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A Stake in the Game

Musings on the structural factors that help people feel ownership of their work

One of the most important tasks for any leader is to make it possible for people to feel that they have a real stake in the success of your organisation.

In my experience, not everybody is ready to take proper ownership of the outcomes they are working towards and so part of a leader’s job is to prepare them for that. It’s also a matter of belief for me that almost everybody will actually want that stake in the game – when they are ready. A great leader will help connect the dots for you, so that you know how your effort leads to a positive outcome and how it’s possible for you to feel ownership of that outcome.

These last two years or so I’ve also become interested again in the more structural factors around feeling that you have a stake in the game. In particular, about actual ownership.

There’s a growing Employee Ownership movement here in the UK, including some of our most successful and resilient companies. In other European countries this movement is already even bigger and is a growing force in the USA. Recent events at the Co-Op, the pioneer of shared ownership, have reminded us how important that idea is as well.

I wonder if we’ll look back at the 20th Century corporation as something of an aberration and be puzzled why anybody with the choice would ever have worked for an organisation that they didn’t directly own a part of?

Three Leadership Lessons Inspired by Long Walk to Freedom

How do we apply the kind of strength and courage that we know is inside us, and lead other people to victory, when it’s not clear at all who or what the enemy is?

I watched “Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom” recently (great film and book) and thought about Mr Mandela’s early decision to stop being a lawyer, join the ANC and take the fight to the enemy.

For some men, including me, fighting against something is a very energising and satisfying thing to throw yourself into. But for most of us, not living under oppressive regimes and in a time of peace – who is the enemy?

What do you fight against? Who do you resist with the kind of positive intention that Mr Mandela found? How do you gather and lead other people in that kind of selfless resistance when things aren’t so ‘black and white’? How do we apply our full strengths in the workplace?

I think it begins with three relatively small steps, which together are a real leadership tipping-point:

1. What do we stand for?
It’s not enough to resist for the sake of resisting. Find what it is that you believe is worth defending or fighting for. It might be a belief in the way that things should be done or a situation that needs correcting. These are perfectly valid things to tackle in the workplace or outside it.

2. Define the battleground
We may not live under something as malign as the apartheid regime, but injustice, wasted opportunities and distress are around us, if we choose to look. Your battleground need not be a whole nation, but we do need strong people to raise their gaze and see where the fight is.

3. Be like a magnet: Resistance + Attraction
I loved how Mr Mandela used his charm and personality to draw people to him, and it was this charisma that the ANC knew they needed. He made the decision to join an armed resistance and to fight against the regime. But it was his force of attraction that gave the movement its strength and which ultimately enabled him to win over guards at Robin Island and the ruling National Party.

Get together with others to help leave your legacy

Legacy

What do you want to leave behind?
And who do you need to get together with to make it happen?

Years ago I took a personality profiling test that told me I was: “the kind of person who can’t walk past a patch of waste ground without wanting to build something useful there, like a hospital”.

The test was called the Enneagram. I came out as a Type 8 and you can find out more about the system here: Enneagram Institute

The results of the test felt true, but I actually found it a bit overwhelming. How was I supposed to leave a big legacy like that!?

Which is why I feel so lucky that I got to be a member of my local NHS hospital board. It was the first time I’d been part of a big team again for quite a while, and I was really ready for that (despite it being an uncomfortable constraint at the same time). We had to face down some silly opposition to change and stand up to some bullying by the NHS authority, to get this hospital build going in my home town!
Gives me a smile whenever I go past.

Here’s the “before” picture:

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What do you want to leave behind?
And who do you need to get together with to make it happen?

One-to-one MeetingsYou might also want to get a free copy of my short eBooklet. This is for busy managers who want to use great one-to-one meetings to help lead their team.

Please click here to find out more

Having Purpose

Most people seem to want an answer to the “why am I here” question – what’s my purpose in life?

It makes sense that we would want there to be some meaning to what we’re doing with our limited time and effort. It helps when the going is tough to know that there is a purpose. And it gives direction so we can choose the right path when we have options available.

For some people, their purpose seems to have always been there, and they slip into it naturally. For most of us, I think that purpose is actually a choice.

There’s no magic answer to why you’re here, you actually have to decide for yourself.

You may even find there are several options to choose from – don’t get hung-up on picking the right one. If you want purpose, then purposefully choose to have it.

“A hero is someone who has given his life to something bigger than himself”
Joseph Campbell.