[March 1, 2019] You’ve got to admire a guy who made fried chicken the core business of a fast-food restaurant. Colonel Harland Sanders rose from humble beginnings to a multi-millionaire in the tough-as-nails restaurant enterprise. There is a lesson for everyone; if you want to be successful … pay close attention to why and how successful people get things done.
If you want to be successful, there are many things you must do well. A person I would like to highlight for today, other than Colonel Sanders, is Jeff Bezos who is the founder, chairman, CEO, and president of Amazon. There are many articles and videos written about him and, as such, I will depart from the standard list of quotes and tactics he uses.
Jeff Bezos has spoken at length on why his company is so successful. There are many reasons, of course. But one reason deserves special attention to those of us who study leadership and work hard to put that intellectual understanding to the test in the real world.
“We know our success will be largely affected by our ability to attract and retain a motivated employee base, each of whom must think like, and therefore must actually be, an owner.” – Jeff Bezos, in a 1997 letter
Make employees think like owners. In the opinion of many Fortune 500 company CEOs, that is at the heart of success. Psychologists, who study those who can complete difficult tasks, found that those who acted like they “owned” the issue did best. People must have skin in the game to do their best. I’ve written on this idea before when I wrote that leaders take ownership seriously.
In the U.S. Air Force and Navy, the pilot and chief mechanic’s name are often stenciled on the side of the cockpit. Our fighting military men and women will tell you that this helps generate esprit de corps and a team spirit. It’s a form of ownership. We all take better care of the things we have worked for and own. If it’s our possession, our internal motivation is ramped up.
Jeff Bezos had it right. Make the employee (or anyone for that matter) be like an owner and that employee will go the extra mile to ensure things go properly. Whether this is simply part of human “nature” is not relevant for us. What matters is that it works and it works in all societies. Ownership drives motivation, and internal motivation is what makes the world of people function.