Tag Archive for: Accountable Behaviours

The 80% Principle Of Leadership – Managing By Making Room

An astute executive once wisely told me, “The problem with leaders today is that they expect 100% from their good people, and not enough from their poor performers.” I was initially puzzled, but after his explanation, I was inspired.

Let me illustrate the principle with an example. Not long ago I asked my sales manager to work three hours overtime to participate in a webinar on social media then give me an assessment. I rarely ask Laurie to work overtime, but she jumped at the opportunity to go the extra mile.

When considering the 80% Principle, there are three potential scenarios when you ask an employee to go the extra mile. If you are stretching people to the max, expecting 100% from them all the time, pushing them to do more with less, thus demanding that they are on 100% of the time, and then ask them to take on an additional project that requires overtime, you have no room for the additional request. In this case they will probably do it for you, but likely with either resentment or stress or both.

And if you have been expecting your good people to give 120% and then ask them to work overtime on a project, they likely start looking elsewhere for a job (if they haven’t already).

The alternative is to give them some room on a day-to-day basis. Don’t stretch them to the maximum. Only expect 80% so there is some space, some room for creativity, innovation, engagement, fulfillment, or connection. You will also likely find that when you only expect 80% from your best people, you’re going to get 100% anyway. But that additional 20% comes from within them, not from you. This kind of relationship breeds commitment and loyalty from those you depend on. Laurie is a part of this third scenario. I expect 80%, she gives 100%, and is always willing to go to 120% when the need arises.

The second part of this formula has to do with underachievers, those who are succeeding, but at less than 80% of their capacity. It is important to get tougher with these people. Don’t ignore them. You get tougher through clearer expectations. Fit people; don’t fix people. Get people into the right roles and then get them to 80%, not 100%. But if, through coaching and support, this doesn’t work, then help them move on in their career.

Three actions:

  • Track your own energy level. Take a careful inventory of yourself: How stretched do you feel? How much room is in your work life (or personal life) to slow down, be creative, think, connect – with your staff, your colleagues, your customers? Have the courage to respectfully negotiate for some space in your work life to express what matters most. If you are stretched to the max, you will convey tension in all your relationships.
  • Have a conversation with your team members about how stretched they feel. Ask your direct reports or those you serve if there is any room in their work life. Negotiate respectfully for some space.
  • Take an inventory of your direct reports who are operating at less than 80% capacity, and have the courage to face them. Be sure you have done everything you can to offer support to those within your stewardship. Have the conversation. Bring clear accountability agreements into your relationships. They must have high standards, clear expectations and ways to measure results, support requirements, and consequences. People need two things from their boss. They need to know you care, and they need performance measures. Be tough on people, be clear with people, but do it with love. No one ever takes pride in doing something easy.

Fostering Initiative – How To Get Someone To Take Out The Trash

As a young man, I learned a valuable lesson from my parents. Although it didn’t sink in until years after I left home and started assuming adult responsibilities, the importance of taking initiative was planted early in my life. Initiative is the willingness and ability to assess and take action on things independently. It’s the will to act or take charge before others do. Taking initiative is foundational to leadership. When you create a culture of initiative most of your work as a leader is done because you are inspiring others to be leaders. It’s considerably easier – and more enjoyable – to live and work in a place where people see work that needs doing and step up to the task, when they don’t wait for direction but take the initiative to create direction, and when people pick up after themselves instead of expecting someone else to do it for them. How to create an environment where people learn to take initiative has been a passion of mine for some time.

After facilitating a three-day leadership workshop in Oklahoma, I was out for dinner with a technical sergeant from the US Air Force who had twenty years of experience in a variety of leadership roles. We agreed that taking initiative is vital to success in life and it is perhaps even more important in the military. We came up with five strategies for creating a culture of initiative:

