What Inspires Employees to Think Like Owners?

Does your executive leadership team want an engaged workforce that provides discretionary effort, makes valuable innovative suggestions, and surpasses their goals – one that acts and feels like owners?

If you do, I suggest that you implement the following employee engagement practices.

  1. Engagement interviews. Teach your managers to ask each employee what they like and don’t like about their current work, their future ambitions, and their desired learning experiences, projects, and courses. Reward managers for asking for feedback on their employee-manager relationships and leadership style. Then, incent them to act on that feedback.
  2. Delegate and empower. In many companies, setting the culture of purpose, values, and strategies comes from the top. Executives are accountable to their venture capital firms or shareholders and boards. They also set the direction, finances, and operating mechanisms of the company. Companies with a philosophy of engaging their employees, however, know that when employees can shape how they achieve their goals, they tend to be much more effective. Management teams that work on employee engagement put a premium on clear goal setting, delegation, and then staying out of each employee’s way. Managers hold weekly meetings with employees to check progress against goals, but they mostly provide feedback, coaching, and advice on how to overcome obstacles.
  3. Create a positive, performance-based environment. The best companies have a widely communicated and clear purpose, principles and performance measurements. Research shows that when employees have a 5:1 ratio of positive feedback over negative feedback, they are more engaged and productive.[i] Managers create this environment by looking for ways to praise, compliment and thank their employees. It does not have to be tied to a cash reward, gift or bonus. A sincere, specific, heartfelt “thank-you” goes a long way. A thank you shows the employee that the manager is aware of what he or she is working on and appreciates the work. It also creates an environment of appreciation and openness. Employees will look forward to going to weekly one-to-ones with their managers when they can look forward to positive feedback and know that if they have questions and ask for help, the manager will have a sympathetic ear. Creating a positive feedback environment doesn’t take the focus off performance and excellence—both are still important—but the work environment should not be so critical and competitive that it stifles creativity, collaboration and innovation.
  4. Feedback and coaching. Millennials are known for wanting feedback, coaching and praise, but they do not have a lock on this tendency of youth. Their parents and grandparents had the same desire when they were young and started a new job, career or endeavor. People are social animals. We look for feedback and coaching when we are struggling, and praise for effort and success. Engaging managers learn to provide it. Executives who want to foster an engaging corporate culture learn to encourage and model feedback, coaching and praise with their executive staffs–knowing that what the boss models gets re-modeled down the organization chain. From my own experience, I found it was most effective to set learning goals with employees in addition to performance goals. These goals were tied to their current jobs with a focus on improving their performance. I also set longer-term learning goals so that they could develop new skills associated with their career interests.
  5. Challenging Work and Fun. Guess what the number one productivity killer is in organizations? (Guess before reading on because the answer may surprise you! Look at the endnote to find the answer…[ii]). Employees also waste time when they feel bored and unchallenged at work. Having challenging work means that employees are doing something that is of interest to them, new, different, or undertaken in a new situation.


If you haven’t looked at the footnote yet, the number one productivity killer is meetings. I suggest you take an oath right now to never run a boring meeting, even if you are in finance. First, make meetings short and quick. Don’t let them digress into long discussions that go nowhere. Follow good meeting etiquette, such as sending out a detailed agenda a few days ahead that identifies the presenters and lists the purpose of each item to be discussed. Also, send out short pre-reads. Only invite necessary attendees, sum up decisions and actions along the way, and do something to add fun or interest. For example, you could open each meeting with some good news or praise. Alternate the meeting chair to generate more involvement. Do something out of the ordinary, such as moving the meeting occasionally to a fun spot: outdoors, or to trendy, new coffee shop.

What has been your experience in encouraging managers to implement employee engagement practices? What has worked to inspire discretionary effort, collaboration, innovation, and higher achievement in your company? What has not? Join the dialogue…

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and is a Managing Partner of InnovationOne.US. He works with key decision makers and human resources leaders on talent management, leadership development and coaching, innovation, and other strategic initiatives. Please e-mail Victor at victorassad6@gmail.com or visitwww.victorhrconsultant.com. For innovation visit www.InnovationOne.US.

[i] Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment (New York: Free Press, 2002); Martin Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being (New York: Free press, 2011); B. L. Frederickson and M. Losada, “Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing,” American Psychologist 60, No. 7, (2005): 678-686.

[ii] Meetings!

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