This is how you create that flywheel across asking people for their ideas and perspectives, giving people freedom to explore and then rewarding the behavior. That's how you see the ownership mindset show up fully from end to end on a team. This is going to transform your team. Welcome to the Managing Made Simple podcast, where I bring a decade of experience working in some of the most influential companies in tech to help you navigate the ins and outs of being a people manager.
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Welcome back to the show and today's an especially fun one for me because we're talking about my favorite topic when it comes to team effectiveness managing. And that is the ownership mindset because I will tell you the single biggest difference between high performing teams and low performing teams, and I've worked with a lot of teams in a lot of different environments, both in-house and as a consultant for a lot of lot of years.
And the thing that sets apart the effective ones and the ones that are struggling are when teams have really embraced accountability. People hold themselves personally, account. And how that shows up is having an ownership mindset. Now, I know the research on effective teams, and it talks about psychological safety being the single biggest factor that signals a high performing team.
And I would argue, how can we have psychological safety if we don't first have accountability? How can I be vulnerable? How can I speak up? How do I know it's safe to make? If I don't know what forums it's safe to do that in, for example, I don't feel safe to give feedback as a manager or as a team member if I don't really know what the expectations are.
I certainly don't feel safe receiving it if I don't know what the expectations were. So this is a part of accountability. I don't feel safe to make mistakes when I'm not really sure what the process is for. Talking about risks and mitigations and trade-offs and, and priorities, all the things that start to show up when we have accountability.
I really, really think it's worth reexamining our definition of a high-performing team and saying, we gotta have accountability first, because that's the foundation that psychological safety sits on top. And then we have all the good stuff that psychological safety unlocks. All right, back to accountability.
Well, whenever I talk about it, the first thing I gotta do is reframe it because I know the words. God, a bad reputation. People associate it with blame and punishment and, and it has this negative whole like baggage around it. Instead of thinking of accountability as blame and punishment and all the bad stuff, I want us to think about accountability as ownership.
And when we think about it as ownership, we are excited to be accountable because when we're owners in the workplace, that means our perspectives are valued. We're an equitable contributor, we're included. This is really, really important. This is what makes us feel like we can do our best. And then you got high engagement, high morale, low attrition, all the good stuff that you wanna see on your team.
So the ownership mindset is so, so, And if you're wondering, well, yeah, I get the gist, but what do I mean by the ownership mindset? I wanted to share a few ways to really bring this out in people, and the first one is asking people for their inputs and ideas and perspectives. This one might sound obvious, it might sound, well, of course I do that, right, they're on the team.
But think about an example where you have to make a quick. You maybe reassign some people on some work to shuffle things around for a new priority. You change the days people are working. You assign someone a new client just to move faster just to get it done. This can chip away at the ownership mindset because people weren't included in figuring out is that the right call to be made?
And it doesn't mean making decision by committee. No, but it means you are creating moments for people to share their perspectives, weigh in before making a big decision, asking the team, is there anything I might be missing here? I wanna make sure I'm leaning on you and your expertise. Even calling it out, naming it.
That goes a really long way. And in return, we feel like owners, because we've been asked to step up as. And I see this a lot when I'm working with teams that have really, really strong cultures. I always look to see is that ownership mindset showing up? Because the answer is, you guessed it. Yes it is. When people are performing well, it's because when there is a problem, people roll up their sleeves.
They're proactive. They don't have a, not my job attitude. They embrace an ownership mindset and in turn, that creates a more positive collaborative culture because everybody is bought in. Everybody's on the same page, everybody has the same goal, but we sure as hell aren't gonna feel that way if no one ever asked us to contribute.
I know for me, when I have been asked to lead something or share my perspectives, Hey Leah, what do you think about this? And, and give my. I say, wow, I really gotta show up because this person is counting on me to be that expert. The next thing that fosters an ownership mindset is giving people the freedom to explore and experiment.
I mean, you're not really an owner if you're being told exactly the recipe and user manual of how to do your job. But we feel like owners, when someone says, Hey, here's the expectations. Here's what success looks like. Now I wanna see you really step into. Tell me how you'd approach it, given your expertise and your skills and your knowledge and your background, that is where we can really step into that ownership role because we say, oh, okay, someone's counting on me to bring my own flavor to this.
Years ago, I was building a diversity equity inclusion program for a product team, and my manager said, Hey, you know, we've never built this before and here's a couple things that we need to make sure we do meetings wise and events wise, but besides that, I really want you to own this. And she took a step back and I was able to build it from the ground up.