  • Answer why. Show people that what they do has value to the organization. Every employee needs to know why his or her job is critical to the success of the team. Make sure you have this conversation. If you want someone to take out the trash on their own initiative, without having to be told, just telling them to “take out the trash” is far less likely to be successful than if you explain why taking out the trash benefits the entire unit. Even better than you telling them why, get them to tell you why it is important. They have to see the big picture, and how the job in front of them fits into that picture. We are much more likely to take initiative when we have our own skin in the game and understand how the work we do makes a contribution to the greater whole. While chores are always part of a good team, it’s having a sense of contribution that motivates people.
  • Make it safe. This is a critical leadership imperative that you have to continuously work on. Do people feel safe to ask questions? Do people feel safe to make mistakes? Do people feel safe to say, “I don’t know how to do this and I need help?” I have found, from observing leaders for more than thirty years, that there is a relationship between a leader’s stress level and how safe people feel around them. The best way to create a safe environment is for you to be at peace with yourself as a leader. If you are walking around tense and stressed, you create tension and it feels unsafe for people to open up. And people who are open are more apt to take initiative. If you want people around you to take initiative, find ways to lessen your own stress level.
  • Be Respectful. You will have an easier time fostering value in a culture when people know you genuinely care about them. If they sense your caring, they are more likely to respond in kind and offer caring in return. When you have earned their trust by investing honestly in their life – by genuine acts of listening, investing in the trust account, showing interest, and expressing concern, they are more willing to take initiative and step up for the good of the team.
  • Lead by example. As a leader, you have to model the way. People need to see that you expect nothing from others that you aren’t willing to do yourself. Do your people see you taking out the trash? Do they see you cleaning up after yourself? Do they see you taking initiative? Initiative is about taking ownership, and ownership starts with you.
  • Don’t over do it. Having said all this, we always have to be careful to not do too much for people. Any strength, taken too far, becomes a weakness. Initiative, my father would say, cannot be taught; it must be caught. We will inevitably take initiative when we are uncomfortable enough. Remember: making it safe, being respectful, leading by example, doesn’t mean we have to rescue people from their unhappiness. If you always take out the trash, why would others take the initiative? If you are always walking around making it safe, you want to check that you aren’t coddling your team members and making it too easy for them. Sometimes people have to smell the garbage before they’ll pack it up and take it out to the dumpster.

Balancing Accountability With Caring

Any parent who has ever said no to a child understands that leadership is not about being popular. You have to be secure within yourself to do the right thing – for the benefit of the greater whole. A recent consulting project reminded me of this. A CEO was brought in to a failing company eighteen months previously to bring it out of the red and make it profitable. The former CEO was known throughout the organization as “Mr. Popular.” Everyone loved him. He was their “buddy.” Expense cheques were freely approved. There was no such thing as budgets. And, like the inattentive captain of the Costa Concordia, he was driving the company into the rocks of bankruptcy. While all the partying and love fest was going on, most of his employees had no idea where he was taking them. Thankfully the board caught it and dismissed him before disaster struck.

The new CEO, a brilliant, accountable, focused leader had to be “less than warm” in her approach to turning the company around. Many of her employees did not understand where she was coming from, and perceived her as cold, distant, and uncaring compared her to her predecessor. Like a courageous parent committed to accountability, I heard her say to her employees, in no uncertain terms, “Trust me. This is for the good of this company and the employees – in the long run.”

Now that the company has turned the corner through her leadership, it is obvious that many of these employees would not even be employed today under the former “popular” regime. Yet for sometime, the new CEO has been perceived by some of her direct reports and managers as “unapproachable,” “disconnected,” and “removed from her people.” They had no idea that, by saving the organization and the employees’ jobs along with it, she was actually very caring.

How do you become respected and liked and still hold others accountable? This is a question that every leader must grapple with. It is also a question that has application for every employee. Here are seven points to consider as you wrestle with this question:

