Category Archives: Accountability

Holding People Accountable is a Myth

The only person who can hold you accountable is YOU. Invite and give permission to others to examine and challenge your commitments, AND understand that you are the only one who can keep those commitments. The only accountability is self-accountability.

We cannot hold people accountable, we can only hold people to account.

This is not a nuance of language. Holding others accountable is a myth. We cannot hold others accountable. We can only examine and challenge commitments. We can only hold people to account, to themselves for the commitments they make with themselves.

Yelling Only Creates Avoidance

“But, I give them feedback,” protested Tyler. “They know how to do it right. Why don’t they just do it the way they are supposed to?”

“You want your team members to work the line in a specific sequence in a specific way?” I replied. “You are looking for very specific behaviors?” Tyler nodded his head in agreement.

“When they do it wrong, do you pay attention to them?” I asked.

“Of course. I am usually right on it,” Tyler replied.

“And when they do it right, are you right on it?”

“Well, when they do it right, they just do it right. When they do it right, I don’t yell at them.”

“Tyler, to get desired behaviors, you have to reinforce those behaviors in a positive way. Yelling at people for doing something wrong doesn’t teach them to do it right. Yelling just creates avoidance from doing it wrong. That avoidance behavior can by very erratic and unpredictable. They don’t know whether to scream or eat a banana.

“On the other hand, if you positively reinforce desired behavior, it becomes repeated and predictable.

“So, Tyler, you tell me. What has more value, erratic avoidance behavior or positively reinforced predictable behavior?”

Whose Drama?

“Work is personal,” Marjorie said.

“Would you want it any other way?” I asked.

“But, I don’t want the personal drama at work.”

“If there is no drama, people will bring it. What is your role, as a manager, to create drama, at work?”

“But, I don’t want drama,” Marjorie protested.

“The absence of drama in a person’s life is pathological. Why do you occasionally observe pathological behavior, yes, at work? If there must be drama, at work, whose drama do you want it to be?”

“You are telling me that I have to create drama at work?” Marjorie questioned.

“Drama is meaning, the interpretation of our world. Yes, I want you to create drama, I want you to create meaning, I want you to create context. Context for the work. Work is personal.”

It’s The Manager

It used to be that employee empowerment was all the rage. Now it is employee engagement. With unemployment at an all time low, there is a huge war for talent, finding it and keeping it.

“We are having a problem with employee engagement. One thing we would like to consider is an Employee of the Month program.”

I hate Employee of the month/quarter/year programs. They conspire to make one person a winner and everyone else a loser. Bad idea.

Employee engagement, as an issue, has been around for a while. Gallup, in their extensive research on employee engagement, well documented in a book called First, Break All the Rules, details the number one reason that people leave a company. It’s their manager.

A company can have the greatest benefits, competitive compensation, employee of the month programs, but if the team member has a lousy relationship with their manager, they quit and leave. Or worse, they quit and stay.

A company can have sub-standard benefits, on the low side of competitive compensation, no recognition programs, but if the team member has a great relationship with their manager, they stay.

So, if you want to focus on employee engagement, focus on every managerial relationship in the company. The most powerful managerial practice to create and sustain this relationship is the monthly 1-1, where the manager sits down, present in the moment, and has a dialogue with each team member.

This is dedicated time, each and every month talking about updates, projects, goals, aspirations, obstacles, ways around those obstacles. The focus is on the team member. If you really want to increase employee engagement, schedule 1-1s with each of your team members. You don’t need permission, you don’t need a committee, just start. -Tom

Stuck in a Pattern

“I just do what comes naturally,” Morgan started. “I manage my team the way it feels right. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.”

“Sometimes not?” I asked.

“Sometimes, what feels natural, puts me right back in the same problem as before. What feels like progress is just staying stuck.”

“Staying stuck?”

“In the past, I made managerial moves that didn’t work out. Like delegating a project, then dissatisfied with the result, taking the project back. Next project, same thing, over and over.”

“Over and over?”

“Like a grooved, routine behavior. I got used to taking projects back. Almost like a habit, even if it didn’t work. Taking a project back was comfortable. The project got done (by me) and the quality was up to standard. Problem solved,” Morgan explained.

“Then, what’s the problem?”

“Just because we do something over and over, doesn’t make it the best move. I have to do something different to interrupt the pattern, when the pattern doesn’t get what I want.”

“What do you want?”

“I want my team to solve the problem, and I want the output up to standard,” Morgan replied.

“So, how are you going to interrupt the pattern?”

Required Behaviors – Habits

Elliott’s Four Absolutes, required for success in a role (any role, no matter the discipline), here is the list.

  • Capability (measured in Time Span)
  • Skill (technical knowledge and practiced performance)
  • Interest, passion (value for the work)
  • Required behaviors

Required behaviors, with three strings.

  • Contracted behaviors
  • Habits
  • Culture
  • Today is about habits.

    When I interview a candidate, I look at the role description, identify the critical role requirements and those habits that support those role requirements. We all have habits that support our success, we all have habits that detract from our success.

    Habits are those routine grooved behaviors that we lean on during times of decision, times of problem solving and times of stress. Some habits, we lean on, even if those behaviors were not successful in the past. Habits are familiar, habits require less brain power. Habits are a short cut to decision making and problem solving. In the face of urgency, we lean on our habits.

