How to Create a Sense of Ownership on Your Team Without Employee Stock Options

A business thrives when all employees feel a sense of ownership over its success. Some companies foster this sense through employee stock options, but even in offices without the financial incentive, managers can take certain steps to ensure each employee has a personal stake in team-wide endeavors.

1. Value Your Employees

A workplace thrives when each team member feels valued. Managers can achieve this by first creating a group understanding of respect.

For example, the diversity toolkit designed by MSW@USC, the online Master of Social Work program at the University of Southern California, suggests an exercise in which team members share and investigate their personal definitions of respect in a wider cultural context. Employees can then proceed with a clear understanding of the behaviors and boundaries that constitute respect in the workplace.

2. Set Clear End Goals – and Don't Micromanage Their Execution

Managers are responsible for delivering the cohesive results of a team effort. However, as noted by social psychologist Douglas McGregor, not all managing styles lead to the same success levels.

McGregor defined two types of management: authoritarian, which he called "Theory X," and participative, which he called "Theory Y."

Theory X managers assume employees are disinterested in their work. Therefore, they dictate hour-by-hour duties without listening to their workers' input. This style of management can make employees feel like they are just cogs in a machine. This feeling discourages them from having a personal stake in the business.

Theory Y managers, on the other hand, trust workers are invested in their work and in the company's wider vision. These managers set clear end goals for their companies and/or projects. Then, they let employees take initiative in designing the best plans to achieve those end goals. This process fuels employees' feelings of ownership over their work.

3. Talk and Listen

Create a sense of honesty and trust in your team – and dispel office gossip – by being transparent with employees about projects and the company's direction. Listen to and value employees' feedback on these subjects.

For example, Satisfaction at Work CEO Shea Heaver suggests managers consult with employees when projects run into problems. That way, employee and manager can work together on achieving the end goal instead of having the manager assign a new direction.

Feelings of shared ownership lead to accountability, which in turn leads employees to respect the ways in which their individual performances affect other teammates' abilities to perform their own jobs.

4. Open Up Decisions

Open communication is especially vital during decision-making processes. When higher-ups decide a project's future without valuing input from all involved, employees can feel separated from their work. As a result, they may lack motivation and investment in it.

Managers should listen to their employees' feedback rather than paying lip service to it through yearly surveys or unread comments. Managers and workers should have regular meetings to retool their strategies to achieve shared goals.

Stock options may seem like the most obvious way to ensure individual team members are invested in overall company success, but they aren't the only way. Management techniques that value employees' independence, professional skill sets, and feedback can also foster a sense of ownership over work.