  1. Being a leader is not for people who need to be liked or need to be popular. At times, you have to be willing to stand alone with the courage of your convictions.
  2. Even though you don’t need to be liked as a leader, if you aren’t liked by at least most of your people – you’ll have difficulty making impact in the long term.
  3. As an employee, some things are not as they appear. Few bosses come to work with a motive to mess up the place. While there certainly may be poor leadership at times, unless you are a psychopath, all behavior comes from a positive intent. Before judging, take time to discover the underlying motive of your boss’s behavior and be patient.
  4. Because leadership is a presence, not a position, everyone in an organization is a potential leader. You can be a leader today by deciding to be what you expect from others. If you want more compassion from others, start by being more compassionate to
  5. Leadership is ultimately about caring, but you can’t always count on it appearing as such. When you are fostering accountability by holding the line on a principle, you may come across as anything but compassionate. Accountable people accept this.
  6. You must be driven by a motive of caring even when you are holding others accountable – caring about people, caring about your work, and caring about the organization as a whole. While caring and accountability won’t always be in balance, you need to know when it’s out of balance and how to get it back.
  7. You don’t become liked by pleasing people and giving them what they want. That’s merely a fix that passes with the tides of popularity. You get to be liked by letting go of your need to be liked, serving people by being committed to giving them what they need, earning respect from living in alignment to your principles, and then by being humble and authentic.

 

Now that this CEO has begun to turn the company around, she’s concentrating on turning her relationship with her employees around. In order to accomplish what she did, she needed to be tough, and while her resolve remains firm, she can turn her attention to connecting with others and showing her caring side. She’s working at being vulnerable by communicating her intentions and exposing a little more of her humanness, both of which are vital to connecting with others. She’s reminding herself to be more kind and approachable, and lightening up a bit. As a result, people are actually starting to like her, and in the process, she is earning the trust and respect of her key people.

Work Life Balance – It Isn’t About Balance

Balancing poses in my yoga practice are the most difficult for me. I’ve learned that the harder I try to balance myself, the more I lose my balance. I’ve learned, from good yoga teachers over the years, that instead of trying to balance to: “Relax. Stop judging. Stop ‘trying.’ Breathe. Sometimes you’ll find the balance; sometimes you won’t. Keep practicing.”

We talk about work-life balance these days as if it is something to be achieved like running a marathon, making a sale or achieving a goal. Then when we fall short of our expectations we are critical of ourselves for a lack of balance in our life. I’ve met people who leave their offices religiously at 4:30 every day, only to go home to a life that is terribly out of balance. I’ve also met people who will stay at work until 10 some nights and actually live in a balanced way. Balance in life, like balance in a yoga posture, isn’t really about balance at all. You can’t achieve balance, because balance is not a destination. It’s a method of travel. Work-life balance is, instead, about being centered and living fully.

Keep in mind three principles that will help you find balance.

  • Sort out what’s work and what is life. Become clear about what work is and what life is, and make sure you have this sorted out. Even if work is tremendously fulfilling, it isn’t my life. In the periods in my life when I’ve been a workaholic, I had this confused. My work was my life. Work defined me as a person, so I had to work harder and harder in order to be a good person. I know today that my work is an expression of my life, but it is not the totality of my life. While work remains important and is fulfilling, it no longer defines me. My life is much bigger than my work. I remind myself these days that when I’m away from work, my life is time with my family, friends, community, being in nature, or helping others. I’ve learned that although work is critical to my development, when I define myself by my work, I am partially avoiding life. That part I need to say no to, walk away from, and learn how to be in life.
  • Clarify your Values. The antidote to exhaustion is not rest. The antidote to exhaustion is alignment and wholeheartedness. In my Authentic Leadership workshops, I have participants reflect upon their future and what matters most to them. I ask them to think about their relationships, health, contributions to others, expression of their talents, and the time they set aside for inner growth. This is an excellent exercise for you, too. From your reflections, list the top five values in your life. Then rate your life in each area on a scale from 1-10. Be honest. This is your list, not anyone else’s. At the beginning of each week, make sure that you schedule time in your day-planner to attend to each of these values. Balance is about living in alignment with your values. Feeling out of balance indicates that energy is being drained from you by living your life according to someone else’s conditions. Carve out time on a weekly basis for your soul’s desires. A key for living fully is to say “no” to the wrong opportunities.
  • Develop a positive relationship with the present moment. Being rushed, impatient, frustrated, or stressed are indicators that you are not present. You are either speeding forward or thinking about the past, without concentrating on being here now. Living fully is about fully living in the present. Next time you are stressed with a project, impatiently waiting in line, or frustrated with a co-worker, heed the guidance of my yoga teacher and take a few deep breaths to connect with yourself. Look around and see how you can be present with the world around you. Notice the beauty of a flower or plant nearby. Smile at the person ahead of you in the checkout line. Take time to really listen without judging the person you are frustrated with. It’s quite amazing how balanced you can feel in the midst of perceived pressure if you remember to stop and be here now. The best present you can give anyone is to be fully present in the present.
  • Stop trying to get more balance in your life, and enjoy your day. Stress isn’t in the task at hand or from the demands of others. Stress is in my head. Being stressed is a choice. And I’m not going to wait for tomorrow to enjoy myself. If I can’t enjoy myself today it’s not going to get any better when I’m on a vacation or retired. I can enjoy each task and stay relaxed in midst of the tasks. There is no stress except what I chose to be stressed about. There is only work to be done. Enjoy the precious moments that are in front of you right now. None of us know how many of these moments we have left. While we can plan for the future, life is lived in the now. Life will never be experienced tomorrow or yesterday. Life is what is going on at this moment. Life happens. Enjoy it.

