Rhythm Blog

Cathy McCullough

Cathy McCullough
Cathy McCullough is a Business Growth Consultant and Culture Expert with Rhythm Systems. For 25 years, she has worked with leaders of organizations of all sizes and sectors by providing consulting and coaching for business growth. Areas of expertise include strategy development for growth, cultivating accountability, creating high performance environments, organizational culture, and leadership. Cathy is also a keynote and workshop speaker at national and international conferences. Contact: Cathy@RhythmSystems.com

Recent Posts

Accountability in Leadership: Build Leadership Accountability with the 5 C's Framework

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Sun, Jan 31, 2021 @ 09:00 AM

From a leadership perspective, there’s a real thirst for increasing leadership accountability. Executives have recently asked me various questions that linger over the concept of building team accountability to help them achieve their strategic plans while creating high performing teams:

“How do I build accountability in teams?

"How do I increase accountability in leadership?"

What else can I do to get people to do what we need them to do?”

“How can I hold a team member to be held accountable and still be seen as a good leader?”

"How do I balance leadership accountability and personal accountability when building a team?"

"Creating a culture of accountability is hard, how do I provide constructive feedback without being the bad guy?"

Building team accountability requires that we understand a few dynamics because it’s more complicated than we might recognize.  It goes beyond the responsibility for the outcomes, which is obviously important, but effective leaders know that they need a culture of accountability in their teams that provide the inputs needed to achieve the expected team performance.  Holding people accountable is one of the most important things that a successful leader does, but it is also one of the hardest.

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Topics: Strategies for Growth, Annual & Quarterly Planning, Strategy Execution, Accountable Leaders & Teams, Mergers & Acquisitions

Lack of Accountability in the Workplace is Costing You

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Dec 31, 2020 @ 12:00 PM

In a recent client conversation, a CEO said to me, “He’s really (really) smart, but it’s just hard to hold him accountable. On top of that, he isn’t approachable because he gets really defensive and reminds us all that he knows what he’s doing.” But in reality, the rest of the executive team doesn’t really know what this executive-level leader is doing. His goals are vague, his metrics aren’t really solid measures of success, and he statuses everything “Green” in preparation for their weekly executive team meeting. And, no one wants to challenge him.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

The ROI of Business Coaching: Executive Coaching Statistics (Updated for 2021)

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Dec 31, 2020 @ 11:03 AM

My last blog, 6 Excuses for Avoiding an Executive Coach (and Why You Should Think Again) talked about all the negative internal chatter (aka, excuses) we give ourselves for not wanting to have an Executive Coach. That blog also pointed out some of the key business benefits of Executive Coaching. What do some of those benefits actually look like and how do I know if I need executive leadership coaching?  More specifically what is coaching ROI?

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

5 Coaching Insights You'll Gain from the Best Executive Coaches

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Mon, Nov 30, 2020 @ 11:00 AM

The famous mountain climber, Phil Powers, said it best during an interview on NPR’s "This I Believe” segment: “Concentrating on how I move through the world is important. It’s why I reach mountain summits and life goals with energy to spare.”

As a best practice, Powers uses a concept taught to him by his mentor, Paul Petzoldt. Penzoldt recommended a ‘rest’ (i.e., a slight pause) with each climbing step taken. It allows a climber to move swiftly, yet still find a brief pause in every step. The cadence of this sequence creates, in the end, a higher degree of forward-movement with what seems like less effort.

Most leaders dive into leadership without a second thought. I love the optimism that comes when people find themselves suddenly leading people (vs. tasks and initiatives, they’ve been responsible for completing). The problem, though, is that most leaders simply don’t see the impact their leadership approach has on those around them (positive or negative). They don’t pause while climbing the mountain of business objectives for a rest step. They don’t give themselves quick moments of pause that allow for slowing just enough to gain the energy to keep moving forward.

Couple this lack of ‘pause’ with how fast everything moves in today’s world. Every motion, every thought, every piece of information we gain in a 24/7 world makes the concept of ‘pause’ seem ridiculous. It can even make us feel unworthy, lost, and unproductive and some senior leaders aren't wired to slow down to speed up.  Senior leaders learning to skill to stop to think and focus on long term strategy is a huge part of their leadership development.  Executive coaching, and the coaching relationship, is a good way to hold yourself accountable to developing these new habits.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

What Should a CEO Focus On?  How CEOs Should Spend Their Time.

