How to build a culture of ownership in school?

Dr IOAN REES

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Cultivating a sense of ownership within a school is an
important way to inspire people to be fully engaged.

While this kind of environment encourages personal responsibility and can result in high-performance, ownership is most often focused on personal accountability and the expectation that staff will be intrinsically motivated.

However, let’s not underestimate the power of ownership among and between peers in a high-performance culture. In fact, some 'schools of thought' suggest that ownership is the chief factor that drives high-performance in teams. To be clear, we’re not talking about performance management systems or manager enforced performance metrics, but rather the kind of ownership that comes from creating a culture in which support is always available in a constructive yet challenging way and that encourages people to do their best and always improve.

Of course, cultivating an environment of ownership requires some foundational principles that include setting clear expectations, transparency and fearless communication, and a culture of learning with continuous improvement.

  • Clear expectations. It’s hard to meet expectations when you’re not sure what’s expected of you. When it comes to ownership, let your staff know that you expect them to keep you and each other accountable for achieving established goals and performance outcomes/metrics- but most of all, themselves.
  • Practice transparency in communication. This doesn’t always come naturally. People will often vent to everyone but the person they’re venting about. Create a collegiate communication style wherein people are candid and honest with each other rather than muttering behind each other’s backs. This reflects an environment that is psychologically safe.
  • Model ownership. As the leader, it’s your responsibility to demonstrate how you want your others to act and behave. If you want them to demonstrate ownership, you have to model what that looks like by owning your mistakes yourself.
  • Check in regularly and often. We’ve already discussed the benefit of frequent feedback over termly or even annual performance reviews. More frequent check-ins in a high-ownership, high-performance culture enables managers to provide feedback for staff that will help them grow and stay on track. 
  • Encourage growth and learning. Expecting high-performance doesn’t mean expecting perfection. And if you want to maintain a high-performance culture, it’s important to encourage team members to embrace mistakes and failures as opportunities for learning, to pivot and develop new skills.


The ultimate goal with cultivating a culture of
ownership is to empower staff to communicate concerns with care, with each other in a respectful way. With clear expectations and a foundation of transparent and open communication; ownership, growth and performance can, and most likely will, flourish.

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