InsideOut Development

Ownership. How to Transform Compliance into Commitment

by Lindsay Bragg


Accountability Matters

In 2012, The Harvard Business Review published the results of a study that said nearly 1 in 2 managers (46% to be exact) weren’t doing enough to hold their people accountable. No matter how the researchers sliced the data, employees, managers, and executives all agreed managers need to do better at holding people accountable.

Since then, it’s been considered one of the key responsibilities of a manager. And there are some definite benefits to workplace accountability:

  • Improved performance
  • More employee participation and involvement
  • Increased feelings of competency
  • Increased creativity
  • Higher morale and employee satisfaction

Accountability is clearly an important part of employee performance. And since a manager’s job is to bring out the best in their employees, holding employees accountable is a clearly key manager role. But is accountability really enough to bring about those sweeping changes? 

Accountability + Ownership is better

It’s important to distinguish between accountability and ownership. NY Times Bestselling Author Alan Fine says: “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.”

Accountability leads to compliance. An accountable employee will deliver what is asked of them. Their monthly report will be accurate and punctual. Accountable employees know what is expected of them and they deliver on those expectations. Accountability ensures accuracy and consistency. It’s an important first step, but an employee empowered with ownership takes things a step further.

Ownership encourages employees to go above and beyond—to develop better solutions and contribute something of even greater value. They expect the best results of themselves.

Ricardo Semler, CEO of Semco Partners (best known for its industrial democracy and corporate re-engineering) said: “There is no contest between the company that buys the grudging compliance of its workforce and the company that enjoys the enterprising participation of its employees.”

How Coaching Creates Ownership

Ownership isn’t really something we can give to our employees, but it is something we can develop and nurture through effective coaching. 

A coaching conversation is a conversation with a structured framework that leaders use to help others make decisions, commit to actions, and produce results. The basic goal of any coaching conversation is to produce results.

By following the GROW Model®, a coaching conversation passes through the 4 elements of any decision-making process in an order that makes the conversation more effective: Goal, Reality, Options, and Way Forward.

The employee sets (or agrees to) the Goal.

The employee evaluates the Reality of the situation.

The employee brainstorms Options (perhaps with some ideas from their coach).

The employee chooses from their options, their own Way Forward.

In this way, a good coaching conversation increases ownership of outcomes because the employee had a hand in creating them. An employee has more fire around the action because they have more ownership of it. They are committed to the action because they are committed to the end result.

In his NY Times bestselling book, You Already Know How to Be Great, Alan Fine explains:

“In InsideOut coaching, the accountability always remains with the performer. He or she is responsible for the results. The role of the coach is to reduce interference and help the performer set goals, explore reality, identify options, and create an effective way forward—a way in which the performer feels responsible to execute and for which he/she is accountable…While people may comply with what we want, they commit to what they want. And commitment makes all the difference.”

Learn more about fostering ownership in your employees in this article by NY Times Bestselling Author Alan Fine.

Category: Coaching Performance Retention Teams GROW Model Coaching Culture

Picture of Lindsay Bragg

Lindsay is a Communications Specialist at InsideOut Development and holds a degree in Public Relations from Brigham Young University. She’s also worked as a newspaper reporter and account director at a PR agency. When she’s not researching or writing great content on nearly every HR topic under the sun, she volunteers teaching leadership skills to children and adults with disabilities at an equine assisted therapy center.

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