Giving Your Team Ownership Without Issuing Stock

I recently wrote about how many companies confuse ownership with stock. And may employees who hold stock in the companies they work for believe that they are therefore owners, and empowered to affect the course of the enterprise.

Hang Glider Jon Tucker via Compfight

So, as an entrepreneur who wants an engaged team striving to not only enact your vision but bring exciting new ideas to the table as well, how to you bring ownership to your team without involving stock in the company?

This planet has — or rather had — a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

  1. Be greedy. Gather as many ideas from your team as you can. Have a hunger for innovation. Never stop asking for input. Remember Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation who would, at critical moments, gather his team and ask for options. Involve your team.
  2. Be commanding. Never forget, though, that great operations have at their heads not committees, but lone, empowered individuals. Linus Torvalds makes all decisions regarding the Linux operating system. The President of the United States balances the US Congress.
  3. Be lavish. Give praise. Call out your rock stars in public and in front of their peers. Invent new awards and unique ways of recognizing outstanding performers. These need not be monetary--be creative!
  4. Be reserved. When things don't go according to plan, don't be quick to criticize. Guard your tongue. Grace and mercy are also wonderful traits of a good leader. Look for patterns, not for single occurrences. For movies, not snapshots.
  5. Be generous. Give rewards. Share the bounty produced by the ideas of your team members, but also share the rewards of ideas that came solely from your own head. Remember that this team helped you get those ideas to market. If you keep the booty for yourself, you'll soon find your crew either in mutiny or abandoning ship.
  6. Be authentic. Nothing will make you team feel like you've got your back like actually having their backs. The first time the company has a huge win and they suddenly get an unexpected bonus check for no reason other than that you decided to share the win with them, it will send an enormous message. The second time that happens, they'll realize it wasn't a one-time thing. And if it doesn't happen every single time, the more times they either share directly in a win or hear of others sharing, the more motivated they'll be.
Add these things up and you'll soon have a team that is not only invested in the business, but actively contributing on an ongoing basis. And isn't that really a better definition of ownership than how many stock certificates each one has?
What other creative ways could you use to invest your team with real ownership?