How to Get Employees to Think Like an Owner
BY Tom Searcy
If your business is going to grow, you need employees who can think like an owner. Here are a few techniques to make that happen.
One of the great challenges in running a fast-growth company is aligning your company's vision, mission, value, and culture with the daily activities of the business. It is vital, however, as the growth of your company is in part dictated by how quickly you can transfer these values from the mind of the owner to everyone else.
I have built four companies that grew at 10x each in less than 5 years. Here are some of the techniques I found useful in developing "owner's eyes" in my people.
1)Pair up--As a leader, if you are operating alone, you are missing an opportunity for development. In growth companies, there are always new opportunities just around the corner, so you should always be developing people to go beyond their existing positions. Skills-training is relatively straightforward, but imparting the company's mission, vision, and values to employees is more difficult. Spending time with your people and exposing them to your approach is a good start.
2) Repetition changes minds and habits--If you want people to see like you do, it helps to ask the same questions over and over. As you ask these questions when you are pairing up, they will subconsciously begin anticipating the questions and will seek to have the answers ready when asked. This is training that allows for the alignment of company values from one leader to another. It also helps employees change their perspective and view situations through the lens of an owner--whether it is a 30-second interaction with a customer, a 3-minute vendor call, a 15-minute meeting with a work team.
3) Socratic method--Ask first. Reinforce what you agree with. Repeat.
Orientation and training programs are great, but as you are developing people for new roles in leadership, have them spend a day alongside you. This is a great way to align their eyes to your eyes and get them to view each situation with the company's values in mind.
Make the most of each moment--As you are going through the various parts of your day, stop them (when you have a moment to yourselves) and ask for their feedback and thoughts. Focus your questions on these three items:
* See--"What did you see in that interaction?" You are finding out what data they are observing in the moment.
* Feel--"What did you feel from that interaction?" You are finding out what they are processing at an emotional and value-set level.
* Learn--"What did you learn from that interaction?" You are finding out what they see as valuable to be praised and rewarded and what they believe is necessary to be addressed, modified or corrected.
When it comes time to give your feedback to those responses, DO NOT compare and contrast what you saw, felt, or learned. Rather, offer your insights with this language:
* Like--"I liked these things in that interaction...." You are indicating the most important data from the moment. These are factually based and get the person to see data in layers of priority from your lens. You are also reinforcing your desire to find the good in all things first before the critique.
* Love--"I loved these things in that interaction..." You are declaring the most important value sets from the moment. These are impression based and get employees to see data in relationship to the mission, vision, value and culture of the business.
* Wonder--"I wonder if that pair of customers were greeted ...I wonder about the open door at the back of the warehouse...I wonder about clarity of the preparation instructions for shipping..." By asking the "I wonder" questions you are shaping a leader's appropriate concern with the details. Many moments will have an opportunity to see things that make you say "I wonder..." rather than, "This is the way that should go."
I have always liked these techniques because they are a simple way to develop leaders in your organization.