Friday, August 27, 2010

The Little Squirrel from 'Ramayana' - A Dream Employee for Entrepreneurs!

A friend of mine in business recently told me," I have got several employees who have got long standing in my company but they have no ownership and accountability for what they do. How do I make them accountable & take ownership on what ever they do? "

Sounds familiar? His complaint or question is not unique rather a universal problem which every entrepreneur and manager face on a day to day basis - Lack of Ownership & Accountability among Employees!

Before we discuss more on this, let me share with you a small story from the great epic 'Ramayana' which always inspires me. The story is about a little squirrel’s contribution to the construction of the mighty bridge to Lanka. In order to reach Lanka when Hanuman’s vaanar sena was busy building the bridge, a squirrel was seen doing something funny: rolling herself in the sand and then shaking off her body to deposit sand particles amongst rocks brought by the monkeys. When asked, she said, “I am making my own small contribution to build the bridge for ending the injustice against Sita.” The monkeys roared in mocking laughter: “We have never heard anything so foolish.”

Listening to this, Lord Rama remarked, “Blessed be the little squirrel. She is doing her work to the best of her ability. Therefore, she is quite as great as the greatest of you. Never despise those that are not as strong as you. What truly matters is not the strength one has, but the love and devotion with which one works.” Then he gently stroked the squirrel on the back, and it is believed that the marks of Rama’s three fingers are still seen on the squirrel’s back.

I am sure, many of us wish to have an employee like the little squirrel. Dedicated and motivated, ready to do anything, stretch to any level to contribute the best. We know, when we motivate our workforce to create a sense of ownership and accountability for desired results, the job of getting results gets easier. But we should also understand for our people to get desired results, it is imperative that the leader attempt to create an environment in which employees have a sense of ownership in activities he or she is engaged.

The easiest answer we can say is, use motivation as a tool to create ownership and accountability. But to me, motivation is not simply a means to get people to pursue organizational goals; rather, it is a means to get people to buy in and take ownership of the organization's needs as well as their own. It drives to two areas, (1) things to increase ownership of performance and (2) things to create accountability for results.

Let's zoom into it and understand what are we supposed to do to create ownership & accountability among employees :

Things to Increase Ownership of Performance:

1) Develop a personal connection with each employee so that we know and understand that employee's strengths and weaknesses. We can encourage ownership by developing trust and maintaining a positive attitude with the employees.
2) Clarify each employee's responsibility through effective delegation so that they all know what challenges they must meet and what work they must take ownership of.
3) Ensure that people are properly trained and equipped to perform their work so they will feel prepared to succeed. Make it clear that we want all our people to be successful.
4) Make sure that employees are empowered with the authority and information they need to make decisions that affect their performance.
5) Involve employees in key practices that affect them-such as goal-setting, planning, and implementing change-so that they take ownership of decisions that affect them.
6) Always listen to employees, and when problems emerge, encourage participation, new ideas, and ownership of solutions.
7) Practice "open-book management" with employees in terms of sharing organizational goals, plans, and performance feed back. In this way, our people see the bigger picture.
8) Develop linkage between desired performance and rewards and incentives to demonstrate to people that there are good reasons to take ownership of their performance.
9) Allow people an opportunity to grow and develop new skills and talents. Dong so causes people to be more committed to both the job and the organization.
10) Celebrate success because people want to be part of a winning enterprise and because feeling successful makes it easier for people to come to work. Recognition for strong performance increases the desire for more good performance

Things to Create Accountability for Results:

1) When responsibilities and goals have been clarified, always establish standards of performance that should be challenging yet realistic enough to encourage people to hit the mark.
2) Provide balanced, ongoing performance feedback for our people so that they know and have no doubt about how well they are performing.
3) Provide ongoing coaching for our people on how to improve their performance and be very specific in doing so.
4) Use the formal appraisal process as a strategic planning activity to review performance, identify ways to improve, and recognize and reinforce desired levels of performance.
5) Deal with non performers who are damaging group performance and morale by either implementing a corrective action program or setting the stage for the person's departure from the organization. To not do so is to send all the wrong messages to non performers and performers alike.

I hope these tips will help you to create a workplace that brings out the best in your people, while at the same time increasing their ownership and creating accountability which will result in developing effective systems and processes that improve performance. All we need to do is to give a gentle stroke on the back of our employees like Lord Rama did to the little squirrel and remember his motivational words as well.

Fill your Organization with such little dedicated squirrels and sky rocket your results.

Good Luck.