AS TOM PRICE LEARNED, AN OWNERSHIP MINDSET STARTS AT THE TOP
The ownership mindset is one of the most important things we teach at FPG. When mastered, every employee will treat the company as their own, the company’s resources as their own personal resources, and the company’s time like a precious commodity.
This is all modeled from the top down. It’s incredibly difficult to have a positive stewardship mindset about your company when the CEO isn’t modeling that behavior. Which brings us around to a man named Tom Price.
On September 29, Price resigned his post under fire as the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services after just seven months in office. Why? According to a report by Politico, Price burned through more than $1 million of taxpayer money for his own chartered trips on private and military aircraft in those seven months. The calls for Price’s job were so intense after the report was released that he eventually decided to resign.
Why was Price’s behavior so poorly received? It wasn’t that his actions were illegal, but as a leader he didn’t treat his funds with the sort of ownership mindset we subconsciously want from our leaders. He didn’t treat our money as his money. He took from the people he led, and he used money entrusted to him in ways that, in the majority of the public’s view, didn’t reflect its best use. Needless to say, this is not the best way to run the government, let alone a Fortune 500 company.
At FPG, we believe and teach that the best workplace cultures aren’t formed by what happens externally. That’s a symptom of something even greater. It’s more about what happens on the inside with each individual employee and the belief they’re given. The best cultures happen when there’s internal support and growth and ongoing coaching to help employees to have intrinsic motivation, not external motivation. That means creating a culture where employees want to perform well, not simply going through the motions to make the boss happy.
This is where we spend a lot of our coaching time with our clients. You get there by trusting your employees, empowering them with the tools to succeed, and coaching them every step of the way. We mold companies so that their leaders can instill an ownership mindset by modeling the ownership mindset.
The biggest modern innovation in grilling is something called a pellet grill. These are different from a traditional grill in that they automatically and constantly feed the fire with preloaded pellets. This keeps the fire at a constant temperature during cooking without ever needing to fumble with adding fuel to the fire yourself. This is the crux of a fully functioning, ownership-minded company culture. When you afford your employees trust, they’ll be able to constantly fuel their own fires without pesky and inefficient micromanaging.
One of my favorite stories of ownership mindset leadership comes out of World War 2. Dick Winters is the central figure in Band of Brothers, a bestselling book from Stephen Ambrose on the 101st Airborne Division’s journey during World War 2. The book was later turned into an award-winning miniseries on HBO, which introduced millions more to Winters’ leadership. The show shadows Winters and his group of soldiers as he moves from an officer in the field to a company commander behind a desk, from boot camp to the final days of the war.
At one point during the series, before the famous 1944 drop on D-Day, Winters finds out that one of his officers, Buck Compton, was gambling with the men he led. In a couple cases, he’d even won. Winters gets angry when he hears this, and he tells Compton to “never be in a position to take from these men.” Here’s the real-life Winters himself on his reasoning behind that line of thinking.
“(Compton) had gotten into the habit of gambling with some of the men in the marshaling area. That is why I reprimanded him. It is a poor policy, and it puts him in the position, the embarrassing position, that if he wins, he must take from the men. He had taken from the men already. The point I was trying to make is that you have to be prepared to give to the people you lead. You must give in every way. You must give of your time, and you must be consistent in your treatment of them. You must never take from people you lead. Later, at Brécourt Manor, Compton did a fantastic job leading his men.”
You must never take from the people you lead. What an important, everlasting piece of leadership advice from one of the greatest American leaders of our age. So if you expect to teach your employees to have a ‘pellet grill’ mindset and feel constantly fed internally, always keep in mind that those behaviors are modeled and fostered at the very top.