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Fri, Nov 27, 2020 @ 11:00 AM

“Time is an inelastic resource. No matter how high the demand, we cannot rent, hire or buy more of it.”
-Peter Drucker

A Quick Note: This is a lengthy blog, but if you read it you’ll already be spending your time in an area where you should be spending your time (as you’ll see toward the end). So sit back, give yourself the gift of time, and enjoy the read.

A primary focus of my job is to help middle market CEOs and their Executive Officers increase their efficiency while also (and more importantly) increasing their effectiveness. Most all CEOs I work with tend to agree that there’s never enough time in a day to do everything that needs to be done. As their companies grow and hit various ceilings of complexity, CEOs find that they, too, hit their own ceilings of complexity. This realization is all-consuming and inundating, with the end result being a string of behaviors that play out to result in focusing on what’s in front of them—on what they perceive deserves their time and attention at that moment in time (and many times, this intense focus also leads to long—very long—work hours). Interestingly, Harvard Business Review researchers found that the most effective leaders aren't the ones who constantly work a ton of hours each week, but rather the ones who are the most attentive and focused while at work. The intent of most all CEOs is to be attentive and focused, yet the hunger to simply work long hours so they can do more can be a massive beast that slowly devours the most valuable resource CEOs have: Time.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Strategic CEO Coaching for Busy Executives: 6 Excuses to Avoid

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Fri, Nov 27, 2020 @ 10:04 AM

If you believe the adage, ‘time is money,’ then you’re saying that the concept of time (and the elapse  of that time) costs you and your company money. Therefore, maximizing that time and using it in the right way matters. Most executives don’t need to work on their literal area of business expertise (although continuous learning is important), but what many fail to recognize is that leadership, too, is a skill. The minute you became a leader, everything shifted. At that moment, you didn’t just have to do the tasks you’ve always done; now you had to also lead people to do what they do best, every single day.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Level 5 Leadership Examples- How to be a Level 5 Leader

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Fri, Oct 30, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

The Level 5 Leadership Stage is Set…

Have you ever had this "strange" feeling that you just couldn’t shake? I recently went through that. It was after a two-day Annual Planning Session with a newly formed executive team (the company had been through a major transition). It was a great two days but the reality is that as the session began, the “stage” was a bit of a mess because the executive team was fractured in their vision for the company. In spite of that, alignment and clarity of vision were created over those two days. But after the session, my reflective thinking left me feeling suspended inside. It was a strange feeling.

The strange feeling actually began to linger as the two day session ensued; it was just something I noticed but I couldn’t get my mind wrapped around what it was. It was subtle, non-obtrusive yet politely prominent. It just lingered. Upon reflective thinking after the session came the epiphany. It was the CEO. Yet, I still couldn’t pinpoint anything. So, I asked myself: What is it about this CEO that I can’t grasp? What is it? 

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Topics: Strategies for Growth, Annual & Quarterly Planning, Accountable Leaders & Teams

Tactical Leadership vs. Strategic Leadership: Which Management Style Are You?

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Wed, Sep 30, 2020 @ 12:00 PM

We read a lot these days about strategic leadership and tactical leadership (as we should). Leaders find themselves up against a multitude of scenarios and situations, all of which they’re supposed to magically handle in the right way with the right methods for each situation. When you study leadership, you quickly discover the massive complexity that surrounds it. So let’s take just one slice of strategic vs tactical leadership and dissect it for the purpose of your own reflective thinking about what kind of leader you tend to be and the pros/cons that surround each of these tendencies. 

The slice of leadership we’ll look at is the tactical leader vs. the strategic leader. Both are needed, but when you’re trying to lead a team (or teams) of people toward a common endpoint and/or if you’re trying to grow a company, understanding the differences between these two management styles is imperative. Without a sense of understanding around your own leadership tendencies, you can’t move the needle on much of anything let alone work towards achieving a strategic plan or objective.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Building Accountability into Your Culture: Does Your Team Have an Accountability Problem? [Download]

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 @ 11:00 AM

Most clients I’ve worked with say they understand the key role accountability plays in making a company operate more efficiently (and therefore more effectively). They see the relevance of team accountability and its place in the bigger scheme of things. And the research backs up what they think. Performance cultures have higher levels of personal accountability and as a result, they also have higher levels of overall company performance, employees feel a higher level of commitment to their jobs, and employee morale is higher (U.S. Office of Personnel Management).