Bridges Of Trust: Making Accountability Authentic

Everyone’s saying it: organizations needs to be accountable. Leaders need to be accountable. Employees need to be accountable. So why do most accountability programs fail?

The concept and experience of accountability needs rejuvenation. You have to get to the deep meaning of accountability. You have to be clear about who you are accountable to, “for what specific results,” and “for what matters most.” If you aren’t, accountability becomes just another organizational buzzword, or worse, a hammer to punish people,

Accountability, when understood and applied effectively, will transform the your organization, your work, and your life. Accountability is the keystone of trust, the foundation of labour and life.

In it’s simplist form, accountability is the ability to be counted on. Real accountability is rooted in the behaviour of people. It is not, as some think, a character trait or something embedded in an organization. Accountability is determined by how you act.

When people accept real accountability, life in an organization or in a relationship is straightforward and productive. No one needs a pack of dogs eating their homework or a fresh pile of excuses to explain incomplete tasks. People do what they say they are going to do—and paradoxically when this happens real accountability creates enormous freedom and the opportunity for creativity.

Real accountability leads us back to our roots as people with integrity, unleashing the human potential that can so easily be suppressed. In our complex organizations, our busy families and our fast paced society, accountability can be diffused or completely lost—and when accountability is lost, we lose touch with our core. When we grasp real accountability we get a grip on results.

Accountable Behaviours

Real accountability requires you to do four things consistently:

  1. Take Ownership.
    No one but you cares about the reason you let someone down. Deciding, once and for all, that all blame is a waste of time, will change your life forever. Decide to give to others what you expect from others. Be the change that you wish to see around you. Deciding that you have helped create the world around you – and therefore you are the one to step into healing it – is the ultimate act of accountability. Ownership means choosing service over self-interest, contribution over consumerism, and gratitude andgenerosity over entitlement. Ownership makes you a force in the world that changes the world. George Bernard Shaw knew this when he said, “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
  2. Carry through to completion the responsibilities entrusted to you.
    Henry Ford once said, “you can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” Real accountability means only making promises you know you can – and will – deliver. Real accountability also requires you to search for and clarify accountabilities that are assumed in your roles, to judge which accountabilities you accept, and to carry those accountabilities through to completion. When you make a promise to someone you now have a creditor, where a debt is owed. Once you have made the promise, accountability means that you then deliver on your promise. When circumstances prohibit you from fulfilling your promise, let the creditor know as soon as you know, that the commitment is jeopardized. Negotiate, at this point, to minimize damages and re-commit to a new course of action.
  3. Stand up for your actions.
    Real accountability depends upon transparency. Others need to know who did what, and who is accountable for doing something. Standing up for your actions in public is very relaxing when you are confident that you have acted ethically and with your best efforts. Standing up for your actions is another aspect of ownership, in that it means owning up to mistakes. Though owning up publically for the mistakes you make may not be comfortable, it takes less effort and results in more respect than hiding or running from the truth. No one ever thought less of a person who stood up and said, “I’m accountable for that.”
  4. Stand behind your results.
    The effects of your actions—your results—matter more than the actions themselves. Yes, you sent the memo, but did the memo produce the desired effect? You explained to your child how much a pencil hurts when jabbed into an uncle, but has her behaviour improved? People are accountable for producing a result, not just for taking an action. Real accountability encompasses the unintended results as well as the ones you mean to produce. When you act to stop a child’s unsocial behaviour, you are also accountable for the effect your actions have on the child’s sense of safety and love. Or when you produce a high quality running shoe, you are accountable for the effect your plant’s effluent has on the local water supply. Real accountability requires an acceptance of responsibility for all the results your actions (or inactions) produce

