InsideOut Development

How to Build Organizational Ownership and Accountability

by Pivot Point


“Say what you’ll do. Do what you’ll say. Communicate along the way.”

Beyond being a rather catchy phrase, this line—shortened to SayDoCo—is the philosophy behind ownership. According to Alan Fine, founder of InsideOut Development: “SayDoCo transforms accountability into ownership. Accountability is doing what needs to be done because someone expects it of you. Ownership is doing what needs to be done because you expect it of yourself.”

What exactly is ownership?

Ownership is often viewed as interchangeable with accountability. And as shown in the quote above, the two terms are certainly related, but where accountability is about taking orders and fulfilling expectations, ownership is about motivating yourself to action and fulfilling your own expectations.

If we were to create a catchy phrase for accountability it might be more along the lines of: “Get told what to do and do what you’re told.” Which is both less catchy and far less exciting.

Not that there’s anything wrong with taking orders and fulfilling expectations.

In fact, it’s a great place to start. As a leader in your organization, you certainly don’t want to see people failing to be accountable. Accountability is GOOD. But ownership is BETTER.

Because people love what they help create. More than that, people love what they have a say in creating. There is a different level of engagement between doing what someone tells you needs to be done and doing what you’ve determined needs to be done.

People are more committed to achieving plans they’ve had a hand in. Their focus will be greater; they’ll have more fire to succeed; and they’ll have greater faith in their abilities to do so. This sort of commitment, this sort of passion, comes with ownership.

Accountability or Ownership: Moving People From Compliance to Commitment

How to Build Ownership

You need to ask yourself if you are enabling a culture and attitude of ownership within your organization.

  1. Are you giving employees a say in how their work is completed?
  2. Are you encouraging and assisting employees to solve their own problems? (And are you giving them the tools and autonomy needed to do so?)
  3. Do you believe (and foster the belief in others) that the employees in your organization are capable and competent?
  4. Do you reward proactivity and innovation? (And do you support and encourage attempts that are not initially successful?)

At the core of these questions is a singular question of where the locus of control is within your organization. Does everything fall on the organization and senior leadership? Or do the individual employees within the organization take part in some of that control?

The more control individual employees have over their own area or responsibility, the more likely your organization has a culture of ownership.

Ownership doesn’t mean leaving your employees alone to figure out how to best navigate their individual situations. The best avenue for them to create these solutions is with someone who knows the direction the project and organization need to go.

Within your organization, you should have regular opportunities for employees and coaches to discuss together as a team what’s working, where things are getting stuck, and what could be done differently. While the coach will be the one to ask the questions, the coachee will be the one who really guides the conversation.

The coach plays the important role of making sure that organizational goals are still being pursued and that an employee’s passion doesn’t pull them off track—one of the most common pitfalls of ownership. The coachee’s role is to use the conversation to determine solutions and figure out the way forward for them—allowing them to create solutions that play to their strengths and to which they’ll want to commit themselves.

Together, coach and coachee determine a path forward that works both for the individual contributor and for the organization as a whole.

GROW: The Ultimate Map for Decision Making

Using SayDoCo as a Metric for Ownership

It is within coaching that SayDoCo really comes back into play in facilitating a culture of ownership.

  1. Say—Give your employees the opportunity to assess their own responsibilities and create an action plan. Let them detail their plan—what they need support for, what they can do on their own, in what order and what way they want to tackle everything—the coach’s job is to listen, and if necessary point out possible pitfalls. The coachee however, is responsible for saying what they are going to do.
  2. Do—Allow your employees the freedom they need to fulfill the plan they presented when they were being coached.
  3. CommunicateCheck-ins should be a regular occurrence between coaches and employees. This should be an opportunity for coaches to ask what’s going right, where things are getting stuck, and how things might be done differently moving forward. This is an opportunity for coachees to communicate where plans need to change or where they might need more support.

SayDoCo helps to establish good habits within your organization to increase the positive effects of ownership. It also creates an understanding of how individual contributors within your organization need to handle their independence, both when plans are going right and when they hit a stumbling block.

The more this becomes the culture of your organization, the more ownership is recognized, encouraged, and rewarded, the stronger and more flexible your organization will be.

5 Quick Tips to Build Ownership

In the end, if you want to SayDoCo and your culture of ownership to be as beneficial as they can be, here are the things you need to do.

  1. Ensure that you have a culture that enables and promotes proactivity and innovation.
  2. Keep lines of communication open.
  3. Have regular check-ins with employees so they can work through their ideas and you can stay updated and aware—and when necessary, help guide them in the direction the organization needs.
  4. Recognize and reward proactivity and ownership where they are seen.
  5. Have managers and other leaders be models of SayDoCo and ownership behavior.

You’ll be astonished by the benefits you’ll see when your organization develops a culture of ownership. Your employees will bring their best to the table, accountability standards and metrics will be consistently met, creativity and innovation will increase, and your organization will see higher productivity—both as a whole and within units and individuals.

If you want to learn more about how to build a culture within your organization, check out A Framework for Building a Coaching Culture.

Building a Coaching Culture that Drives Results

Category: Leadership GROW Model

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InsideOut Development is the world leader in workplace coaching. Quite simply, we help clients hold the conversations that energize people, motivate action, and lead to better—even incredible—business performance. PivotPoint is the voice of the InsideOut Development blog. We hope you’ll find inspiration to act as a “pivot point” in your trajectory (be it personal or professional) and to fuel your everyday breakthroughs.

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