    As a hiring manager, interviewing a candidate, we can anticipate the problems to be solved and the decisions to be made in the role. The question is, what are the habits that contribute to success, what are the habits that detract from success?

    We all think we choose our success. We do not. The only thing we choose are our habits, and it is our habits that determine our success.

Required Behaviors – Contracted

When I look at Elliott’s Four Absolutes, required for success in a role (any role, no matter the discipline), here is the list.

  • Capability (measured in Time Span)
  • Skill (technical knowledge and practiced performance)
  • Interest, passion (value for the work)
  • Required behaviors

Required behaviors is an interesting absolute, with three strings.

  • Contracted behaviors
  • Habits
  • Culture
  • Today, the focus is on contracted behaviors. Through his career, Elliot shifted away from personality theory (though, he was trained as a clinical psychologist) to required behaviors. He became less interested in a person’s behavioral tendencies and more interested in required behaviors. If a person wants the job, there are required behaviors. There are some behaviors, you simply contract for.

    Some people do not possess the behavioral tendency for punctuality. But, if the role required the person be on-site at 8am, Elliott didn’t care about the behavioral tendency, the requirement was on-site at 8am. Not on-site at 8am, can’t have the job. As a matter of contract.

    Can I contract for respect (Aretha Franklin rule)? Not the attitude of respect, because I cannot figure out what goes on in the mind of my teammates, but behaviors connected to respect?

    Anything I can translate into behavior is a behavior I can contract for. I cannot contract for respect, but I can contract for behaviors connected to respect.

    “If you disagree with a teammate, you are required, first, to listen before communicating your position.” Listening is a behavior. I can contract for that.

    “If you disagree with a teammate, you are required, first, to listen, not because it is a nice thing to do, not because it is courteous, but as a matter of contract. If you disagree with a teammate, you are required, first, to listen.”

    Elliott did not care if you had a dominating personality or did not value relationships, as a matter of contract, you were required to listen. Can’t listen, can’t have the role. There are some behaviors, you simply contract for.

Either Play, Or Not

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Question:
I’ve been in my new position as a manager for the past three year. Over time, I noticed that one of our supervisors always seems to do his own thing and doesn’t conform to all of the company’s policies. He has been with the company since it started and has a wealth of knowledge about our industry. Yet, he refuses to help train new employees or take on a larger work load. This causes problems with the other supervisors who feel their work load is too heavy. A month ago, I inherited this situation. His former manager never confronted him so he feels like his behavior is normal and that no change is necessary. What can you suggest to help this situation?

Response:
The inattention from his former manager placed you in a tough position, but that’s nothing new. Management is all about the reality of behavior. I know you want him to either shape up or ship out, but the downside is the loss of tribal knowledge, continuity of service to customers, having to recruit and train a replacement.

This issue will not be solved overnight.

Step One. Start with a one on one conversation. As a manager, this is a listening exercise, using questions. The subject areas should begin with history, then job satisfaction, teamwork, team member assessments, productivity and training. The purpose of this conversation is to make the supervisor’s thoughts visible, nothing more. It is likely that what is said by the supervisor more closely conforms to company policy than the behavior you have witnessed.

Step Two. Use the team dynamic to have a supervisor’s meeting to discuss those same subject areas. Again, this exercise is one of asking questions and listening. The purpose of this conversation is to make the team’s thoughts visible. And this is the first of several on-going meetings. The time spent in this meeting should not exceed thirty minutes. Do not try to solve the world’s problems, but make their thoughts visible, thank them and adjourn the meeting.

Step Three. Continue with these meetings on a scheduled basis, perhaps once a week and make progress toward problem solving especially in those areas where you have noticed a breakdown in collaboration. The purpose of these meetings is to have the supervisors define and take responsibility for making progress. Your supervisor in question will either play, or not.

Elements of the Accountability Conversation

“When you talked to Taylor, what did you tell him?” I asked. Dana had just completed her first accountability conversation. It had not gone so well.

“I told him that I really liked the work that he was doing, but that he needed to come to work on time. And that I really appreciated the effort he was making,” Dana replied.

“I can see why he thought he might be in line for a raise. Dana, the first part of his behavior that you want him to change is coming to work on time. What impact does it have on the rest of the team when he shows up late?”

Dana stuttered for a second, then organized her thoughts. “Well, no one else can get started on their work, until Taylor is there. It’s not just him. In the fifteen minutes that he is late, he costs the team about 90 minutes of production.”

“And what are the consequences to Taylor if he doesn’t start coming to work on time?”

Again, Dana had some trouble. She had not thought this through to the next step. “Well, I guess he could get fired,” she finally realized.

“You guess? Dana, you are the manager. What are the consequences?”

“You’re right,” she concluded. “If I have to speak to him twice about coming in late, I have to write him up. Three written warnings are grounds for termination. So, yes, he could lose his job.”

“And, when do you want this behavior corrected?”

“Well, tomorrow would be nice.”

“Dana, if you want this behavior changed by tomorrow, you need to call Taylor back in here and have another go at this accountability conversation. What two things do you need to cover?”

“I need to talk about the impact he is having and the consequences.”