The Truth About Employee Accountability

Everyone’s saying it: organizations need to be accountable. Leaders need to be accountable. Employees need to be accountable. So why do most accountability programs fail?

The concept and experience of employee accountability needs rejuvenation. You have to get to the deep meaning of accountability. You have to be clear about who you are accountable to, “for what specific results,” and “for what matters most.” If you aren’t, accountability becomes just another organizational buzzword, or worse, a hammer to punish people.

Accountability, when understood and applied effectively, will transform your organization, your work, and your life. Accountability is the keystone of trust, the foundation of labour and life.

In its simplest form, accountability is the ability to be counted on. Real accountability is rooted in the behaviour of people. It is not, as some think, a character trait or something embedded in an organization.

Accountability is determined by how you act.

When people accept real accountability, life in an organization or in a relationship is straightforward and productive. No one needs a pack of dogs eating their homework or a fresh pile of excuses to explain incomplete tasks. People do what they say they are going to do—and paradoxically, when this happens, real accountability creates enormous freedom and the opportunity for creativity. Real accountability leads us back to our roots as people with integrity, unleashing the human potential that can so easily be suppressed. In our complex organizations, our busy families and our fast paced society, accountability can be diffused or completely lost—and when accountability is lost, we lose touch with our core. When we grasp real accountability we get a grip on results.

Accountable Behaviours

Real accountability requires you to do four things consistently:

  1. Take Ownership
    No one but you cares about the reason you let someone down. Decide, once and for all, that all blame is a waste of time, and it will change your life forever. Decide to give to others what you expect from others. Be the change that you wish to see around you. Deciding that you have helped create the world around you – and therefore you are the one to step into healing it – is the ultimate act of accountability. Ownership means choosing service over self-interest, contribution over consumerism, and gratitude and generosity over entitlement. Ownership makes you a force in the world that changes the world. George Bernard Shaw knew this when he said, “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” Accountability always starts with you.
  2. Carry through to completion the responsibilities entrusted to you
    Henry Ford once said, “you can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” Real accountability means only making promises you know you can – and will – deliver. Real accountability also requires you to search for and clarify accountabilities that are assumed in your roles, to judge which accountabilities you accept, and to carry those accountabilities through to completion. When you make a promise to someone you now have a creditor, where a debt is owed. Once you have made the promise, accountability means that you then deliver on your promise. When circumstances prohibit you from fulfilling your promise, let the creditor know as soon as you know, that the commitment is jeopardized. Negotiate, at this point, to minimize damages and re-commit to a new course of action.
  3. Stand up for your actions
    Real accountability depends upon transparency. Others need to know who did what, and who is accountable for doing something. Standing up for your actions in public is very relaxing when you are confident that you have acted ethically and with your best efforts. Standing up for your actions is another aspect of ownership, in that it means owning up to mistakes. Though owning up publically for the mistakes you make may not be comfortable, it takes less effort and results in more respect than hiding or running from the truth. No one ever thought less of a person who stood up and said, “I’m accountable for that.”
  4. Stand behind your results
    The effects of your actions—your results—matter more than the actions themselves. Yes, you sent the memo, but did the memo produce the desired effect? You explained to your child how much a pencil hurts when jabbed into an uncle, but has her behaviour improved? People are accountable for producing a result, not just for taking an action. Real accountability encompasses the unintended results as well as the ones you mean to produce. When you act to stop a child’s unsocial behaviour, you are also accountable for the effect your actions have on the child’s sense of safety and love. Or, when you produce a high quality running shoe, you are accountable for the effect your plant’s effluent has on the local water supply. Real accountability requires an acceptance of responsibility for all the results your actions (or inactions) produce.