For ten years my wife and I owned a duplex. It was . . . challenging. Not everyone is cut out to be a landlord and that included us. However, it was a learning experience. Owners and renters have a different way of thinking. Even great renters don't have the same stake in the property as owners and therefore they don't take care of the property as well. This concept works with managers and employees as well. Motivated employees think like owners.
Here are five ideas for ordinary employees to think like an owner and see their candle shine brighter.
1. Owners don't say "that's not my job." I read a story a year or so ago about John Elway, former Hall of Fame quarterback for the Denver Broncos and now the General Manager of the team. He and two members of the team's management were about to leave for the day when one of them noticed several boxes of t-shirts that needed to be sorted and put on tables for an event in the morning. One of the managers started to call one of the administrative assistants to come in and sort the shirts but Elway stopped him and said, "no, let's just take care of it right now." The three of them sorted the shirts and let the administrative assistants leave for the day.
Good owners are not afraid to get their hands dirty and work alongside their people. Good owners pitch in when needed. When employees act like an owner, they take on the less glorious jobs when they need to be done. They take out the trash, answer phones, and empty the dishwasher in the break room.
2. Owners don't watch the clock. This does not mean following the example of Yahoo's CEO, Marissa Meyer, who is famous for putting in 130 hour work weeks. That's ridiculous and unproductive. It means being willing to put in extra time when needed and not expect anything in return. There are times when a large project needs to be completed or there is a big event and good owners dig in to get it done. Sadly, there are many employers that are takers and will suck the life out of their best employees, so there is a converse to this. Good owners also don't work themselves to the bone. They take time to recharge and ensure that they have something to give. Watching the clock goes both ways.
3. Owners pay attention to the tiny details. When we owned the duplex, I spent much of my time picking up garbage, painting, pulling weeds, and fixing screens. It was someone's home and I wanted it to feel like a home. Owners know that the tiny details count.
4. Owners move like a shark. Some sharks have to keep moving or they will die. Owners are always moving. They are always looking for something that needs to be done. Six years ago my wife and I were trying to stay afloat with a toddler and infant twins. She would constantly remind me to move like a shark. There was always a bottle to be washed or clothes to be folded or a diaper to be changed. If we did not stay on top of it, we would get less sleep, which was our most valued commodity. When an employee is thinking like an owner, he or she never stops moving but keeps a constant eye out for projects to be done to keep the business or organization running.
5. Owners anticipate needs. As a landlord, when a tenant moved out, there was a lot of uncertainty. I would walk through every room with a notebook and write down the broken screens, holes in the wall, and every surface that needed to be cleaned. I knew that I would need to paint, fix screens, and clean, so I always had what I needed for those tasks with me when I arrived. I would almost always need a trip to the hardware store for the unexpected items like broken doors and cracked floor tiles. It was impossible to anticipate everything but I would make it much easier on myself by thinking it through beforehand and preparing my supplies properly.
Much of this comes from experience and once that experience is earned, an employee who thinks like an owner can start making everyone's life easier by anticipating the organization's needs.
There are two final items to be covered on this topic. The first is some managers seem to go out of their way to demotivate employees. If you read a "how to be a terrible boss" list that is popular on LinkedIn, it would look like a how to list for these managers. These insecure managers suck the life out of their employees and make it so much harder to care about their work. Kudos to the employees that can still think like an owner in those conditions.
The second item is that I want to clarify that I do not have this all figured out. Every day I work at having an owners mentality at my job. This is something I aspire to but have not figured it all out yet.