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Fire in the Belly
Everybody talks about having a "sense of ownership". But what is that really?
What is ownership?
Ownership is a state of mind. It is a fire in your belly. Ownership drives a laser focus on delivering valuable outcomes for the business. Autonomy and accountability both factor into this. Set lofty goals, work hard to come up with an optimised plan, demand the autonomy and resources needed to achieve those goals. Advocacy to leadership is a key part of having ownership.
Things that individuals and teams with a true sense of ownership have:
A sense of urgency. All your work counts for nothing until it is delivering value. Therefore, a true sense of ownership also drives a sense of urgency. Teams with a sense of ownership can’t wait to start delivering value to their users and their business. This impatience should drive a ruthless desire for efficiency within the team, a bias towards delivery, and a hunger for learning. However, a sense of urgency does not and should not mean burning oneself out, nor does it mean taking damaging shortcuts.
High expectations of each other. Your team’s success is your success, and your team cannot succeed unless all functions are doing their jobs well. Therefore having low expectations of others is equivalent to having low expectations of yourself.
“Good” pressure. Bad pressure comes from outside the team. Bad pressure causes stress and fatigue. Bad pressure is a crushing force and makes a team smaller. Good pressure comes from inside a team, and makes it bigger. It creates energy and motivation, a sense of agency. Think of a balloon, or a tyre. Pressure from within is what allows them to take shape and perform their job. Without pressure they are flaccid and useless. A sense of ownership generates good pressure.
An inclination to escalate. Teams that are driven to deliver value do not tolerate obstacles that stand in the way of doing so. Those that they can remove themselves, they remove themselves. Other obstacles are escalated to their leaders for swift resolution. Obstacles come in many forms: under-resourcing, lack of clarity, missing context, inability to reach a decision, and more. Teams that own see it as their duty to bring those obstacles to the attention of those who can remove them. They understand that otherwise they are not doing their jobs.
Justified conviction in their course of action. A team with a sense of ownership knows the best plan to achieve valuable outcomes in their domain. They know this because they are the world experts in their area of the product, and have the data to justify their beliefs and convictions. Because of this, they are not diverted easily. They are open to feedback and questions from company leaders, but more often than not they defend their position because they know more and have thought more about their domain that their leaders have, or ever will.
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