As leaders focus on defining their core business strategies, as they work to clarify the company’s longer-term vision, as they encourage innovative thinking and more, they dream of empowering their people to do the work that needs to be done to accomplish the company’s overall strategic intent. 

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Team Accountability Begins with a Personal Accountability Model

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

I love what I do for a living. I meet the most incredible people who are building amazing companies. Most recently, I was sharing this observation with a client CEO and he responded with, “Well, if I could only do it without people!” I had to laugh.

The “problem with people” is pervasive. After all, a single human being is complex. Multiply that by a lot of human beings (aka, your employees), and you can have one huge complicated hairball of an organization. So how do you get to this thing called, “High Performance?” Indeed, the Path of Progress toward high performance is a journey. Let’s focus, though, on how to begin the journey of accountability in the workplace to drive team performance and help you achieve your goals.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

How Does Effective Communication Affect Collaboration in Organizational Accountability?

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 @ 11:04 AM

Sometimes, you just have to slow down to speed up.

Communication Leads to Better Connectivity and Team Accountability

Communication is a very powerful thing, yet we talk about it so lightly. We toss the word ‘communication’ around as if it’s a catch-all for…everything. Yet, it is communication that aids us in the confirmation of the truth in certain scenarios and it is communication that provides clarity, definition, and intention to our words. The challenge with communication is that everyone’s communication truth can be taxing. Determining how to communicate to bring out individual truths (yours and your team’s) can be a powerful tool in developing higher levels of accountability and can lead to better connectivity throughout your organization. Knowing the people you’ll be speaking to and having an awareness around individual communication preferences is the most effective way to align individual and corporate truths.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Know Your Leader Template: 6 Questions to Ask in Your Next One-on-One Meeting

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Fri, Jun 5, 2020 @ 11:00 AM

It’s fairly understood that great leaders don’t lead processes; they lead people. You’re probably aware, too, that great bosses have truly honed their skills in the areas of communication, information sharing, clarifying expectations, and celebrating wins.

Within the context of great leadership, though, comes crazy-busy days, last minute interruptions, sudden calls to meetings, paperwork, and more. If you’re spinning in one of these moments in time, this at-a-glance checklist might help you focus on continuing the maximize your leadership impact when you’re in a pinch.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Corporate Leadership Strategy: Leadership Culture is an Essential Part of Your Business Strategy

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Apr 30, 2020 @ 12:00 PM

CEOs and business leaders frequently ask me why their corporate strategies for the year falter or just don’t happen. “It’s like no one is listening to me,” said one CEO. He and his leadership team had a great two-day Annual Planning session to do the Strategic Thinking needed for the upcoming year. While their corporate strategy was very good, what was lacking was a corporate culture designed for success in carrying out their expressed strategy.  The more and more I work with organizations, the more I’ve come to see that leadership is a strategy. Strategic planning is great, but if you don't have effective leaders it is going to be tough to achieve your goals. All in all, how you lead people matters.

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Topics: Strategies for Growth, Accountable Leaders & Teams

Leading through Disruption: Embrace Your Own “Leadership Summits”

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Apr 2, 2020 @ 11:03 AM
“Calamity is the test of integrity.” – Samuel Richardson

Never are the Five Characteristics of Great Leaders more relevant than when going through a disruption. The calmness of the sea can change in the blink of an eye. When that happens, the impending storm is deceptively closer than it seems to appear. Wise captains have learned not to argue with the truth that’s before them; instead, take action.

How do you “act now” in a disruption? Be a leader.

The five characteristics of great leaders will stand the test of time and will get you through the toughest of circumstances. Leading an organization through normal ups and downs is a natural part of life. Leading people through extreme disruption, however, requires a heightened sense of firm-footedness and confidence. It’s during disruption when people need leadership the most, so how should you be “showing up” each and every day? What is it that people need from you that’s any different?

