How do you help employees feel ownership of their work?

Managing Excellently

Wisdom Cafe took frequently asked questions of participants in the Manager Mastermind Group and sought answers from UCB colleagues who have been awarded an Excellence in Management award by the Berkeley Staff Assembly (BSA). The Managing Excellently series is a compilation of these responses meant to help all staff on their aspiring or current management journeys.

How do you help employees feel ownership of their work?

Kristine Lee Wilby, Associate Director, Office of Undergraduate Admissions

2015 Excellence in Management Award Winner

I encourage my staff to go for something new that aligns with their passions. I remind them that I will be there when they have their missteps (especially when trying something new). I observe them in their work (even when they don't think I notice) and I take the time to recognize them either publicly and/or individually. I don't expect perfection, but I expect hard work and willingness to learn. I lead by example by doing the same: trying new things and seeking support when I need it. 

Cara Stanley, Executive Director, Student Learning Center

2016 & 2018 Excellence in Management Award Winner

Throughout my 25-and-counting years at Cal, I have benefited greatly from thoughtful feedback and a certain degree of autonomy to do my best work. Therefore, as a manager, I make every effort to provide my staff with the same success ingredients to do their best work. I believe that ownership comes from one’s desire to do justice to one’s work. My job is to embolden this desire and trust my staff to exercise their agency as educators and lifelong learners to excel. Equally important, I believe staff feel ownership of their work when they are able to connect what they do on the ground to the larger mission and core values of the organization. This is why, as a collective, we insist on the centrality of our core values in every decision we make. Without a clear sense of ethos, values, and mission, it’s largely impossible to cultivate a sense of ownership and purpose in staff in any profession.

Jeffrey Brown, Director - UCB - Central Sierra Field Research Stations 

2016 Excellence in Management Award Winner

Provide them with clear goals and objectives that they help create and then let them move forward. In addition to success- expect and support failure as making mistakes is helpful in allowing creativity and engagement. I’ve found that allowing folks to run ideas by me first sometimes can prevent a big failure. It has allowed me to think a little bit differently as a personal benefit. I have also needed to learn to not shoot down ideas. I need to make the time to consider them. What might seem crazy at first might have some kernels that work.

Monica Duran, Assistant Director of Operations

2018 Excellence in Management Award Winner

I think you start by finding out more about your employees' interests and what drives them. When you understand that, it helps you to frame or focus their work around those interests. People are much more likely to feel ownership when they are invested in the outcomes.

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