Developing Positive Psychological Team Ownership

Building Positive Psychological Team Ownership: 10 Actionable Steps

Building Positive Psychological Team Ownership: 10 Actionable Steps

When team members develop collective psychological ownership over the team’s work, the team members will bring a deeper level of commitment to the team’s work, be accountable for their actions within the team, and take the initiative to bring about positive team results. When team members develop psychological ownership, their motivation, creativity, compliance, and loyalty to the team and their work will dramatically increase. This sense of collective psychological ownership is well understood and portrayed in many TV shows.

In police shows, we see an extreme commitment to the team and their work. It is not uncommon for team members to show creativity, motivation, and drive to create positive team results. I am a Canadian, and in our national sport, hockey, our heroes are the team members who show initiative, motivation, and drive to create positive team results.  

In movies, great heroes have a passion for success and are positive, consistent, and persistent – they possess psychological ownership over the mission. Great team members desire to succeed, strive for a positive team outlook, and are consistent and persistent with the team’s efforts – they possess psychological team ownership. 

So, how do you build positive psychological team ownership?

Those who exercise the positive side of psychological team ownership tend to be goal-oriented individuals who feel psychologically safe in their team. 

To build positive psychological team ownership, one must focus on the four enablers or actions that form, nourish, and strengthen the drivers of psychological team ownership.

Below are ten actions that will build the four enablers:

1. Build a Team Mission – Build and promote a clear, shared team mission that focuses on accomplishing something worthwhile. Make references to the mission often until the team members have internalized it. Celebrated things the team has done that support the worthwhile component of your mission. 

2. Celebrate Achievements – Ensure that the team can see and celebrate their achievements, big and little. Little achievements might include meeting a deadline, completing a project, or landing a new client. Use your imagination and open your mind to see and celebrate the little achievements – it will pay off big time as the team builds psychological team ownership and become far more productive with less supervision.

3. Work in Small Steps – Get the team members to create small steps that include frequent reviews and testing of their work. These small steps will help the team members feel that they have greater control over their work, and the review sessions will help them feel the rewards of having success. Because they are using frequent review sessions or feedback loops, they will be able to see and address any issues quickly, as their work will have minimal changes.

4. See Failure as Learning – Foster the mindset that failure is nothing more than learning in progress. A popular saying in business is “fail fast, fail often,” which can be translated into “test all day, learn all day.” The key here is to fail fast, meaning to identify failure quickly, which is best done by taking small steps with lots of reviews and testing. As team members see that failures are learning in progress and strive to identify failure quickly, they will become more intimately knowledgeable of what they are engaged in and become far more effective.

5. Give the Team Autonomy & Ownership – Empower the team to take autonomy and ownership over their mission – I remember how my brother empowered me to take autonomy and ownership over my ability to swim. He tossed me into the pool’s deep end, and I had no choice but to swim or sink. I chose to swim.  Give the team a mission, and then get them to figure out how they will accomplish the mission.  Encourage taking small steps, with lots of testing and checking on their progress.  As they begin to take ownership of how to do the task for what is wanted, they will become more independent and dependable. 

6. Celebrate Outward – Share and celebrate the team’s successes with their peers and superiors. One company I worked with had an annual Expo of Wins, where each team would demonstrate what they were doing and their successes. The public and the team members’ families were invited to see the year’s successes.  During the year, teams were awarded medals for their success, and during the Expo of Wins, the teams would proudly show off their medals.  Another company I worked with would hold quarterly planning events.  The event was kicked off by teams demonstrating their successes to their peers.  The team members were encouraged to invite family and special guests.  After completing each demo, the team would get a BravoZulu plaque, which BravoZulu means very well done, and each team member would get a Cross pen with BravoZulu written on it.

7. Written Team Agreement – Have the team discuss, agree to, and write a team agreement that includes the team’s norms, their definitions of acceptance, ready and done, and the team’s scheduled times for recurring meetings. The team’s norms, also known as ground rules, set the guidelines on how the team intents to interact, communicate, and conduct themselves. The displayed agreement can go a long way in reducing problems within the team.  It is a reminder of what is expected from the team members, and it can head off escalating issues by issues being addressed early by fellow team members.  Common things that are found in Team Norms.

8. Positive Self-Image – Encourage the development of a positive self-image. Team members with a positive self-image are more willing to help team members and adopt more positive psychological ownership of their work and the team. – See our eBook “Quick Guide to Instantly Boosting One’s Self-Image and Self-Confidence.”

9. T-Shaped Skills – Promote ongoing learning, cross-training, and ensemble development within the team to create T-Shaped Skills. T-Shaped Skills refer to having a dominant valued skill while having the skills to help team members in areas beyond their dominant skills. – see our eBook “Understanding and Developing T-Shaped Skills within Your Team,” which includes a chapter on collaborative development with includes ensemble and peer development.

10. Develop a Psychologically Safe Team Environment – A psychologically safe team environment where team members feel comfortable voicing concerns, taking risks, and asking for help. – see our eBook “The ABC’s of Developing a Psychologically Safe Team Environment.”

Meet as a team often to discuss building positive psychological team ownership, building a goal-oriented team mindset, and creating a psychologically safe environment.  Ensure that the team members understand what psychological team ownership is, what a psychologically safe team environment is, and why they matter.  Get the team to take ownership to build positive psychological team ownership and create a psychologically safe team environment. Make it clear that you expect results.

"Are you ready to develop positive psychological ownership in your team? Follow these ten actionable steps to create a strong team bond and achieve your goals. Share this article with your team members and start building a sense of ownership today."

To learn more about psychological ownership and how to develop and manage it, see our free eBook:

“Psychological Ownership – How it affects your team’s effectiveness and how to manage it.”