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Engaging Remote Employees Through Culture

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Fri, Mar 13, 2020 @ 12:00 PM

With the recent spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) more and more people are being asked to work from home.  Today’s business landscape was already changing to recognize that a lot of jobs can be done, or need to be done, from elsewhere.  This global pandemic has only spread up the process So, how do you keep these employees engaged in your own company’s culture? How do you connect with them in a meaningful way?

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Accountability Tips: Quick Tips for Building Accountability

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Fri, Feb 28, 2020 @ 12:00 PM

Holding people accountable can be a chore for most leaders building an accountability culture. 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 and accept responsibility for their actions and instead play the blame game, then you have a much more difficult scenario.  

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Leadership Tips to Help Your Employees Solve Their Own Problems (Part 2)

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Fri, Jan 31, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

In my last leadership problems post, I began exploring the question of how to help your people master the skill of problem-solving. While the ability to create their own solutions in real-time is a trait that leaders crave in their teams, often leaders fail to create environments where this kind of behavior can flourish. Meanwhile, most employees would like to have the opportunity to solve problems themselves. But, without the right conditions created by their leaders, they never practice the kind of strategic thinking that would lead to better problem-solving. Without practice, those skills can't grow.

You'll remember my three-fold question:

  • What should leaders be doing to help their people learn to think strategically?
  • What should leaders be doing to encourage their employees to solve their own problems?
  • Why does any of this really matter? 
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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Strategic Thinking and Planning: The Value of A More Robust Annual Plan

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Jan 30, 2020 @ 11:30 AM

Regardless of size, all businesses require strategic thinking to grow. Many leaders consider strategic thinking (and the subsequent execution of their strategic plan) as one of the most challenging leadership tasks. So many times, though, leaders confuse strategic thinking and strategic planning with being tactical and task-oriented. 

While strategic thinking involves these two principles, it is not restricted to them. Rather, strategic thinking is the process of thinking, planning, and doing the work that will lead your company toward your preferred future. 

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Topics: Strategies for Growth, Annual & Quarterly Planning

Becoming a Transformational Leader: 3 Tips for CEOs

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Jan 30, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

There was a pause in his verbal stride as we talked. It was an awkward pause, which is why it caught my attention. As I looked at him, I could see his head was slightly tilted downward, his eyes staring at the floor. When he looked up, his entire facial expression told me he was suddenly in a different place. As his executive coach, I paused, too. 

“So what’s going on? Where are your thoughts right now?” In another moment, he looked me squarely in the face and began to authentically express his inward pain.

“I want to be a leader that people want to follow. I’m good at being a CEO, but I’m good at a tactical level. People follow me because they have to. It would be such an amazing life experience for me if people would follow me because they wanted to follow me.” 

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Corporate Culture and Investment Returns: The ROI of Company Culture

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Tue, Jan 28, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

If ROI matters to you, then you might consider “cuddling up” to the power of your company’s culture. I say this, of course, a bit tongue-and-cheek because so many executives just don’t want to take the time to truly dive into what they perceive to be this esoteric thing called “company culture.” Yet,  according to the research (and according to the vast success of some contemporary companies that are known for incredibly engaging corporate cultures), culture is highly relevant to your bottom-line.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Accountable Leaders and Teams: How CEOs Grow Them [Video]

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Fri, Jan 24, 2020 @ 11:00 AM

The question of how to grow an environment of accountability is a common one.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Value of Professional Facilitation for Quarterly and Annual Planning

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Jan 23, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

Unfortunately, I’ve seen leading companies spend (aka “waste”) time in a one or two-day Annual Planning or Quarterly Planning Session. The time is wasted because once they leave the room, they get back to what’s normal (i.e., they get back to putting out fires on a daily basis). As one CEO recently said to me, “We plan, but we never seem to get very far with implementing our plan.” What’s lost when this happens is not only time but focus, productivity, and discipline.  To improve your return on time you need to consider hiring an annual planning facilitator or quarterly planning facilitator to create a winning plan.

For this CEO, it was at this point in time when he contacted Rhythm Systems to inquire about having a facilitated onsite session.  The session went really well, and the team commented that it was one of the most productive two days they’d spent together in a very long time.

