Tag Archive for: accountable leadership

How to Attract and Retain Talent in a Labor Shortage

After a recent team meeting, I realized I have not been practicing what I preach. We have been so busy these days taking care of clients, filling programs, training SAGE Forum facilitators, keeping our website current, developing marketing initiatives and more – that I have neglected to ensure that we are achieving the authentic alignment so critical to our success.
From my years of experience and observation, I have come to recognize that authentic alignment is the key to attracting and retaining talent. As we navigate challenges from a global pandemic, economic crisis, and high rates of retirement, we face a deeper challenge that’s difficult to see, yet lies at the heart of all others— supporting our people to acknowledge and fulfill their authentic selves. Our deepest calling is to find fulfillment and satisfaction along our path of authentic service and our workplace can provide the perfect opportunity realize this calling.
They say that race car driving is often won not on the track but in the pit stop. In our workplace it is in the pit stop that we take a pause to ensure there is an authentic alignment, an alignment of our values, unique talents, and purpose, with what the organization requires. However, we are usually so focused on driving on the racetrack, we aren’t taking time for a pit stop.
The pandemic was one giant pit stop of self-reflection and even a time to get out of the rat race altogether for some. Indeed, more than 300,000 Canadians have already retired so far in 2022, according to Statistics Canada, up from 233,000 last year. Plus, the number of people nearing retirement age is higher than ever – more than one in five Canadians of working age are between 55 and 64 years old. With the average age of retirement now 64, many more Canadians are set to leave their jobs.
I bellieve that this migration of workers out of the workforce indicates that we haven’t ensured an authentic alignment along the way. If we don’t stop to ensure an alliance between their hearts and the work they do, should we be surprised if one day our people resign? Maybe instead of being surprised that people leave, we should be surprised that they stay.
It’s no secret: there’s a mismatch between what employees deeply desire and what the current workplace is providing. We can realize the importance of culture and let people know that they are valued and appreciated. We can offer a competitive salary and benefits package. We can offer opportunities for development. We can promote a healthy lifestyle and encourage work/life balance and a flexible, hybrid workplace. We can administer yet more employee engagement surveys and keep working at communicating openly and frequently. We can address burnout and mental health challenges and offer effective exit interviews.
While all these actions may make an increment of impact, unless we address the issue of authentic alignment, retention of talent will remain elusive.
I propose that we use “pit stop conversations” and “pit stop agreements” to foster authentic alignment and offer here some sample questions for your onboarding or ongoing relationships.
Pit Stop Conversations:
  • Our mission is focused on… Why is this mission important to you? What meaning does it have for you?
  • Our values are focused on… How were these values formulated in your life? How do they align with your own personal values?
  • How do you define success in your work – and in your life?
  • Describe your ideal workday… What would you be doing throughout a day in your ideal job?
  • Answer this question: “I’m happy when…” (at work and away from work). How does your ideal workday align with what we are offering you here?
Pit Stop Agreements:
  • Here are the behaviors we expect from every team member (including us, as leaders) that demonstrate our values… Can we count on you to behave this way here? Here’s what you can count on from me…
  • What expectations do you have of us to ensure you will stay engaged? What is the best way to talk to each other if we aren’t meeting each other’s expectations?
  • What agreements would we make to each other?
  • What kind of environment do you need to inspire you to come to work every day? What do you see as the leaders’ responsibility to make that happen? What do you see as everyone’s responsibility to make that happen?
  • Have you ever worked in an organization where leaders did not demonstrate their values? How was that experience? We don’t want that to be your experience here. How can we work together to ensure that we live these values?
  • What are things I do that make it hard for you to support me?
Wrapping up
The pandemic and current world disruptions have provided fertile ground for reflection. Many are examining the meaning of their lives and where their work fits into the larger context of their existence. If we, as leaders, don’t take the time to pause and have pit stop conversations and make pit stop agreements, we will continue to have a challenge keeping our best people. While the answers to these questions are not always clear, and we must respect that not everyone wants to be this open with their boss, it’s on every one of us to care enough to earn the trust of those under our care and understand and support their deepest calling. Ensuring authentic alignment requires continual intention, investigation, and vigilance.

