Ownership – Blessing or a Curse

Ownership – Some individuals can’t live without it, most can’t live with it.
What mode of conduct would you follow, given that you are a CEO of your own company, n you have a team to manage, n get things done.
Would you:
a) Give complete ownership of each assigned task to the respective team member
b) Keep everything centralized, where you administer each and every little detail- employees are always kept in strict check, with no concept of independent decision making.
c) Dawdle around in the middle of both concepts in reactive mode.
d) Use some other strategy to get things done.
Please state your choice, with rationale. New ideas also welcome (d).


  • Zohaib,
    I offer ownership in the proportion in which the team leader is capable of accepting and in proportion to the importance of the task.
    For a project that has minimal impact on the business, I may give ownership to someone as a learning experience for them, since the cost of failure is low.
    For a very important project, I wouldn’t give real ownership at all, to anyone: I’d keep a close eye on it.
    Option (c) as you’ve described it, is not an option to me.

  • d) Give partial ownership of each assigned task to the respective team member, while providing meaningful supervision and genuine support.
    Option d requires good judgement and management skills, unlike a, b, and c. However, if you don’t have good judgement and management skills, you don’t really belong in the CEO role.

  • Aaron Ping

    There is a really good book that answers this question in detail called “The Responsibility Virus.” Basically, you want to get people up to a) but it takes coaching to do that. b) never works. It doesn’t even work on an assembly line. It is a kind of slavery and is evil. c) is pretty good because the nature of each task may be different, and the people in question may not have the capability to fully own every task. d) the other strategy is to do it yourself. You may need to, but it is better over the long term to do it in collaboration with one of your employees so that they can own the task in the future.

  • If you are a good CEO, you should know your people –who you know you can trust and that will get things done. (That’s delegation 101.) A good “manager” should know the strengths (and weaknesses) of her staff and learn how to work within those confines. The key here is that ownership starts not with the task, but in the person being assigned and/or undertaking the task. They have to a) take ownership in the expectations (e.g. delivery dates, problem/resolution solving, managing peers, etc.), b) believe that he/she can do the task and finally, commit to c) completing the project.
    Coaching and mentoring can play a strong role here. If you don’t know how to mentor your people (e.g. you only talk the talk), then you won’t have their respect. So while it is important (and let me stress that — very important) that you empower your people, it is more important that you (as the CEO) make yourself available and actively participate in the process.
    I’m not talking about micromanaging here. What I am talking about is that it is too easy to get caught up in “power meetings” and leave your people to fend for themselves. YOU have to stay part of the process.
    There should be clear expectations (some measurable, others more subjective) and a check in point concerning progress. This will make sure that there is a mutual point where everyone knows that a connection will take place. It helps to manage expectations for both the staff members and provides a more “formal” opportunity for the exchange of ideas, problem solving, etc.
    I am a firm believer that ownership is a state of mind, not a work ethic. (Don’t get them confused.) It is possible to manage work ethic, but more difficult to influence a state of mind. That’s where being a good communicator and getting your staff to “buy in” to your expectations can significantly increase their ability to take on ownership of a task and/or project.

  • e) all of the above
    It depends on the project, the staff, the company, the levels of management (number of levels and roles), and the size of the organization.
    Every project requires a different level of involvement. If you are organizing the mail delivery process for the office then the CEO doesn’t need to be involved. If you are restructuring the brand then the CEO should be involved.
    The CEO of my company has strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else. She knows very little about HR and Staffing and relies on me and my team to make sure that we do the right thing. She holds us accountable but makes sure that we are involved in setting the bar for ourselves as well, since she doesn’t know what our department should be achieving.
    In other departments our CEO is an expert and she then chooses whether or not to play a major role in the departments decisions and daily operations. Some she delegates and some she manages directly.

  • My Choice is (b). However if needed according to circumstances, I will give a go ahead to someone to make decision at the spot to get the job done.

  • No organization can truely be successful in the long run, unless each employee contributes their maximum to the effort. It is best to hire people who have the intelligence, attitude, and energy to absorb the amount of responsibility needed by the position. Problems are best resolved at the lowest level of the organization. And be best ideas often come from the lowest levels also. So hire smart people, give them specific goals, and motivate with financial rewards for meeting the goals.

  • well, My answer is “d” for this reason:
    Given that I am partial to working in small organizations, the strategy is universally team-oriented. The entire team collaborates on the given project and the entire team assumes ownership of every detail. Of course each individual will task separately, but the project remains a team effort and every team member owns up to the performance of the entire team.

  • Mahlaqa Saeed

    In an ideal world I would choose (a); however, being practical and sadly to admit working in the environment of a developing country, I’d opt for (d) which is – maintain an individual based strategy. For ones who thrive on ownership I would follow (a) but maintain a regular update via key issues meetings and random checks that helps to identify employees who need more guidance. But I’d never go for (b) as that only is an insult to any manager reporting to a ceo but it shows the ceo is a poor leader who cannot empower his subordinates.

  • Nadine Samra

    I think that c) suggested by Zohaib and d) suggested by Nick are two faces for the same coin with a small difference. For me I would go with c) and not d) for one reason, you as a CEO should have responsive, trusted people who take full ownership of their tasks. These employees in return should find their managment style to accomplish their tasks. You as a CEO has many things to worry about, in my opinion micromanagment doesnt work for a CEO.

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