The “think like an owner” mindset is all about leadership and accountability.
Simply stated, it means to make decisions as if the organization were your own. Whether you are an employee or board member, thinking like an owner means being self-motivated to grow the company and invest and spend its money as if it were your own. It means really understanding how the business functions-what the mission is and its business model. The owner typically has the highest commitment to the business, as well as unique insight that provides the ability to make the best decisions for the business and themselves. This insight is acquired from experiencing the benefits or consequences of their actions on a daily basis.
There are three aspects to thinking like an owner:
- Consistently asking “what does the company need”, taking responsibility to make it happen and encouraging others to do so
- Holding self and others accountable for meeting commitments
- Having an end-to-end understanding of the business
How can employees know what the company needs and take responsibility to make it happen? Employees must know the goals of the organization, its strategy and how their role contributes to its execution. Employees must also know what behaviors the owner values and the guiding principles used to make decisions. These are represented in the core values of an organization.
Thinking like an owner means having an end-to-end understanding of the business.
Thinking like an owner also means taking responsibility for the outcomes of yourself and others. It means taking the initiative, having a sense of urgency, doing the right thing and never quitting until the desired results are achieved. It’s easy to spot people with this mindset. They have an energy, drive and focus that are unmistakable. They also don’t quit until the job is done and the long-term objective is achieved. They see the big picture and constantly search for opportunities and identify threats to the organization.
Finally, thinking like an owner means having an end-to-end understanding of the business. This means knowing what all the departments of a business do, and what all of the drivers of performance are. It means understanding the downstream inputs and upstream outputs related to your role and who else depends on your work. It means knowing that other people depend on you and you on them, so it’s best to understand what they do and how they do it.
If you are an owner, leader or board member of an organization, the best way to encourage this behavior among your employees is to make sure that your core values are not only articulated but also lived. It is to give them an increasing level of responsibility and push decision-making as far down in the organization as possible. This will allow others to develop the unique insights and experiences that will allow them to make the same decisions an owner would make.
Ultimately, the goal is to have all employees make the same decisions and have the same commitment to the organization that the owner does. Once this alignment occurs, great things can happen. Board coaching is a great first-step in starting the process.
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