Strategies for Leading Co-Owned Work

Strategies for Leading Co-Owned Work

Co-owned work improves outcomes and ownership. Collaborative cultures unlock teams’ full potential and drive meaningful change.

Consider these strategies for creating a collaborative co-owned culture.

Listen – Get on the balcony … and the dance floor

  1. Read the context; measure the energy; consider what else is going on
  2. Listen between the lines to ensure people are heard and acknowledged
  3. Ask questions.  Gather input from a broad range of stakeholders.
  4. Move back and forth between the front lines and the bigger perspective

Communicate early and often 

  1. Identify early adopters and positive outliers
  2. Seek out advocates who can best reach constituents
  3. Give advanced notice to opinion leaders so they are not surprised
  4. Acknowledge the challenge: This will be hard … We can do this
  5. Yes this will be “messy in the middle” 

Mobilize and Inspire … around the adaptive question

  1. Build trust by being authentic and transparent
  2. Contrast the big why with the brutal truth of reality 
  3. Frame adaptive questions that focus energy and creativity on the big picture 
  4. Adaptive questions focus on the positives … How We Can … 

Create a holding space for ownership to grow and develop:

  1. Invite ideas that help us get better ideas and foster more ownership
  2. Create a space where people can share ideas; anonymously if needed  
  3. Share back options … even a “crappy first draft” … for discussion and refinement
  4. Inviting people into the process builds trust, agency, ownership and better ideas
  5. Share back what you learned and what changes have been made based on feedback.
  6. Avoid analysis paralysis by setting time limits for feedback.  

Manage fear and loss:

  1. Recognize resistance and a legitimate fear of loss
  2. Adjust the tensions by pacing change and support
  3. Grapple with the issues … don’t avoid issues or polarize issues
  4. Share the rationale – the focus on our North Star
  5. Offer opportunities for people to share their fears
  6. Keep looking for root causes and smarter solutions. 
  7. Avoid compromise for compromise’s sake

Let decisions mature

  1. Change happens one conversation at a time.  
  2. Give the team time to process change.  Don’t push too fast.  
  3. Communicate early and often … gentle and relentless
  4. Offer “Office hours” … a place to be heard
  5. Manage disappointment at a rate the team can handle
  6. Use the Oz Principle … 10 min below the line … then see it, own it, solve it, do it.

Grow capacity … keep giving work back to the group

  1. No, leaders are not always or even often … “large and in charge”
    Leaders create a culture of learning, adaptation, and innovation
  2. More owners lead to more innovative and effective solutions. 
  3. Instill confidence … WE’VE got this 
  4. Aim for solutions that are super simple and as clear as possible. 
    With smarter systems, we reduce crises and optimize results. 
  5. Amplify positive outliers and grow champions. That strengthens the culture of collaboration and drives continuous improvement.

Build better systems … do it, try it, fix it:

  1. Look for overlap between, research, impact, and ownership.
    The best research with zero buy-in is … still zero. 
  2. Communicate why the goal matters over and over. Talk about how the goal benefits stakeholders. 
  3. Monitor both will and skill often. Find and resolve barriers to implementation. 
    Provide necessary resources and support for professional development. 
  4. Passion and enthusiasm drive engagement and ownership.


Co-owned work improves outcomes and ownership.  Leading co-owned work requires a strategic focus, fostering a culture of collaboration, and creating a safe space for open dialogue and feedback. By embracing these principles, organizations can tap into their teams’ collective intelligence and creativity, driving meaningful change and achieving enduring success.

Thank you to the Clover Park Special Education team that has been living, learning and adapting this work over the past few years.




Larry Nyland speaking

Larry Nyland – Leadership Coach and Consultant.
Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

To talk about growing extraordinary "high capacity" leadership for your team …
Contact: | 425-418-4398 |