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Six Steps to Help Your Employees Take Ownership and Responsibility

Are you being asked to achieve more and more with less and less?

Are you under pressure to meet hard to achieve goals and targets?

Do you have a queue of employees at your office door wanting you to solve their problems for them and adding to your ever-increasing to-do list?

In today’s business environment, productivity is king, stretching objectives and targets are routine and managers continually need to do more and more with less and less. At times such as these, you need all employees to take full ownership and responsibility for themselves and their actions. You need every single employee to be working towards delivering the vision for the organisation.

These six steps will help your employees take ownership and responsibility.  They will help employees become more self-reliant and productive, more energetic and enthusiastic, and more willing to commit themselves to achieve personal and business objectives.

Help Your Employees Take Ownership and Responsibility

1.  Don’t take the monkey

We all experience the “monkey on our back” at work, in other words, a serious problem that won’t go away. Employees often think that, because managers and leaders are more senior (and more highly paid), it is their responsibility to solve problems and make decisions. So they arrive at your office door all ready to give you the monkeys on their backs too. For leaders, there is a strong temptation to help their employees by taking on their problems and solving them for them. But taking their monkeys is nothing more than rescuing them. Instead, invest a little extra time to help them take the initiative and tackle the issue themselves.

2.  Reduce the noise

When employees come to their managers with a problem, it is often accompanied by a lot of “noise”.  A bit like a poorly tuned radio station, the actual issue is confused by a lot of interference from other issues, other people, and other emotions. One of the most helpful things you can do at that point is to help your employee focus on that area that they are able and willing to influence and is likely to have the biggest impact on the situation.

3.  Be solutions-focused in your approach

There is nothing to be gained in analysing what’s wrong, why it’s wrong, who’s to blame and all the things that are going to get in the way of making things better. All that will do is demoralise and drain energy at exactly the time when the opposite is needed. A much more efficient and effective approach is to help your employee to think through what they want instead of the problem or situation as it is. What would be the small and visible signs that the problem is being addressed and that progress is being made?

4.  Identify what is already working

However bad the situation might seem at the time, when your employee has really thought through how they would like things to be instead, they are likely to see that there are some things, however small, that are already working in their favour. Helping them think through all those things that they have already done to move things forward, what they already know about how to solve the problem and who else is available to help will build their confidence and encourage them to take action.

5.  Express confidence in their ability

Take this opportunity to let your employee know what strengths, skills and positive qualities you see in them that will help them solve this problem for themselves. Recognising and naming these useful qualities helps to build their self-belief, as well as enhancing your relationship with them.

6.  Identify small next steps

All your employee needs at this time are small next steps that will allow them to start making progress. They came to you because they were stuck. By them identifying small actions they can take now, they will become unstuck. If these actions are built on what is already working the employee will usually be very motivated to try them out and they are likely to be very effective

If you can have these kinds of conversations with all of your direct reports, you have the key to unlocking the capacity of every individual in your team.  You will help your employees take ownership and responsibility for carrying out their role and delivering the vision of the organisation.

Would you like support in helping your employees take ownership and responsibility?  Click here to download a copy of our free ebook, M-Power, A Practical Guide to Mentoring in the Workplace 

  • Charlene Ramnarase
    Posted at 11:09h, 28 June Reply


  • Aimee L Stewart
    Posted at 00:35h, 05 February Reply

    I am not a manager but a committee chairperson. I strongly believe in personal ownership and responsibility in all areas of life – especially at work. It is my goal to be a facilitator and have all committee members actively engaged in making the project successful. I initiated a search and opened your blog first. It is concise and contains appropriate information! Thank you so much!

    • Joshua M. Evans
      Posted at 20:52h, 11 June Reply

      Totally agree Aimee! Personal ownership is crucial to success in both your professional and personal life! Being accountable empowers you!!!

  • Pingback:Warning Signs That Your Manager Is Not A Good Coach – Yooniko Blog
    Posted at 16:49h, 02 February Reply

    […] But even if it’s not a requirement, it comes down to what you want to get out of your career and life. Do you already have someone looking out for you?  Someone you can review your progress with and get the kind of feedback that helps you clarify your priorities and accomplish what you envision for yourself? If your manager isn’t listening, helping you clarify, and giving you advice that moves you forward, then your level of engagement is likely to drop. And you can contrast this with the results of good coaching which has been shown to help employees become more self-reliant, productive and competitive. […]

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