By Eric George, MD, founder of ERG Enterprises.
Every leader faces the challenge of knowing how best to motivate their team. How do you inspire your workforce to become truly engaged and take charge of what they do? How do you build an organization and a culture that creates an ownership mentality? Because when that happens, you unleash your organization’s potential. In my experience, we can create this sense of ownership by completing three tasks:
#1: Establish a Purpose for the Organization
First, we must clearly establish and communicate why our organization does what it does. Why does it exist? And while every business must make money, our explicit purpose can’t be financially focused. It must speak to the impact we desire to make on our target customer.
Without a purpose, employees fill the void with other motivating factors that justify their work. Their salary. Their perks. The location. All act as unsustainable motivators. They also don’t fulfill or inspire. Over time, employees take them for granted. Organizations without purpose suffer from the chronic mentality of “What’s in it for me?” as well as “Is X, Y, and Z worth my time?” Eventually, employees leave because we all innately seek work that carries meaning beyond a paycheck.
#2: Establish Goals
Second, we must establish goals and metrics that tell us how we are performing relative to our purpose as an organization. Numerous resources examine the importance and science of goalsetting, which go beyond the scope of this blog. That said, we must set “stretch goals” that force our teams to strive to the outer limits of their capabilities.
Importantly, when we set organizational goals as an organization, they should focus on different aspects of our purpose; specifically, they should address three core areas. First, we should specify our reach as an organization. How much of our target market do we want to acquire? This defines the scale of our impact. Second, we should focus on our results. What specific outcomes do we want to create for our target audience? This statement should better define our purpose statement with detailed and quantifiable measures. Third, we should focus on third-party recognition—validation from outside parties that reinforce our progress relative to our goals and purpose. Validation remains important for several reasons, including the ability to celebrate it internally as an organization, something that builds a sense of identity, community, and comradery among our teams.
#3 Empower Your People
Once we set our purpose and goals as an organization, we must empower our people. Empowerment comes by providing our employees with two essential needs. First, we must give them responsibilities and accountabilities that bring meaning and consequence to our business. These responsibilities, if not managed to expectations, should carry the potential of serious loss to our organization. Second, we must give our employees power consistent with their responsibilities. Without this balance, we set our employees up to fail and diminish the importance of their role in the organization.
Purpose, goals, empowerment. These simple steps enable us to unleash the power and potential of our organizations. They have enabled me to build a winning team at ERG Enterprises, a leading investment company that celebrates a culture of ownership. Employees “own” our partner and client relationships, projects, and outcomes. And the results are clear. Since I founded the company in 2006, we’ve grown a portfolio worth more than $1 billion in assets and spanning over more than 9 different industries. We own and operate businesses that employ approximately 300 full-time individuals, and our investments are helping stimulate thousands more meaningful jobs. We are also the proud supporters of companies that are improving the human condition on a global scale.
We have invested, for instance, in a company that is pioneering needleless injection technology for vaccinations—an innovation that improves access, prevents dangerous needlesticks, and enhances efficacy. The company is partnering with the World Health Organization to provide this technology to underdeveloped nations, and stands a strong chance of eradicating polio worldwide.
Our “ownership” mentality affords us a sense of balance, an intrinsic motivation that elevates our work beyond simply making money. This remains especially important for our company, since we work in an industry hyper-focused on material gain. Because we focus on what gives us meaning, we don’t constrain our performance to concerns over salary, benefits, and other material measures. Rather, we free ourselves to do more, be more. For our employees, salary matters; I would be foolish if I didn’t think so. But I also know that our employees deeply care about our clients and will go out of their way to help them succeed. Isn’t that the kind of culture that we, as leaders, all aspire to build?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eric R. George, MD, is a renowned hand surgeon, serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, published author, and philanthropist. He is the founder and CEO of Omega Hospital, New Orleans’s first physician-owned hospital; the Hand Center of Louisiana, where he actively practices; and ERG Enterprises, a $1 billion investment firm committed to changing communities worldwide. His debut non-fiction book, We: Ditch the Me Mindset and Change the World, continues to earn praise from respected influencers and thought leaders in business and media.