Not only that, I was able to represent that program myself to executive leadership across the company, build relationships based on being the owner of this program. And not only was this one of my best pieces of work that I did in many, many years, but I fully, fully embraced it When something would go wrong, I was proactive to figure it out.
When I was feeling stuck, I would come to my manager saying, Hey, here's where I'm stuck, but here's some ideas of how I think I can work through. I owned it end to end. And why was that? Because I was given the space to explore, to experiment, and really step into it fully. Third thing we wanna do to really cultivate that ownership mindset is to reward and recognize these behaviors.
Ownership mindset can feel abstract. It can feel intangible. It can be difficult to really quantify, is this even happening on the team, which is why we have to spell it out a little bit. I think it's really useful to have conversations with team members, setting the tone, setting the expectation that we expect you to bring an ownership mindset.
This means X, Y, Z, right? This means being proactive. This means rolling up your sleeves. This means when there is someone that's getting stuck to jump in and collaborate. This might mean pinch hitting for someone when they're not around. What does it look like to be an owner? And when we spell it out up upfront, then we can reward them based on that.
We don't just reward based on number of lines of codes written or sales made or customer services calls had. No, we bring more into the conversation. We talk about the how. How did they approach the work? How did they bring this ownership mindset? Because we already know that it's going to elevate the team to higher performance.
So we know we wanna see it, we know we wanna see more of it, but if we don't explain how it shows up and how it's rewarded, people are not gonna focus on it. Right. We do the things that we know we're supposed to be doing, and we maybe go above and beyond sometimes, but if it is a core expectation of our job because we know that it makes the work better, then we wanna clearly articulate that.
So let me share an example to talk about what this looks like from setting expectations to then rewarding it. So I used to manage program managers, and one time someone came to me and said, I feel like my job is so tactical and administrative, almost like I'm babysitting tasks. And I said to the person, no, it's concerning.
If that's how you feel about the work, then that's probably the way that you approach it. And my expectation here is that. You approach program management as an owner, you are a critical stakeholder, critical strategic partner in the work. You're a dog connector, making sure that people understand what's needed to get the project done.
It's not a babysitter. It's really the glue between all of the different roles, all the different responsibilities. It makes sure that people know what's expected of them, and she loved this framing because she had never thought about this way already. By planting the seed that I don't see her as tactical.
I don't see it as administrative, and I certainly don't see it as babysitting. I started to help her shift this mindset. That was a little bit of the shift of the what, but now I had to address the how and how is where the ownership mindset came in. Saying now as a strategic partner, as someone that's helping make communication more streamlined, surface risks, make things more clear, I really expect you to be proactive.
Having your finger on the pulse of what's going on in the project and raising things before they become a bigger issue. Connecting the dots across stakeholders, looking for things that are not clear. That's how I want you to. Because those are the activities that are going to reinforce that this is strategic work.
That's how I set the expectations. Now, when it came back to the performance discussion or feedback down the line, I could return to those expectations. Talked about proactivity, dot connecting, making things more clear. This was how she was going to be embodying this ownership mindset. Now we're saying, well, because I'm evaluating you on these things, let's talk about how these things showed up.
And in moments when I saw them, I'd recognize them and, and those would be reward. And when there were gaps, that's what we talk about saying there was a gap in being proactive in the situation. We kinda waited till other people addressed it to to do something about it. That's something we're gonna need to fine tune.
This is how you create that flywheel across, asking people for their ideas and perspectives, giving people freedom to explore and then rewarding the behavior. That's how you see the ownership mindset show up fully from end to end on a team. This is going to transform your team and if anything, If nothing else, I should say, it will make your job easier as a manager because people are stepping.
When people are looking proactively to address problems before they get worse to find places, there are gaps that they can plug. When people are doing that, everybody is collectively bought to the success of your team, to the success of your company. And you just see it is humming along like a well-oiled machine.
This is why it's my favorite, favorite topic. Reframing accountability as ownership, and then reinforcing the ownership mindset on your team by creating psychological safety and trust and opportunities to contribute and all the good things that make it happen. See you next. That's all I have for today.
Thank you so much for tuning in to the Managing Made Simple Podcast where my goal is to demystify the job of people management so that together we can make the workplace somewhere everyone can thrive. I always love to hear from you, so please reach out at liagarvin.com or message me on LinkedIn. See you next time.