Close to 15 years ago I remember seeing an interview with Bob Knight, iconic basketball coach at Indiana University, talking about how challenging his practices were. I always loved how hard and disciplined Knight’s teams were over the years. I, like many, considered most things Knight said regarding basketball close to gospel. Of course, as all basketball fans know, Knight's time at Indiana ended abruptly due to his unacceptable treatment of players. It was a disappointing end to a remarkable career to say the least.
However, Knight’s knowledge and expertise of the game can’t be debated. In one of his responses Knight made reference to his players saying “my bad” when they made a mistake. He loathed players doing this, rebuking with something along the lines of “no shit it’s your bad - it sure as hell wasn’t my bad, I’m not even playing.” He believed it was a way for players to seek sympathy for their mistakes.
I’ve questioned my refutation of this philosophy for several years due to my respect for Coach Knight and this single interview. My learnings and experience over the years have formed a different perspective on the phrase.
I think “my bad” is one of the most powerful things a leader, or teammate, can say to their team.
Why Should We Care? Ownership is the fuel to the leadership fire. Creating that ownership is an art. You can’t demand it or require it. No paper you sign or salary you receive results in the commitment to a team that’s required of a leader. They may be things you expect or nice perks, but they don’t drive the team.
Ownership is an inspired thing. It’s an individual decision that has a collective impact far beyond that isolated choice. As leaders, creating ownership within our team must be central to our mission.
I’m not talking about the superficial ownership warranted by a name plate and reserved parking spot. Excellence requires ultimate ownership.
When leaders own every aspect of the team, the team is destined to succeed. When team members own every aspect of the team, the team is destined for excellence.
REAL TALK - Action Steps Here are a few thoughts around fostering ownership on your team. As the leader our job is to create an environment that promotes ownership. There is no rule book or tried and true method that leads directly to a team taking hold of its own direction. Each team is different, but these are things I’ve found moves most teams forward down the ownership road.
Say “My Bad”
When it’s your fault - say “my bad”. When it’s not your fault - say “my bad”. Owning mistakes is one of the most powerful ways a leader can fuel the desire for team members to take ownership. On excellent teams, everyone views failures as their fault. Not just in words, but they truly feel they could’ve done something different that would’ve resulted in a different outcome. That’s what ownership is all about.
Share Moments of Greatness
Allow team members to share contributions of colleagues to the success of the team. Make this a part of your weekly meetings or following a performance. The dual benefit of hearing about behind the scenes actions that were instrumental in the team’s performance and those coming from co-workers is powerful in increasing buy-in and ownership within a team.
No need to tell everyone about the fungal infection on your foot, but it is imperative that your team knows who you are and what you care about. Teams are formed on trust and trust can’t form until team members become vulnerable with each other. That starts with the leader. Finding communal time outside of work and opportunities to talk about our personal lives may seem contrary to commitment, but it’s actually a major indicator of a team with ownership.
The pursuit of instilling ownership will take time, be challenging, and make you question whether it’s worth it or not. It’s also the only path to excellence though, so is there really another option? It takes what it takes.
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com. We would love to know how we could help!