How to Fix an Accountability Problem on Your Team

“Everyone on a team knows who is and who is not performing,
and they are looking to you as the leader to see
what you are going to do about it.”
The late Collin Powell,
Former US Secretary of State
How many times in the past year have you heard, “We need more accountability on our team?”
When you’re frustrated and things aren’t going well — maybe your numbers are down, or people aren’t showing up the way you need them to, or team members aren’t meeting your expectations — it’s easy to turn to this all-too-common refrain. But when you announce that you “need more accountability here” what your team actually hears is: “You’re failing, and it’s your fault.”
No one is inspired by being blamed. While there may be times when your team could put in a more focused effort, a lack of accountability is rarely intentional. Any lack of accountability is a downstream problem that requires upstream action. It’s always better to prevent pollution than to clean it up. Leaders who default to a plea for accountability will inevitably hit a wall of frustration.
Further, verbalizing that there is “a lack of accountability” on your team can easily come off as threatening or condescending to people on the receiving end. This is hardly productive when you are trying to inspire change, and more importantly, it doesn’t help you get to the root of the problem.
Rarely is an accountability problem actually an accountability problem. It’s an agreement problem. The way you fix it is through a better agreement process:
  1. Clarify your expectations. Ambiguity breeds mediocracy. It also breeds frustration. Clearly communicate the measurable results you expect, including the kind of behavior that demonstrates your values.
  2. Create a compelling WHY. People need to understand how what you expect from them makes a meaningful impact toward the overall success of the organization and the people you serve.
  3. Assess fit. Be sure that people are passionate about what you expect from them, and that it lies in their wheelhouse of strength. Accountability without an element of passion is drudgery. Leaders are accountable to ensure that you have the right people on the team.
  4. Aim high. Expect high standards, both for yourself and others. Challenge yourself and those under your care with lofty goals, a commitment to results, and high expectations so everyone will grow and feel great about themselves at the end of the project.
  5. Get an agreement.  A request is not an agreement. Be sure to get a clear yes to your request to deliver expected results. Every defined expectation needs to end with, “Can I count on you?”
  6. Clarify support requirements. Aside from a lack of understanding the expectations, people fail to perform as expected when they lack the required skill or capacity. Leaders are accountable to assess workplace competencies and ensure adequate resources are available. Ensure the person you have expectations of feels supported.
  7. Identify consequences. Clarify what the results will be for delivering on your promises – to the individual and to the organization. What’s important to the individual? What’s important to the organization? Negotiate a win-win relationship. And sometimes, especially if you’ve made a mistake around fit, help people make a career decision and move on from their role.
  8. Have an evergreen plan. Map out a process for keeping your agreements to each other current and useful. How often do you need to meet to review expectations? Be sure to have a clear process for tracking and measuring success and how you will discuss it when your expectations of each other are not being met.
When you are promoted, you don’t get more power, you get more accountability to assess and implement the accountability process. Any accountability problem on your team is corrected by being accountable. Just as blame is never a good strategy, pleading for more accountability isn’t the answer either. Those who develop self-awareness, clarity, empathy, and courage to have the tough conversations will create powerful solutions, build winning teams, and create workplaces where people are inspired.
If you want to be an authentic leader that people want to work with, shift your mindset from blame to ownership, assess the gaps, and practice filling the gaps with these eight strategies. You’ll drive better results, make lasting impactful change, reduce your frustration, and create unstoppable workplaces.

A CULTURE OF BELONGING: Re-Engage, Renew, Refocus Your Team In A Post-Pandemic World

American philosopher, William James, said, “there lies within every being a place where, when connected to it, we feel deeply and intensely alive. At such moments there is a quiet voice inside that says, ‘This is the real me.’”

After completing the Authentic Leadership Academy this week, I agree as it was truly an experience of being ‘deeply and intensely alive’ for me.

Over sixty like-minded leaders from all walks of life and from all types of organizations came together virtually for three days. We shared a commitment to make a difference in the world and to amplify our impact by supporting each other to connect with our authentic selves.

A diverse group of people who would not have been able to connect like this in-person shared a unique learning experience in a virtual space. There were amazing stories, tears, laughter, and pure joy as we built an authentic community. I left incredibly inspired by the humanity, courage, and wisdom that emerged during our brief time together. We all left knowing that none of us are alone.

When we departed, we weren’t just leaving a virtual event, we were leaving a community. I left inspired with a renewed belief that the work of a leader is to turn a group of people into a community. It’s that simple and it’s that complex.

COVID-19 has accelerated the evolution of work and the re-examination of our lives. The new workplace reality is that organizations need to be more flexible in their approach to work. Many workers are emerging from the pandemic with greater independence and autonomy over their career and life choices. To attract and keep the best people, organizations need to adapt to these evolving expectations.

