Clarity without ownership is non-action. Ownership without clarity is fruitless action. Clarity with ownership is effective action.
The challenge for many leaders this coming summer is to increase the level of effective action. And the first step in that process is to remember a key concept written by James Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer in their book, Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring To Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead, Time Warner, 1994. In it, Belasco and Stayer write that it is critical to “transfer ownership for work to those who execute the work.” From my perspective, we start this process by creating role clarity which includes role responsibility. For example, by clarifying who should make certain decisions and how they will be held accountable for them, we are creating a fresh perspective. When we explain how effective action will be measured, we give people the tools to act like owners. As Belasco and Stayer wrote many years, “Am I creating owners or dependents?... If you want them to act like it’s their business, make it their business.”
Second, the same authors note that we need to “create the environment for ownership where each person wants to be responsible for his/her own performance.” Having a strategic nexus, i.e. a clear mission, vision and core values that are used and referenced daily plus an effective strategic plan that actually guides the organization, transforms ownership from being a concept into being a cultural foundation for action.
Next, the authors remind us to “focus individuals on the few factors that create great performance.” This happens, from my perspective, when we clarify the difference between goals and priorities, and explain as leaders how our actions impact the whole organization.
Building clarity and ownership is a daily process. It takes time and consistent action. However, when it becomes part of one’s daily discipline, it can be transformative for all. This week, focus on creating more clarity and ownership. It is an investment with a fantastic return.