My husband used to coach a 3- and 4-year-old soccer team (the “Gorillas”) at our neighborhood YMCA. If you’ve never watched toddlers play soccer, it is pretty hilarious. I remember one game, someone walked by the sidelines with a puppy, and every player on both teams ran off the field in the middle of the game to pet it! I also remember one game where little Petunia with her precious braided pig tails was the goal keeper (the kids rotated so everyone had a chance to be the goalie at least once in the season). A particularly big, fast kid from the other team kicked the ball right to her, and she quickly moved out of the way, turned to watch it go in the goal, and then clapped! “We scored!”
Rhythm Blog | Accountability
by Patrick Thean and the Rhythm Team
According to an article in Harvard Business Review, "The brutal fact is that about 70% of all change initiatives fail." There are lots of reasons that fast growing mid-market companies have a hard time completing complex initiatives like integrating acquisitions, launching new products, expanding to new markets, and driving revenue growth. When you have initiatives like these, you are relying on cross-departmental collaboration and high performance from your individual A-players. Breakdowns in communication, lack of clear purpose, failure to set common expectations, poor collaboration, and lack of follow up on results and consequences can all spell disaster for your best-laid plans. The key is, in a word, accountability.
There are lots of misconceptions about accountability; many view it as a harsh or punitive term (think: "I'm going to hold my team accountable for not hitting their numbers!") In reality, accountability is not something we can impose on others; it is something we have to intentionally build into our culture so that each of us holds ourselves accountable. What does the right environment for accountability to thrive look like?
As an employee (or boss), you can be proactive in clarifying roles and expectations – making you happier in your job and improving boss-subordinate relationships. You’ll know it in your gut even if you can’t articulate how you know it exists. You watch with a hint of jealousy and dream if only you could have a similar relationship with your boss. So many times a leader wishes for a better working relationship with a boss while feeling helpless in his or her ability to execute, perhaps waiting for it to magically happen as if wishing would make it so. It won’t. If this perfect boss-team member relationship describes your work world, read no further – oh, and congratulations.
From a leadership perspective, there’s a real thirst for increasing accountability. Leaders have recently asked me various questions that linger over the concept of building accountability:
“How do I do that?”
“What else can I do to get people to do what we need them to do?”
“How can I hold people accountable and still be seen as a good leader?”
Building team accountability requires that we understand a few dynamics because it’s more complicated than we might recognize.
The key question relative to becoming an accountable leader is this: How do you turn an aspiration into a reality?
At the last Rhythm Systems Breakthrough Conference in Charlotte, I was honored to provide a keynote presentation on becoming an accountable leader. I shared what I’ve observed in my 25 years of working with leaders of amazing companies. Over these years, I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of men and women who truly do desire to become better leaders. As I reflected on that thought, I realized even more that great leadership is a journey. Whereas a company has a long-term vision or BHAG (longer term because it’s like leading an expedition up Mt. Everest—which takes dedication, focus, commitment, and time around some powerful Winning Moves), leaders must desire to be great. Many leaders can be good, but to be great is their true aspiration.
Most of us just don’t like to have hard conversations. Conversations in which you need someone to hear you can be tough for a number of reasons, but in the end, it’s a leader’s job to have the uncomfortable conversation. You can't build a high performance organization without this leadership skill. Whether you like it or not, you must master having a conversation that gets the point across that you need to see someone do something differently. The secret, then, is doing it in such a way as to build personal accountability (which, if accomplished, will minimize the number of times you have to have the same type of conversation with the same person).
Holding people accountable can be a chore for most leaders. For a multitude of reasons, it’s simply not comfortable for most people. It’s great when people step up and take personal accountability. It makes your job so much easier! But, when you have people who just don’t hold themselves accountable, then you have a different scenario.
In my last blog, “Lack of Accountability is Costing You,” I reviewed the expense that accompanies the lack of accountability. As I noted at the end of that blog, leading a business to higher levels of success is hard work. It’s hard enough to lose money, but it’s even more tragic when you start costing yourself money. There are a lot of reasons to grow accountability in your teams, the most important of which is that it simply makes good business sense.
Where do you begin your journey toward building higher levels of accountability?
According to a study by VitalSmarts, a whopping 93% of people report having at least one coworker who doesn’t pull his or her own weight. While we’ve all heard the stats on low employee engagement, this survey points to an accountability crisis.
(The doctor is in... for the third time).
I’m struggling through a healthy mound of salad when Nicole appears: “The CEO of Underda Buss Healthcare Systems needs to speak with you. She says her dashboard is broken.” I follow her into the control room and the CEO is on the screen.
“Must be. All dashboards have been green all quarter but our priorities weren’t met. Clearly, they’re not set up correctly. Doctor, can you correct these before the next quarter?”