Gary Ng | Awakening Entrepreneur

Leadership – Enhancing Creativity, Taking Ownership

When I think about the roles of managers, I reflect on the processes of the “top to bottom” approach of driving a team. In the past, the typical structure of a company was based on a hierarchy system that did not encourage employees to take ownership of their roles. This structure can lead to a decrease in creativity in your staff as well as diminishing their personal empowerment. This regimented hierarchy system is limiting and creates stagnation in companies. When you empower people who to take ownership of their role and be proactive in leading themselves and the team to success, you create strong productive leaders. Take the example of Mark Shapiro and how he turned the Six Flags Amusement Park chain around.

This amusement park chain was in decline. The reputation of the parks were such that rides were often closing to save on maintenance costs the employees looked like they would really rather be somewhere else.  The customer service surveys that were coming in were very poor and the profits and revenues were reflecting that as well. Mark decided that he was going to take a look at the surveys and found that most of the complaints came in about the janitorial crews.  Not only were people dissatisfied with the cleanliness of the park, but the attitudes of the cleaning crews were atrocious. Mark went to the employees and told them that he wanted them to compete with Disney. They looked at him as if he had lost his mind.  But, he was serious.  He wanted people to be able to come to their local park and have the most amazing experience at a price they could afford. So after speaking to the crews, he decided to become one of them for a week. During that time he spoke with his new employees and found that they did not take ownership of their roles and they felt greatly disrespected.  They saw the customers of the parks as unappreciative and their work was a waste of time. Now the problem with that was; those same customers were the ones who were paying for their family’s educations, the food on their table, and the roofs over their heads. Mark made it clear to the staff, that their pay checks were written by the company, but they were funded by the customers.  No customers, no pay.

Mark created a vision for the team but left it to the individuals to come up with better ways to serve the customers along with doing their janitorial duties. In the beginning, there weren’t any incentives offered, only that each employee could gain recognition for being a “super star” crew member. He set meetings with his staff to brain storm ways of creating a friendly, customer service oriented approach to keeping the parks looking spectacular.  Of course, there was a bit of opposition from some of the employees, and if they could not take ownership of their new roles, such as walking with people to get them to a desired destination, or making sure they were giving out correct information, they were let go after a series of coaching sessions. But slowly, the new reviews started coming in and they were greatly improved as was the level of employee satisfaction. He used this model throughout the entire business, in all of the parks, and gave a dying business new life.

We are all leaders. There are moments in everyday when someone steps up, takes ownership of a conversation, or a project, and leads others to be empowered to do the same.

Where in your business is there a need for an influx of creativity?  How can you empower your staff to take ownership of their roles and become leaders in their field?