All Articles Leadership Management 5 steps to building a culture of ownership and accountability at your company

5 steps to building a culture of ownership and accountability at your company

You can't own something unless you understand the strategy, the goals and what's expected of you.

5 min read


Five steps

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Increased workplace ownership is an outcome of not just believing in the outcomes or approach, but also being part of the solution. People want to be part of the solution, but how do you achieve that in a multi-level organization?

Sometimes, ownership can be a challenge because people don’t understand the goals or because they don’t feel a part of the strategy. How do you create a culture where people want to take ownership and move together to create success? If you struggle with instilling ownership within your team, read on to learn the five steps I utilize in the executive coaching work I do with leaders.

Step 1 – Knowledge

Whether it’s because we think the reasons are obvious, or irrelevant, many of us in leadership are guilty of skimping on the details when assigning duties. It’s important to note that the “why” — the greater vision and purpose — can be just as important as the “what” in terms of job success and individual job satisfaction. Good leaders take the time to explain and to ensure their teams fully understand the reasoning behind the action required. If you need to gain greater acceptance and conviction about the tasks at hand, be sure you’ve spent the necessary time ensuring everyone knows the significance of the steps required.

Step 2 – Responsibility

Even when armed with the knowledge, for many, a gap in that sense ownership may still exist. Once they understand and there is consensus on why something needs to be done, true ownership will not manifest until your team has a hand in the solution. Give your employees responsibility in finding the right course of action, and tailor your level of oversight as appropriate. Once you have given the issues context by explaining the “why,” try to allow others to step forward with the “how” by inviting ideas, facilitating workshop meetings or just plain listening to brainstorming sessions. Encourage thoughts from the senior to the most junior employee, and acknowledge and thank everyone who contributes.

Step 3 – Accountability

Let your team set the agenda and give the status updates on their progress, both internally and outside your team. Good leadership can often mean doing more listening, prompting and guiding than talking or imposing solutions. You might have ideas or answers, but so do your staff. When possible, allow them to take responsibility and run with it. Hold them accountable and demand timelines, progress reports and success metrics as normal, but put the progress in their hands. Accountability as a leadership tool can sometimes seem counter-intuitive, as it may seem like deadlines and status could add a measure of stress to a task or job. The truth is, most of us actually crave that ability to measure our progress and achievement, as long as it’s paired with the level of responsibility necessary to make success attainable.

Step 4 – Recognition

When the work is done and the victory is being celebrated, don’t forget to maximize the recognition your team receives for their efforts — both from you and from the organization as a whole. They put the work in to make it happen — make sure they receive the accolades as well. When you recognize their success, you’re recognizing that they had ownership of that work and inspiring them to stick around and try even harder. It’s a powerful sensation, to be able to say, “I did that!” and a strong motivator in inspiring your team to take on the next challenge.

Step 5 – Be realistic (and patient)

Be aware that your team’s sense of ownership in the tasks at hand may not happen overnight. If your company has a culture of strictly filling out checklists, taking orders and completing routine duties, it may take a bit to shift minds to thinking about the bigger picture and what’s possible if we all strive for success. Just keep sharing the message, working the solution together and sharing the victories. Be patient and they will get on board, too.

Think about your upcoming projects or tasks; how can you increase ownership in your organization? Make a plan to maximize your team’s engagement by fostering ownership, and you all will see great opportunities to get ahead with your shared success.


Joel Garfinkle is an executive leadership coach who recently worked with a new executive tasked with increasing the sense of ownership in his business unit. Garfinkle developed this strategy to improving employee engagement, ownership and accountability. With coaching, the new executive was able to turn around the department’s culture and generate a sense of shared ownership and success. Garfinkle has written seven books, including “How to Be A Great Boss: 7 Qualities That All Great Bosses Have.” More than 10,000 people subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”

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