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Topics: Annual & Quarterly Planning, Effective Meetings

Great Leaders are Inquisitive Explorers

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Mon, Jan 20, 2020 @ 09:30 AM

First and foremost, truly awesome leaders are Inquisitive Explorers (i.e., they have a natural curiosity about what is going on…not so they can control it, but because what’s going on around them leads to learning). I truly believe that company forums such as Annual Planning and Quarterly Planning should be just as much about learning as they are about creating a path forward. And using a metrics dashboard, such as Rhythm, helps an executive team learn how to better prespond (vs. respond) so they can escape the drama that comes with getting blind-sided. The brutal facts and the great moments are always a part of an Inquisitive Explorer's journey. Inquisitive Explorers are also constantly checking themselves (i.e., What could I have done differently? What was my role in this failure? Why did I do that!?) As Stephen MR Covey noted, it is this type of self-check that keeps great leaders humble and teachable. These leaders usually create organizational cultures where they learn as much from their employees as the employees learn from them. Without a cohesive team, getting to the top of a really high mountain will be really hard.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Making Aspirational Leadership a Reality: Developing Accountable Leadership

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Fri, Jan 17, 2020 @ 12:00 PM

The key question relative to becoming an accountable leader is this: How do you turn an aspiration into a reality?

At a recent 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. 

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Increasing Productivity & Engagement: A Case Study Example

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Wed, Jan 15, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

As noted in my prior blog, “To Assess Productivity & Engagement, Ask: Who Really Owns Your Company?,” if you want to increase productivity, you’re going to have to work with both parts of the productivity equation: Efficiency + People = Higher Levels of Productivity. Your goal is to create a culture where the people in your company should be engaged to do what they do best, at their highest level, every single day. Otherwise, you’ll never move the needle much on increasing productivity. We’ve seen recent examples, though, of what happens when you let rules or process run your company. When these things literally own your company, you run the risk of creating a culture that lets policies and procedures dictate just about everything about how your people think and, in the end, the decisions they make.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Vision Casting in Business: A Leader's Job

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Wed, Jan 15, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

Max DePree noted, “Management has a lot to do with answers. Leadership is a function of questions, and the first question for a leader always is: 'Who do we intend to be?' Not 'What are we going to do?'”

Vision is easy for some of us; it’s much more difficult for many others. For leaders who have a natural tendency for big picture thinking, creating a vision might not be so hard. Yet, these types of leaders can have trouble expressing a focused vision. On the other hand, for leaders with a natural tendency for the here-and-now, day-to-day tasks that need to get done, moving toward the seemingly esoteric world of vision-casting can be daunting.

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Topics: Strategies for Growth, Accountable Leaders & Teams

8 Ways to Make Weekly Meetings Strategic vs. a Tactical Meeting (Video)

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Sun, Jan 12, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

I hear this all the time: “Our Weekly Meetings are just routine report-outs about who’s doing what; they’re so tactical!” If this is your challenge, you’re not alone. I recently sat in on a client’s Weekly Meeting because the CEO wanted my help in making suggestions on how to make their meetings more robust and strategic. What I discovered was an executive team narrative that simply consisted of short, silo-oriented “report-outs” with little to no strategic discussion. 

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Topics: Effective Meetings

Accountability Scorecards: Build Team Accountability

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Sat, Jan 11, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

I recently spoke to a great group of organizational leaders at the Rhythm Systems Breakthrough Conference in Charlotte, NC. The session was How to Build Team Accountability. Since that session, I’ve received several requests for blogs that dive into certain aspects of helping to hold people accountable, especially by using a tool such as a Job Scorecard. Since I love writing, I loved getting these requests!

There’s no “easy button” for cultivating team accountability in your company. However, with a model in mind and a few tools, you can begin the journey sooner vs. later.

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Topics: Strategy Execution, Accountable Leaders & Teams

Importance of an Annual Plan: 9 Reasons Why Annual Planning Matters

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Wed, Jan 8, 2020 @ 11:00 AM

Leaders frequently ask me about how to build a performance culture focused on personal accountability, employee engagement, and results. According to the research, each of these continues to be a core challenge for a lot of companies. Leaders just want people to do what they need to be doing—and do those things on their own without having to be told (i.e., personal accountability), they want engaged employees (and Gallup’s research continues to show a huge drag here), and leaders want people to help move the company forward—toward results.

