Getting your people to take ownership

This last week I made a mistake for a second time and paid for it dearly. A friend had offered to book a hotel for me and feeling lazier than usual I’d agreed. And when she sent me an email with the reservation I actually felt good, because she’d booked me in a fancy downtown hotel at bargain rates. Of course, only when I showed up at the registration desk did I realize that I’d confused my drachmas for dirhams. So the good deal in a downtown hotel, for what I thought was $100 a night, turned out to be nearly $400. But by then it was too late not just with the non-refundable booking but also on a long day after a long flight with the family in tow. I reckoned might as well have a good time. But I was in for yet another shock. The lady behind the desk had a most snarky attitude. “No! Breakfast is not included with your room. It is $30 per person.” “No, there’s no free wi-fi—$7 for an hour or $15 for a day. By the way that’s per device.”

A Stake in the Outcome ; Jack Stack & Bo Burlingham; Double Day, October 2003.

None of this rankled as much as her attitude that she clearly didn’t care how I felt and she absolutely felt no need to be even remotely polite. In contrast, the hotels that I’d stayed at the night before and the two nights afterwards, each cost well below $100 per night and offered free breakfast and free wi-fi (in only the lobby in one case and all over the hotel in the other). More importantly, both had extremely friendly folks at the front desk—who were happy to let us check in early, check out late and went out of their way to help us have a good time. And these were employees, who certainly were paid a whole lot less than my snarky host at the $400 a night hotel. My little one asked in the puzzled tone she uses when she doesn’t understand something, “Why did that lady have such a bad attitude dad?” And, of course, answered herself quickly, “Maybe she had a fight with her boyfriend!” What was evident to my 13-year-old was clearly not evident to the owners of this fancy hotel —not the boyfriend part but the fact that attitude matters. This lady with her snarky attitude did not only prevent us from enjoying our stay at $400 a night but made sure that we’d not go back there.

“I can’t just get them to take ownership.” How many times have we heard this refrain from managers or entrepreneurs? And how often have we voiced this sentiment ourselves? It seems like we all run into folks who can’t look at what they do to be anything more than a job. Something they do to make a living—put food on the table, pay the bills—and they can’t wait for 5 o’clock or the end of their shift, so that they can get back to their real lives. Sure we may use other words or expressions—“Doesn’t he have any pride in what he does?” and “I can’t seem to make them care about the company or customers.”

In his book, A Stake in the Outcome, Jack Stack, CEO of SRC Holdings Corp., talks about building a culture of ownership among the people who run a business and the critical role it plays in the long-term success of a business. The book builds on his own experience of taking the original Springfield ReManufacturing Corp. where he was a manager, from the verge of failure to a major financial success. The original $0.10 stock in 1983 when Jack and his 12 manager colleagues took over the business was worth $81.60 in 2001—for a return of 816,000% in 18 years! But that’s not the story. It is how all 727 employees own shares—not just some shares, the 722 newest shareholders own 64% of the business valued at $23 million in 2002. I’d run out and get this book for everyone on your team to not just learn how Jack and has team achieved this but to repeat it with your business.

Enhanced by ZemantaThis article originally appeared in the Book Beginnings column in Mint.

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