist their help in building support

When you are focused on your job, you wouldn’t have time to pursue petty politics (i didn’t get that paid lunch!! he didn’t ask us to join!!), you would hear what others said at meetings and can follow on ideas, you would hear what your boss said and understand his instructions, you would formulate ideas carefully and checking obvious weak spots before talking about them with others

When you care about your professional image, you would watch your content and delivery in formal settings, you would watch your surroundings before you speak and adjust accordingly,you would be aware of communication cues shown by others and properly respond and look like someone who is actually an adult capable of looking beyond himself

When you care about your bonus, you would want to produce the most output possible to justify your bonus request, you would want to make your boss’s life as easy as possible so he has a legitimate reason to favor you (not just ass licking which really don’t work on the type of boss’s that’s worthy to be followed on); you keep track of your task and gunned them down one by one, you would try to find solution before going to your boss so he doesn’t equate you with the plaque, you would be selective about which issues to go to him and which don’t so you don’t waste his time

The result of sense of ownership?

When you have sense of ownership over your work, work is joy, you look promotable, and salary increase discussion is real simple

IV. Why not?

One could be a cynic and say “so what? we’re not paid that much to give ‘care and attention’ to our job. ngapain bikin orang lain makin kaya. I rather do give care and attention when I run my own business”

To these kind of response, I would retort:

1. Then go ahead and make your own business. But if you choose to stay employed to someone else, then you gonna spend the same amount of your life doing work, whether you do it half halfheartedly or immerse yourself in it. In the end, time is limited, energy can be replenish. So it’s better to make sure that we make the best use of our time.

2. Sense of ownership is not dependent on ownership, it’s a internal value that one train and build daily. If you don’t have a sense of ownership when you work for someone else, no one can prevent you from not having a sense of ownership when you build your own business. So many small businesses never took off, maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s lack of finding talent to fill the business, maybe it’s access to capital, maybe it’s lack of ambition on the owner side, and maybe, that it’s just that the owner stop caring about his own business at one point in time and let the business be handled by people who also don’t care.

V. Make the most of your time

Make the most of your time, have sense of ownership over your job, it’s gonna take the same amount of time whether you do it semi good or totally awesome.

Make it totally awesome so you can get the most of your time there.


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