To do this, most leaders will still get together for ‘strategic planning.’ It’s a great day of conversation and diving into some tough subjects. Yet, as time passes the plan more or less seems to dissipate into thin air. Everyone simply goes back to doing what they’ve always done—because it’s what they know. 

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Topics: Annual & Quarterly Planning

5 Steps to Having an Accountability Conversation (Video)

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Mon, Jan 6, 2020 @ 11:00 AM

Most of us just don’t like to have hard accountability 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 conversations with team members. 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). 

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Leadership Tips to Help Your People Solve Their Own Problems (Part 1)

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Wed, Jan 1, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

When asked what’s needed most in today’s workforce, many leaders will list a cadre of characteristics. But the one characteristic that continues to crop up is “the ability to solve problems.” So, how does that work?

Many executives aspire to have a company of people that are masters of problem-solving. These leaders salivate over the mere thought of people being able to create their own solutions in real-time. Interestingly enough, though, most employees would like to have those types of opportunities. If both sides want it, then why is problem-solving still a sought-after characteristic?

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Change is Hard: Leading People Through Change

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Dec 26, 2019 @ 08:00 AM

You probably hear it all the time: “But things are going just fine! Why do we have to start doing that!?” Or even better: “But we’ve always done it this way!” Even better yet: The person who doesn’t say a word and simply keeps doing the same thing the way it’s always been done. 

Maybe you’re changing your business model or maybe you’re incorporating the healthy use of the Rhythm Dashboard within your company. It doesn’t matter what the change is; some people will be onboard and fine with it; others…not so much. As a leader, it’s imperative that you understand the dynamics behind leading people through change. Even a change for the better is a hard road for the people around you. But, don’t get defensive. Human beings are wired to love the routine and what’s familiar. What’s important, though, is that you recognize from the beginning that your job is to stand steady, to stay positive, and to be graciously relentless with the implementation of your change.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Five Characteristics of Great Leaders

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Dec 19, 2019 @ 11:03 AM

If we think about it, ‘excellence’ or being ‘great’ at anything is truly a lifelong endeavor. Whether striving to become one of the greatest athletes of all time, or one of the most revered musicians in history, or one of the most respected artists of all time, excellence is a quest. Successful leaders work on their skills continuously over their careers to go from a good leader to a great leader.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Growing Team Accountability in Your Organization

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Fri, Dec 6, 2019 @ 11:30 AM

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?

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

The Business Relevance of Executive Coaching

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Sat, Sep 21, 2019 @ 09:00 AM

A current executive coachee from one of the three big food distribution companies recently shared with me that one of his colleagues asked him why (on earth) he wanted an executive coach. His response: “Because how else am I going to keep holding myself accountable? If I don’t have someone that keeps me thinking about how I go about doing what it is I do, then my old habits will just creep back in, and I don’t want to go back to where I once was.”

Whatever the domain, whether being a great Olympian, a great orchestra conductor, a great writer: No one is automatically ‘great.’ They all have coaches or mentors that invested heavily with their time and energy to extend their craft into someone hungry to learn it. Greatness is a lot of hard work that consists of relentless (and repetitive) practicing, coupled with direct and many times hard to hear feedback. Greatness at most anything also consists of plenty of failure. Without a coach, there are some athletes that would still be really good, but they wouldn’t be great. I’m convinced that greatness is something that a leader has to aspire to; otherwise, coaching can have impact but that impact will be limited. 

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Do You Have a People Problem or a Leadership Problem?

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Wed, Sep 4, 2019 @ 12:00 PM

I love organizational diagnostics. It’s probably one of my favorite things to do because I love getting to root causes instead of merely addressing superficial symptoms. Working to alleviate the root causes of something allows me to add value to my clients and to my work as a whole. Plus, I love the journey of dissecting what’s happening and developing a strategy to heal a company plagued by a disease they don’t fully understand.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

How to Stay Sane While Growing Your Company: A Case Study

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Aug 15, 2019 @ 09:00 AM

Everywhere I looked around the office, people were dashing, working feverishly, heads down, eyes glued to screens. It was like watching a group of mad scientists  go  about their work, and there was a definite edge of “crazy busy” in the atmosphere. Teams were operating at the mercy of every single problem, and by his own admission, the CEO’s marching orders changed by the day, or even the hour. 

