|This post was originally published on OPEN Forum.|
An organization’s most valuable assets are its employees. When workers are happy and motivated, they’re more likely to perform at the highest levels.
The most strategic way to create this type of environment is by giving everyone a sense of ownership, says Robert C. Pozen, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, in his book Extreme Productivity. In other words, get all your employees to think like entrepreneurs. “If your employees don’t feel that they own their own spaces,” Pozen writes, “they will constantly wait for your day-to-day directions and expect you to solve every problem.”
In his book, he outlines what he calls the ”Owning Your Own Space” principle, which will help employers get employees motivated to become star performers:
1. Set project goals. At the beginning of every project, make sure your subordinates know your goals and constraints for each task. Give them “considerable leeway in establishing the time frame for those goals,” Pozen says, because when they’re able to choose their own deadlines, they’ll feel more accountable in meeting them.
2. Establish accurate metrics. When implementing both quantitative and qualitative criteria, you’ll have to have ”a deeper discussion with your team about what you really consider important about the project,” Pozen says. As a manager, you need to let your workers know what metrics you consider more important than others so they can decide what tradeoffs they’re willing to take when making choices.
3. Supply needed resources. If your employees don’t have the appropriate resources to complete their tasks, they won’t be able to finish the project. If there are budget constraints, as a manager, you should understand how much of a role this will play into the success of the overall project and reduce parameters of certain tasks, or decide if the project is realistic.
4. Monitor without suffocating. Just because you’re not physically hovering over your worker’s desk doesn’t mean that you’re not micromanaging. Pozen says that micromanagement is a lot more subtle in reality. For example, it could take the form of you taking back authority over previously delegated projects or having an overly critical eye for details.
Are you micromanaging your staff? In his book, Pozen says that if you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you could be a micromanager:
If there is a problem with a project, do you take it over and issue detailed orders?
Do you tend to object if your team takes an unorthodox approach to a project?
Do your subordinates always seem to follow your “suggestions” to the letter?
When you’re looking at a finished project, do you search for every small mistake?
Instead of micromanaging, you can go over the status of a project by having meetings at midway points and making suggestions. However, you need to keep in mind that your team should still be “free to achieve the revised goals in the way they think is best,” Pozen says. In other words, make sure they know you’re only making suggestions and not delegating orders.
5. Tolerate mistakes. If you want your employees to take chances, you need to be forgiving when they make mistakes. Pozen says you shouldn’t accept mistakes that are caused by laziness or sloppiness, but you do need to tolerate “a well-intentioned mistake.”
If a project fails, you can make it a “teachable mistake” by giving your subordinates feedback on what led to that mistake, but don’t attack the person.
“You can ask employees to change specific actions and behaviors, not to alter their personalities. To obtain this balance, talk about what went right before you discuss what went wrong,” Pozen writes. And whatever you do, don’t humiliate them in front of others or you’ll witness an “intentional” decrease in productivity in response to your actions.
When you’re successful at making your employees feel like they have ownership in the company, they will begin to “make choices as if they’re spending their own money.” They’ll also be able to adapt quickly in case anything changes along the way. Pozen says that this state of mind will also increase motivation and help you to achieve better results.
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