But the Academy last week reminded me that whether we’re connecting virtually, in-person, or in a hybrid environment, people really haven’t changed much. They have the same need to belong, to be a part of something beyond themselves, to be working toward a shared vision, and to contribute something meaningful in the world. And our workplaces still serve as an important tool to make that happen.
Here are three strategies to re-engage, renew, and refocus your team in a post-pandemic world:

1. Integrate flexibility with accountability. People will undoubtedly be across the spectrum as far as readiness and commitment to return to the office. Some are yearning for the office environment where they have routine, work/life boundaries, and meaningful and creative connections, while others love being at home with the independence and freedom it permits. While flexibility will be the new norm in a hybrid approach, there must be accountability. The work still has to get done and some in-person interface will undoubtedly be required for creativity and collaboration. While lots of work can be done remotely, some work, to maximize potential, has to be done in-person. The key is to work toward a flexible, accountable structure that works for everyone. Remember: leadership isn’t about always being pleasing or making things easy for people. You have to push and challenge as much as you grant grace and respect the need to feel safe. As the old saying goes, “If it’s not good for the hive, it’s not good for the bee.”

2. Ensure values alignment. Historically, values have been driven from the positional leaders of an organization. The boss tells the employee what the values are and what the expected behaviors need to be. The new world presents an opportunity to collaborate more meaningfully with your team members. Listen carefully to what people’s personal values are and explore a win-win relationship so that both the organization’s and employee’s values are aligned. There is potential for higher engagement and inspired employees who know you care about their work and where it fits into their lives – and that you care about their lives beyond work.

3. Create a platform for authentic contribution. People ultimately aren’t inspired by what they get; they are inspired by what they give. We are all unique and have something important to offer. Rather than simply giving people a job to do, be committed to know the gifts and passion of every person under your care and devote yourself to supporting the expression of these unique abilities in a way that contributes to the organization and those you serve. Everyone has a story, and when you can create an environment that brings that story to life, that ignites their inner flame, you’ll never have to spend another day motivating anyone. If you aren’t empowering passion and building capacity in others, you aren’t leading. Every person needs to be able to answer the question: Why do you matter here?

Accountability, Ownership, and COVID-19

The focus of my life’s work and passion is authentic leadership. At the foundation of authenticity lies ownership and personal accountability. In part, this means the ability to distinguish between what you can control and what you can’t and putting energy into that which you can influence. I am aware that COVID-19 is causing concern and fear. I recently read that, despite all that is being done, 50,000 people still die on this continent every year from the flu. As much effort that is going on to try to contain this thing, let’s keep things in perspective. A trickle of fear in the brain can eventually turn into a trough that everything flows into.

The truth is that our health is constantly threatened by external toxins and “invaders” such as viruses and bacteria. We have little control over what is circulating in the air around us, but most of us have the ability to influence our immune system – how the body responds to these toxins.

Personal accountability means taking full responsibility for what we can control and letting go of what we can’t control. In the midst of all the unknowns in the current world narrative about this disease not enough emphasis is being placed on what we can control – our own response to the disease. Let’s not get so stressed about this that we create a self-fulfilling prophesy of a compromised immune system.

While much lies outside the sphere of influence in this impending endemic, here are three things we can all be accountable for:

1)    Get as much knowledge about what is happening as we can – from trusted sources.

2)    Learn as much about your immune system as you do about the disease. And put your energy into what you can impact – bolstering your well-being.

3)    Wash your hands.

THE UNTAPPED POWER OF EMPOWERMENT

After a recent speaking engagement, I went back to my Best Western hotel room in St. Albert, Alberta. On the coffee table I found this note with a little gift bag containing a bottle of water and a candy bar.