The CEO (let’s call him Fred) shared with me that meetings at his company were usually his own random agenda of everything that needed to be fixed, or worked on, or improved, or updated, or reinvented, or adjusted. He would strongly suggest solutions for specific problems that were clearly on his own front-burner, and there wasn’t much discussion. As he walked away from these meetings, people followed him down the hall, asking questions. They would then scatter to get back to the job at hand, only to find, according to Fred, that his directions would change the next day.

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Topics: Strategy Execution, Accountable Leaders & Teams

Supportive Catalytic Mechanism: Your Brand

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Wed, Aug 14, 2019 @ 12:00 PM

I recently worked with an executive team who had just gotten an incredible new account. Once the excitement settled in, they realized how crucial it was for them to begin to demonstrate their competence and expertise. It was, in their eyes, what would put them on the map relative to their future growth goals

To me, their opportunity was to solidify their brand. They said they really hadn’t thought of it that way. While they should have been working to build their brand anyway (which to a point they had been) they never looked at their organization as a “Brand.”

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Topics: Strategies for Growth

Does Gender Matter in Leadership?

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Fri, Aug 9, 2019 @ 09:00 AM

Someone recently said to me (very enthusiastically), “Women make better leaders!” I stood there in a circle of leaders (men and women) and thought to myself: Really? I found her comment intriguing—probably because I don’t believe it. Some of the worst leaders I’ve ever worked with have been women, so my experience (albeit limited in this area) made my forehead wrinkle up a bit and my mouth skew to one side as I pondered her comment. 

Others in the circle tended to agree with her. At a deeper level, it seems that such a comment is actually an assumption, and it’s important that we challenge our assumptions. 

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Leadership Development: Is There a Payoff?

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Tue, Jul 16, 2019 @ 11:42 AM

In a study by McKinsey & Company, management development at all levels has been ranked as a #1 priority by 500 executives, and organizations throughout the U.S. are spending approximately $14 billion annually on leadership training. The expense of a custom-designed leadership development program can be very costly. The question, then, becomes: Does developing these leaders (executive-level, division heads, and emerging leaders) have a payoff?

The answer is: Yes…if

Yes if...your leadership development efforts are designed appropriately. All too often, companies simply delegate the development of a leadership program to their HR professionals. While this is good, it’s a tactical check-mark that “we’re doing that leadership development thing.” What your high-level directors of talent and culture need is your support to do it right.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

What is Strategic Intent?  How to Use it to Your Advantage.

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Thu, Jan 10, 2019 @ 09:00 AM

Strategy without Tactics is the slowest route to victory.
Tactics without Strategy is the noise before the defeat.
- Sun Tzu

Do you ever wonder why all those great plans you create don’t really come to full fruition? What happens? Where did all those great ideas go? Why did one or two of them do okay, but the rest of them just didn’t ever evolve?

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Topics: Strategies for Growth, Strategy Execution

Relevance: The Forgotten Variable…

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 @ 09:29 AM

I was having a conversation recently with an executive who was struggling to get his arms around why his company wasn't getting the results they wanted. As with any organization, the dynamics behind such an equation are complex. But through a consultative session, we were able to begin sorting through his thinking. One aspect of this process allowed one key component to emerge: Relevance.

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Topics: Strategy Execution

Getting a Grip on Your Annual Planning Process

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Tue, Jan 9, 2018 @ 11:00 AM

As you set your strategic priorities for the upcoming year, remember an important distinction: Your “strategic plan” isn’t as important as your “planning process” to get to that plan. An absolute imperative is for you to recognize the business relevance of strategic thinking. Your Annual Plan isn’t just about who’s doing what. Preceding that is what the company aspires to achieve. Strategic thinking is about the company, which puts into context everything else you’re asking people to do in the coming year (especially in the first quarter!). 

