This has become a mantra used by many leaders to express the desire that people take seriously their commitments ‘as if they owned the place’.
‘Act as if you were the owner’, say managers who have stock options to those who haven’t . No, I am not an owner, you are. I am an employee on the payroll. I own myself, my time, my mind and my hands.
‘Act as if you were the owner’ say managers who can’t articulate ‘act as if it is in the best interest of the company’. What’s wrong with that? Is that so hard?
‘Act as if you were the owner’ is a twisted concept of ‘ownership, as in taking accountability, be responsible, follow through.
‘Act as if you were the owner’ assumes that owners are the best actors. Many owners of business are terrible leaders and make lousy decisions until they sell. In many cases, the best thing to do is to act as if you were not the owner.
‘Act as if you were the owner’ assumes ‘skin in the game’, personal involvement with consequences if things go wrong. If we have to count on ‘acting as if you were the owner’ to ensure skin in the game by people, we would be running pretty weak, carrot and stick organizations. Do we seriously think we have to be owners to be fully committed?
‘Act as if you were the owner’ is almost never an intelligent proxy for accountability, ownership, taking charge, keep promises, go the extra mile, do what you said, and all the rest of well-meaning desires to perform.
Find something better to say. ‘Act as if you were the owner’ is a very cheap shortcut.