We always talk about how we want our employees to approach their job with an "ownership mentality". It's pretty obvious why. The logic goes if they think like an owner, they will perform their job more effectively, right? Well, not so fast. It all depends on what kind of owner we are talking about.

I was having a conversation with a really good friend whose agency recently sold to a large, national broker. When I asked how it was going, I was a little taken back by his response.

It wasn't so much that I was surprised by that the fact that things are going well, but I was surprised at what it was that he described as going well. He said that he couldn't remember a time when the sales team was so engaged and motivated, and that they were now setting the tone for the whole agency.

He pointed out that the sales team was also the previous ownership team and (before the sale) had gotten to the point that they used their ownership as a "free pass" to not be accountable to anyone and, therefore, to not have to perform. However, after the sale to an organization with a real sales culture, they find themselves the most accountable of all. Which now accounts for the renewed engagement and motivation.

Leadership accountability

If you have been reading our blog for any length of time, you have heard me talk about the responsibilities that come with leadership. And shouldn't the owner(s) of any organization be right there with the highest level of leadership? And doesn't it also stand to reason that they should also be the most responsible for performing their role and driving results?

Sadly the (pre-sale) situation my friend described is all too common in small, privately held companies. There is no doubt in a publicly traded company that the leaders would be the most accountable and under the greatest amount of scrutiny. Why shouldn't it be the same in our agencies?

Behavior sets the example

I think it should, but I also see why it isn't. The producer/owner is happy with his/her level of income, rationalizes that past efforts continue to drive revenue, and then stops producing.

I couldn't disagree with this position more!

They may have taken care of themselves, and they may not have Wall Street breathing down their necks, but there is an entire organization depending on their leadership, engagement, and motivation. When this doesn't exist, a whole host of problems happen:

  • The opportunities for personal growth are not afforded the rest of the team.
  • The financial reward available to the rest of the team is also taken away.
  • The energy, belief, and morale is taken out of the organization.
  • The industry is watching and loses respect. It becomes harder to attract/retain top talent.
  • The competition is watching and starts circling like vultures.

However, when the owners/leaders are engaged and motivated there is no limit to what can happen! So, before you ask your team to "behave like an owner", be sure to evaluate what kind of ownership example is being set. If the example is one of a "servant owner" who makes himself or herself the most accountable, then I applaud the expectation. However, if the example is one of an "entitled owner", well, I would just caution you to be careful what you ask for because you will most likely get it.


Photo by melnyk58.