Think about it, do you ever feel a personal connection with your rental car? Do you take the extra effort to have it washed and waxed while it "belongs" to someone else? No. Of course not.
But just when I say we don't care for things that we don't own, like we never wash or wax our rental cars, I find one of those extreme examples where someone raises their hand and sheepishly says, "I did!" Ok fine, with some rare exceptions -- we might polish the rental car we got to impress our prom date, or the car we used for our brother's wedding ride from the church to the reception -- we all only really take care of the cars we own.
How, then, can we expect our people to give extra effort to a strategic plan that to them is "just a job"?
The greatest way to inspire people to perform exceptionally well is to ensure that they are truly invested in what they're doing. People must believe and feel it's their store, their hotel, their office or their strategic adventure (plan) to find a better way.
They must feel that they're more than a cog in wheel with overseers watching and waiting to catch them screwing up.
We can't tap deep discretionary effort if we just draft a playbook and hold people accountable for executing it. We might get compliance, but we won't get passion and enthusiasm.
If we want our people to do more than play not to lose... if we want them to play to win, then we've got to give them the standards of the playbook, plus something extra beyond "just do your job."
We can tap real discretionary effort only when we ask people for their judgment and creativity, when we invite them to participate and consider the additional value they bring to the table.
As leaders, we often use words like "buy-in," "advocacy," and "ownership." But those words mean nothing if we don't invite people to be part of the process, to add a part of themselves to it, and to authentically feel like they are equally invested in the success or failure of the effort.
It is impossible to be seriously invested in someone else's plan, someone else's approach, or to deeply care for someone else's car. It just won't work.
The only way to succeed in tapping their discretionary effort - to get them to want to wash their rental car - is to get them involved. Do these three things and you'll be sure to make your priorities, plans and dreams theirs, too:
1. Start With Why: If we don't understand the why, then we are reduced to cycling through tactics and actions hoping something will work. If we don't fully embrace the whys of the workplace, it is impossible to truly own our individual effort.
Why did we start our business, why do we need to change, why are our customers are no longer buying from us, and why should our customers care that we exist?
Whys represent the highest level thinking behind what we do and our connection to purpose, the big picture, and the difference we make in the lives of the people we serve. People disconnected from their organization's whys often have an imaginary sign on their back that says, "don't ask me, I just work here!"
Start by letting your people have access to your whys and help them understand their role in the bigger picture. Choosing to give you their discretionary effort will flow from here.
2. Strengths Matter: One of the best ways to build ownership can be found in the STRENGTHS work by Marcus Buckingham. This work focuses on helping people understand what they are good at, understand where they possess towering capabilities and strengths, what they do when they are most happy, and enabling people to know and contribute the best of themselves in the workplace.
Leveraging people's strengths gives them a sense of being valued, belonging, and contributing with confidence. It is impossible for people to feel they're 'renting the car' when there is conscious and continuous effort to discover and apply their strengths. Figure out how they can meaningfully contribute to executing your strategy and set them on the path to giving you their best.
3. What Would "Proud" Look Like? Have you ever had the "stop you in your tracks" moment when an employee says, "we are not proud of what we do here." It can cause your heart to skip a beat when it hits you as a total surprise.
Pride is where ownership lives. Lack of pride means we are more renters of what we are doing than owners. The key is to constantly ask your people questions like: Of all you do, what is most important to you? What means the most to you?
What are you most proud of? When you get your people talking openly about what work brings them the most pride, you'll get them excited about what's important to them. And this is where it starts to get interesting... this is where they develop a new energy and sense of satisfaction about the role they can play in the larger success of the organization.
How do you get people to give you their best by choice? What makes them want to wash the rental car?