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Topics: Strategies for Growth, Annual & Quarterly Planning

Bringing Your Annual Plan to Life

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Sun, Oct 8, 2017 @ 12:00 PM

When we hear of silos, our minds drift to a beautiful landscape where we find tall grain bins built on finely manicured and plowed fields. However, when the word ‘silo’ is used in an organizational context, it isn’t such a beautiful sight. 

When there’s an organizational attitude where one department purposefully or from a lack of will refuses to share information with other departments, you’ll find an overall decrease in organizational efficiency on multiple levels. 

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Topics: Annual & Quarterly Planning

Growing Your Company: Tips for Taming the Chaos

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Sun, Aug 20, 2017 @ 12:00 PM

There’s a chain reaction at the root of most organizational chaos. The catalyst is lack of focus. Without a clear definition of what’s most important, people (including leaders) don’t understand what deserves attention or why. Instead, people operate based on a multitude of assumptions about what they think is most important. When this happens in a company, the default mode is to react to what’s going on at any given moment on any given day. Without discipline, every opportunity is a shiny object to be chased —and trust me, there will always be plenty of bright shiny objects to reach for. 

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Topics: Strategies for Growth, Strategy Execution

To Assess Productivity & Engagement, Ask: Who Really Owns Your Company?

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Wed, Jul 12, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

“I’m tired of all this ‘employee engagement’ stuff. We hire people to do a job, so why can’t they just do it!” 

“People keep telling me to just hire more people, but are we maximizing the people we already have?”

“How do we get and then sustain higher levels of productivity?”

Higher levels of productivity. We really do want it to have an easy answer. We want it to just happen, almost magically as a part of everyday life. We try and try to target it by providing increasingly efficient processes and procedures. We buy new and updated equipment, and we invest in the latest and greatest technology—our people will be so appreciative!

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Maximizing the Productivity & Engagement of Millennials

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Fri, Jul 7, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

In all the brow-beat talk about “those high maintenance Millennials!,” we might consider shifting the conversation. What may well be needed is a move away from the all the expressive angst of having to deal with Millennials toward a strategic understanding of how to get the most from them while they’re in your employment. This isn’t to minimize the frustrations you may have, but turn and look the other direction—through the window of opportunity.

One thing I really appreciate about Millennials is that they’re holding Baby Boomers (who are having to lead them in the workplace) accountable for what they said was most valued: Time with family, time for a life, etc. To honor those values, Baby Boomers exhausted themselves raising their little Millennials—always on two wheels. Millennials saw that, and the insanity of it all. So no wonder they want more work-life balance.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

8 “Leadercizes” to Nurture Long-Term Success

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Sun, May 14, 2017 @ 12:00 PM

Life’s changing and it’s changing fast. What’s important is what the changes will mean to your organization and how well you can cope with them. For this reason, it helps to have a playbook that charts out your course of action for the future so your organization won’t just survive but will edge its way up toward staying a step (or two) ahead of the competition in spite of any change that comes your way.

Consider these few key insights and leadership exercises ("Leadercizes") as ways to develop the business muscle necessary to get fit for profitable, long-term success, no matter what curve balls are thrown your way.

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

Is Your Company Healthy?

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Sun, Nov 27, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

Organizations are like the human body. They are intricate systems made up of extremely complex interactions between interdependent parts. If one part of the system isn’t working right, then other parts of the system are affected as well. The result is an imbalance in the overall human system.

When it comes to your company’s health, things may seem like they’re going well, or at least good enough. The question, though, is: How do you know that? When was the last time you gave your company a physical exam? Doing so might open an understanding around where there are problems before they become potential longer-term illnesses.

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Topics: Strategy Execution

7 Ways to Assess if You’re Relying on Yesteryear Thinking

Posted by Cathy McCullough on Sun, Oct 9, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

I recently had a CEO share with me that he “thinks” everything is fine in his company. After all, he said, “We know what we know!” In his world, spreadsheets were the name of the game. Yet, there’s a problem brewing at his company: people are realizing how easily key details or metrics get buried. If no one sees the information, then it’s an “out-of-sight/out-of-mind” corporate mentality. But, this mentality serves only the self-serving leader; it doesn’t serve the company very well at all. Yet, we like our spreadsheets. We know how to use them (at least some of us know), and we like what we know, so why change? 

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Topics: Accountable Leaders & Teams

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