Wednesday, 26 August 2015 16:57

JOB OWNERSHIP: It’s The Feeling That Counts

Written by Larry Johnson


In my seminars for supervisors and middle manager, I often ask the group to list what they think are the most effective motivating factors in the workplace. Invariably, money is mentioned, but after some discussion, the group realizes that although money can attract good employees and dissuade them from leaving, unless it’s tied directly to performance through commissioned sales, money does little to encourage people to go beyond what is expected of them.

In fact, classic research on motivation by Fredric Hertzberg 1 showed us that most tangible rewards such as perks, vacations, time off, health insurance, and a company car will only encourage us to stick around. They rarely encourage people to go the extra mile. Hertzberg found that it’s the soft factors like recognition, belonging to a winning team, having a supervisor who shows that he/she cares about you as a person, and having a mentor that will go a long way toward motivating you to go the extra mile.

During these brainstorming sessions in my seminars, someone will often contribute “ownership” as a key motivator. And that makes sense. I know that as the owner of my own company, I am more motivated to work hard than I was when I had a regular job in an organization. And since the 1970s, many companies have turned to employee ownership schemes, where employees receive stock or some other form of ownership in the company with mixed results.

Practically speaking, as a middle manager or supervisor there’s probably little you can do to get your company to start an employee ownership program, especially if you work in a large organization or in government.

"I know that as the owner of my own company, I am more motivated to work hard than I was when I had a regular job in an organization."

So the question is, how do you apply this idea of ownership to encourage your people to go the extra mile? Well, there’s good news here. According to current research published in Forbes Magazine 2, it’s not actual ownership but the feeling of ownership that counts.

I’m reminded of an employee I met while I was conducting a series of seminars at the Disneyland Resort Hotel.

In his role of a maintenance guy, Eric was installing a generator into the ground in front of the hotel, when a family approached him and asked directions to the tram stop. Eric began to explain how to get there, which was about 200 yards away, but he realized he was not succeeding because the family was from Germany and spoke little English.

So Eric stopped what he was doing and offered to escort the family to the tram stop. Nice touch. But Eric didn’t stop there. During the trip to the stop, Eric discovered that the reason the family was at Disneyland was to celebrate the seventh birthday of one of the children. After leaving them at the tram stop, before going back to work, Eric went into the hotel and made arrangements with the concierge to have a bouquet of flowers, a birthday cake, and a stuffed, Mickey Mouse waiting for the little girl in their room when they returned from the park. Now that’s going the extra mile and creating the magic that is Disney.

So why would Eric do that? It was not part of his official job. When I asked his manager about it, she said that part of it is the expectation communicated to every employee that the success of the park is their responsibility—they own it. And in that vein, they are expected, and encouraged to step out of their traditional roles when the need arises. In other words, Eric knew that helping those folks was part of his job, and he had the authority and autonomy to do so without having to worry about catching “H” from his supervisor for leaving his post. She also said that Eric and his coworkers have considerable autonomy to get their regular jobs done. They’re trusted to make good decisions as long as they use good judgment. And for some reason, Eric was willing to take responsibility for making sure that family’s Disney experience was a magical one. Let’s face it, Eric had no “official ownership” in the Disney Corporation, but obviously he had a great deal of “ownership feeling” for his job and Disney’s customers.

So how can you help your employees to have more ownership feeling in their jobs?

Larry Johnson is an in-demand speaker and trainer. You can reach him at 800-759-4933 or visit his website www.

Cover Annual 2019 350

Digital Magazine e-News