I have been thinking a lot about the subtle ways we take away ownership and display lack of trust. They seem to be tightly coupled. Here are two examples.
What about getting estimates from your team. I see this scenario often. “How long will it take you to build this?” managers ask. “Three weeks,” comes back the reply. And what’s the first thing out of the manager’s mouth? “Can you do it in less?” And since they are the boss, and the developer might worry about his job, he says, “Ok, two weeks.” Now who has ownership? The boss. Is the developer going to spend late nights getting it done? Not likely. Most people, when they are asked for something and commit to it themselves, they will do all they can to make it happen, because they have ownership.
When Paul retired from IBM, he worked with us inside IBM as a consultant. One day we were in a conference room with our client taking a break. “Pollyanna,” Paul asked, “how do I get reimbursed for my expenses? Do you have a form?” “No,” I answered, “Give me a dollar amount and we pay you.” “No receipts?” “No, I don’t want you wasting your time filling out forms or collecting receipts. Give me a number.” Our client shook her head thinking about all the forms she had to fill out, all the corrections, all the receipts she had to justify. She didn’t have ownership of company expenditures.
What other ways can you think of? Send me your stories. Thanks!