Since receiving this inspiring little note of kindness, I have used it to illustrate leadership at its finest as it demonstrates that leadership has nothing to do with a title. Leadership instead, is about inspiring and influencing action from the people around you. It’s about PRESENCE, not position. After receiving this bit of acknowledgement, I’ve been intentional about keeping my hotel rooms cleaner. Not for the prize but for the pride.
While this is leadership about inspiration and influence, it’s also a story about empowerment. Someone empowered Jen and Grace to give this kind of recognition to a customer, and these two ladies also empowered themselves to step up to good leadership.
Empowerment is about removing barriers, creating space, and providing the support, encouragement, and tools for people to be the best version of themselves. But empowerment isn’t just about the manager letting go of some control. Empowerment, building a culture of trust, also requires the employee to choose service over self-interest. Believing that you can do just what you want and get all that you ask for is confusing empowerment with entitlement. Under the guise of empowerment, I’ve heard people ask for such things as freedom to come and go as they wish, increased salary, a risk-free environment, and no consequences for choices made.
Just because empowerment might mean working without being micro-managed, being trusted to make decisions, or having freedom to take some risks, empowerment doesn’t mean that you are going to get all you ask for, nor can you expect to be protected from being unhappy.
Empowerment is a partnership. It’s a relationship of trust. It’s a commitment to a dialogue with each party taking ownership. It’s not an act of concession. If a manager has the courage to hold an employee accountable for the agreements they made, don’t mistake this for  maltreatment.
Three simple ways to build an empowered relationship:
1)    Work with your employees within a solid accountability and delegation framework. Be sure there is clarity among all parties regarding expectations, parameters, agreements, needs for support, and consequences. Remember two things: Ambiguity breeds mediocrity and a request is not an agreement.
2)    Be intentional about building leadership capacity around you. As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” You give a person a fish when you delegate through giving commands without a why, a sense of purpose or understanding the work from a larger context. It’s like saying, “go do this, and when you’re done come back and I’ll give you something else to do.” Then you become a seagull manager, when you flap around and crap on people for not doing it “right.” Empowerment implies starting small and gradually building on larger and larger expectations as trust is built and capacity is acquired.
3)    Take ownership. High involvement and high collaboration are key to empowerment. Workers will simply perform best when they have influence over their workplace and act as owners. While empowerment does imply the willingness to trust and let go of some control, ownership on the part of the employee is also required to fully grasp the task they are empowered to do. Ownership is the willingness to choose 100% responsibility. Ownership is about deciding, once and for all, that all blame is a waste of time. Ownership is about ensuring results rather than merely putting in a “good effort.”
Empowerment isn’t a leadership fad or flavour of the month. Empowerment is an approach to life. As a shared responsibility, empowerment builds leaders, takes pressure off of managers, delivers results that matter, and helps shape organizations that are worthwhile places to work.
What are your experiences with empowerment? I’d love to hear from you.

REFLECTIONS ON THE OTHER EVEREST RETREAT

“You are a leader second. First, you are a human being.”  – John Scherer

I know from my own research, and my more than thirty years of experience in the leadership development field, that now more than ever, the world is in need of leaders who are committed to substance over superficial, character over charisma, and service over self-interest. In short, we need leaders who are authentic – people whose inner compass guides their daily actions and who inspire trust by being honest and real. To come to this place of impact and influence requires slowing down, going inside, and developing a relationship with an interior self. It’s about finding one’s voice away from the voices of the world. To attain the capacity to influence in today’s changing, complex, and demanding world, to lead with the depth of a strong authentic presence, requires an inner journey, a journey to one’s heart, a journey to what I call the “Other Everest.”

A year ago I had a dream to create an authentic community of like-minded leaders – difference makers – who are committed to go deeper than what I was offering in my keynote and one day leadership programs. Last week I saw this dream come to fruition at the Banff Centre when thirty-one remarkable, authentic, caring leaders came together to create a pivotal moment in my career. Assisting me by integrating mindfulness training, creativity, accountability, self-awareness, and yoga into the experience of deepening one’s leadership presence, were two extraordinary human beings, Julianna Veldtman and Jeff Lichty.

During the three days we co-created an amazing space to pause, to go within, and to connect with our authentic selves. These leaders are committed to amplifying their impact through increased self-awareness and a stronger, clearer purpose and presence and created a community of support with other authentic leaders. Together we discovered a renewed perspective on leadership and immersed ourselves, in the words of one participant, in “an inspiring space of complete trust, kindness and support.” Another participant, a CEO from Edmonton, explained it this way a week after the experience, “It seems so surreal looking back at it now. How was it possible to bring those exact people together at that exact time to make the magic happen? I cannot fully describe the life-changing event that you set the stage for and made happen. Truly, truly amazing.”

Words cannot adequately describe my own profound gratitude for the honesty, courage, vulnerability, engagement, openness, and trust that these amazing leaders put into the experience. They actually left their devices and technology at the door for three full days and engaged themselves completely in the process. I left with a deep and sustaining knowing that leadership is truly not about position; it’s about presence. Leadership cannot be reduced to techniques or tools. True Leadership is about connecting to our authentic self and bringing that self wholeheartedly to the service of others.

My father used to say that, “only so far as a man is happily married to himself, is he fit for married life.” By embarking on a journey of integration and inner peace, one expands their capacity to fully reach and influence the world. It’s about being engaged in a perpetual process of becoming. The experience last week has made me a better person. It has confirmed my conviction that a person enlarges their ability to lead and impact others through a strong presence that is attained, in large part, through an inner journey.

Each of us has within us a calling. While the outside world pushes us, something within pulls us. Let your deepest desires lead you. If this sounds like a journey upon which you would like to embark, watch for details for the next retreat in December on my website. Also feel free to send us a note expressing an interest: http://www.irvinestone.ca/contact/.

I look forward to having you join us for the next one.