Ownership Mentality

Commander VK Jaitly

Let me start this topic with the story of two Army Colonels, Col Rathore and Col Sharma. Both of them were batch mates from NDA days. As the pyramid for promotions in the Army is very narrow, both of them missed their promotions to the Brigadier rank despite their excellent performance in the army during their about 23 years of service. So they opted for ‘Pre-mature Retirement’ and wanted to try their skills in the civil world.

Both of them got jobs in the private sector. But Colonel Rathore had to leave his job after about six months due to some mismatch with the management. He picked up a second job after 3 or 4 months but managed to serve for just one and a half year. Thereafter, he was sitting at home most of the time and getting some temporary engagements sometimes.

On the other hand, Col Sharma picked up a job and got his first promotion after one year as the VP of the company and was given most important assignments by the Chairman of the company. In the fourth year, Col Sharma took over as the CEO of the company with his emoluments increased to about three times from the level at which he started four years back.

Col Rathore was managing with his pension and so one day his wife told him, “Why don’t you go to your friend and seek some references and advice for some sort of engagement”. So Col Rathore met Col Sharma and they started talking about the days they spent together at NDA and various postings in Kargil and North East. Remembering old days brings nostalgia. Then Col Rathore came to the topic. “Both of us joined the Army same time and we did reasonably well in our assignments. And we left Army also almost same time,” said Rathore.

“But then after leaving Army, I must congratulate you that you have done extremely well. But somehow my second innings have been a flop. I just don’t understand that,” continued Rathore.

Col Sharma was listening with full attention. He wanted to say something, hesitated and then started, “My dear, do you remember that your ranking at NDA was better than mine? You always proved to be a great leader for your soldiers. You led your platoon from the front in Kargil operations too. You always did beautifully whatever you were told to do by your seniors and always got awarded for that.”
“But according to me, one thing was missing in you always.”
“What is that?” retorted Rathore. “Ownership Mentality” replied Sharma. “What do you mean? Ownership Mentality? In Army?” Col Rathore couldn’t comprehend. “Yes, my friend. Ownership Mentality. And you never had it.”

“Do you remember when we were posted at Tejpur? One day evening, while having dinner in the mess, we realized that we had left all the lights ‘On’ in the office, as when we had left the office, the electricity had gone. Then, while having dinner, lights came and I told you that let us go and switch off the lights.”
“Chhod na Yaar (Leave it friend) was your response.” said Col Sharma.
“And then I went alone to the office with a torch in my hand through pitch dark hilly pathway about 1 Km away to switch off the office lights to save the wastage of electricity.”

“I always had the ownership mentality. The day I joined this private company, I worked as if it is my own company. I gave my best. More than I was being paid for.”

“People are able to manage without this trait in the government organizations. But remember, they just manage. In the private sector, you got to demonstrate the Ownership Mentality.”

It is true that somehow this ownership mentality is lacking in the minds of the majority of the people. They always feel ‘We’ and ‘They’ while talking about their role in the organization. It is also a fact that it is the responsibility of the actual owners of the organization to make all efforts to cultivate this type of feeling in the minds of their top management, middle management and the employees that the company belongs to all of them.

Here also, only the lip service will not do. The owners and the top management will have to actually demonstrate through their actions that they look after their employees well. They listen to them and take regular feedback from them. And they consider their employees as partners and give due weightage to their opinions and aspirations for the growth of the company. Here, I would also like to caution the managers, juniors as well as the senior ones and employees that they should not be judgmental about their seniors. They should concentrate on their own performance with ‘Ownership Mentality’ without bothering about the other colleagues and seniors.

You may also observe that those who have this ownership mentality at the core of their heart and put it into practice through their deeds rise to great heights in their organizations. The team leaders should empower their team members by making them accountable and responsible in their area of operation or the project. But you will have to give them appropriate authority also so that they can make decisions within the operational boundaries of their role and responsibility.

Management should try to create a culture of personal accountability and encourage their employees to take total ownership in their areas of operation. It is one of the most important, powerful and desired characteristic of a successful organization. Listening to employees on frequent intervals through formal forums like ‘Town Hall Meetings’ or even at informal occasions like a birthday bash or a chat during lunch hour and then acting on those inputs can help in cultivating ‘Ownership Mentality’ in the minds of the employees.

So now onwards, start thinking like the owner of the business wherever you are and chances are that one day you will actually become a business owner in the true sense. Start investing your time and effort in improving your performance and deliverables as if you own the business. Start learning more and more about what you do. Be innovative in your approach and be proactive in the meetings to suggest ways how the company can expand and increase its profits. If you see a wastage or something wrong in the company anywhere, raise an alarm and suggest the remedy. With this approach, you are bound to get noticed by the top management and that will pave the path for your personal and professional growth and promotions up the leadership ladder will follow.