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Organizations and teams that inspire an ownership mindset, where ideas are encouraged and initiative is commended, are more successful than those that don’t. However, you shouldn’t expect behavior that you haven’t asked for. How do you train a mindset of entrepreneurial thinking and individual responsibility?

Share Your Own Mindset

One of the best ways to help your employees assume an ownership mindset is to help them understand your own mindset – what you think about, how you prioritize, how you make business decisions and how you solve problems. You are their best teacher, but you must be transparent about how you operate. You can also share past cases of failures and successes if it will create a more insightful thought process and outcome. Don’t withhold relevant information and still expect profound thinking and deep insight.

It is certainly desirable for employees to be able to look around, see what needs to be done, and proactively step into those tasks. If they don’t, it might not be because they can’t or don’t want to. It may be because you have not made clear to them that this is what you want from them. Ask more questions and give fewer answers; the best leaders ask more questions than they answer. Thinking is a developmental activity, and tough questions stimulate thought.

Foster the Right Environment

If you ask for feedback or opinions, create an environment in which employees are comfortable sharing. Defensiveness by a leader creates apprehension and insecurity among employees. Even if you do not agree with their thought process, ask questions to lead them to a more effective conclusion – one that they arrive at by themselves. Similarly, employees can’t be expected to take risks if failure isn’t tolerated. Good employees make mistakes, and great leaders allow them to. Give people the opportunity to learn from mistakes, own them, fix them, and then put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated. Give employees room to fail – within reason – and they will step up more readily. Be comfortable delegating. Fear of losing control is what stops most people from delegating; as a leader, you will ultimately be held accountable for failure.

Hire Employees with Proactive Track Records

Hiring proactively-minded associates can be difficult. Instead of relying on job titles or skill sets, look for signs of proactive behaviors and accomplishments. In the interview, be aware of language choice. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey claims that “our language is a very clear indicator of the degree to which we see ourselves as proactive people. The language of reactive people absolves them of responsibility…whereas the language of proactive people embraces responsibility.”

Proactive language demonstrates an ability to choose and take action, while reactive language tends to be more focused on removing responsibility. Keeping this perspective in mind when hiring is key to developing a team inspired by an ownership mindset.

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