Tag Archives: accountability

The Team is Whispering

“So, tell me, Deana, if the ops manager is manipulating the project schedule, so it looks like we are on-time when we are behind, and if we can’t talk about it in the scheduling meeting, what will eventually happen?” I asked.

“It’s like a rubber band about to snap,” Deana replied. “The ops manager is so overbearing that everyone is terrified to bring it up, except the project manager. And my manager made it clear that if the project manager had a beef with the ops manager, they were to take it up outside the meeting, in private. So, it’s hands-off in the meeting.”

“Does this impact the team?” I wanted to know.

“Of course. How can we fix schedule delays, when the schedule says we are on-time?”

“What will happen?”

“I don’t know. The project manager is about ready to quit. He feels helpless, and no one on the team will support him, or even ask a question about it. More than one meeting got so tense that my manager squashed any kind of meaningful discussion. The rest of the team is whispering about all kinds of rumor-mill stuff at the water cooler.”

“How do you know all this?”

“People are coming to me privately. They feel like they can trust me. I mean, no one is stabbing anyone in the back, but if they are willing to talk about other people behind their back, what are they saying about me behind my back?”

“Why do you think your manager stopped the discussion in the meeting?”

Deana thought for a minute. “I think she was afraid of losing control of the team. I think if she allowed the confrontation to happen in front of the team, it might blow the team apart.”

“Tell me what is happening to the team,” I nodded.

“The team is coming apart anyway,” Deana concluded.

What’s Not to Talk About

“So, did your team deal with the issue, or did they avoid it and move on?” I repeated.

“Well, thank goodness my manager was there. When the project manager accused the ops manager of manipulating the schedule, no one knew what to say,” Deana replied.

“So, everyone checked out and looked to the senior-most manager in the room. Was the ops manager manipulating the schedule?” I asked.

“You know, no one is really sure. I was talking with one of my team members after the meeting and he thinks it was a big cover-up.”

“So, the situation was never resolved. We don’t know why we were behind schedule. We don’t if the schedule was accurate. We don’t know how to prevent this in the future.”

“What we do know,” Deana thought out loud, “if we are ever behind schedule and try to cover it up, we won’t talk about it in the meeting.”

Working Leadership comes to Austin TX. Ask me and I will send you a one page pdf about the program. Or you can follow this link to find out more.
Here are the dates –

  • Session One – Aug 25, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Two – Sep 1, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Three – Sep 8, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Four – Sep 18, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Five – Sep 22, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Six – Sep 28, 2017, 9a-12p

To register, just ask Tom.

Panic and Seduction

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
You suggest that a manager must push work to the team and that is the only way to gain control. I pushed work to my team and things got worse. Chaos emerged. I was better off before. I had to step back in and take control.

Response:
Of course, things got worse. It was a seduction. You pushed decision making and problem solving to the team and they panicked. This not-so-subtle shift of accountability from the leader to the team sent the team into panic.

As long as the manager is making all the decisions and solving all the problems, as long as the manager is barking orders, raising the voice of authority, repeated lecturing about misbehavior and underperformance, the manager has all the accountability. It was a seduction.

When accountability shifted, the team panicked, chaos ensued and the seduction began again, to have you, as the manager step in and take it all back.

The most effective position for the manager in this seduction is very simple. Outlast the panic.

Working Leadership comes to Austin TX. For more information, follow this link.
Here are the dates –

  • Session One – Aug 25, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Two – Sep 1, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Three – Sep 8, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Four – Sep 18, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Five – Sep 22, 2017, 1-4:30p
  • Session Six – Sep 28, 2017, 9a-12p

For registration information, ask Tom.

The Illusion of Managerial Control

As managers, we do all kinds of things in an attempt to maintain control. In our roles, we are given goals to implement with our teams. Our teams, at some point, let us down, there is a bit of mistrust coupled with the adage learned from our mothers that if you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself.

Unfortunately for our (control-freak) minds, there is too much work to do ourselves, so we find it necessary to assign tasks to our team. Yet, we tip-toe out and peek over shoulders, not micro-managing, but enough oversight to identify a mistake in the method. We take corrective action, perhaps a performance-improvement-plan, increase the frequency of our coaching and dial up the volume.

Still, it makes little difference. In spite of the shouting, the gathering of metrics, the deadline is missed and the defect rate is above threshold. We sit in our office, after hours, with our head in our hands and wonder we are the only ones who seem concerned about this lack of accountability. We have lost control.

This scenario of control is an illusion. It does not exist except in the mind of the manager. The manager can only control what one person can control and there is too much work to go around for one person.

The manager who carries all the keys to all the doors and all the closets (makes all the decisions and solves all the problems) will never be in control. Only when appropriate decision making and appropriate problem solving is pushed to the team does the manager resume control. It is counter-intuitive. The only way to really be in control is to let go.

Working Leadership comes to Austin TX. For more information, follow this link.
Here are the dates –

  • Session One – Aug 25, 2017
  • Session Two – Sep 1, 2017
  • Session Three – Sep 8, 2017
  • Session Four – Sep 18, 2017
  • Session Five – Sep 22, 2017
  • Session Six – Sep 28, 2017

For registration information, ask Tom.

Mindset of the Magic Pill

Several years ago, I told the story of the Magic Pill. The Magic Pill is prescribed to every manager and prevents them from working more than 40 hours in a week.

I can hear the protests already. No way you can get all your work done in 40 hours a week.

The Magic Pill is a mind-set. Forty hours a week is a mind-set. Of course, managers work more than 40 hours a week, but the point is the mind-set. If you worked 80 hours in a week, would you be able to get all of your work done? The answer is no. The work of a manager is never done.

The point of the Magic Pill is two-fold. First, when you get tired, exhausted, burned out, your effectiveness drops off dramatically, down to zero. But the most important part of the Magic Pill is to work differently. The role of a manager is not the same as the work of a team member.

Let me tell you about the Super-Magic pill. It only allows for 10 hours of work in a week. If you took the Super-Magic pill and only worked 10 hours a week, what would you have to change to work effectively?

No, I am not kidding. I am as serious as a heart attack (the one you will have working 60-70 hours a week). -Tom

Where Management Trouble Begins

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
In your workshop last week, you stressed the importance of a role description. To be honest, we don’t really have time to write them. We either use an old version from HR, get something off the internet, or use our posting from Craig’s List.

Response:
And, that’s where the trouble begins. The reason we have so much difficulty with issues related to motivation and management is that we don’t accurately define the work. The role description is the cornerstone document –

  • Defines the work, the outputs, the expectations in the role.
  • Organizes the bank of interview questions.
  • Creates the basis for behavioral interview questions.
  • Structures the decision making process for selecting from the candidate pool.
  • Structures the monthly (or more frequent) 1-1 conversation between the team member and the manager.
  • Structures a performance improvement plan, when necessary.
  • Provides grounds for termination, when necessary.

It’s all about the work. Our problems begin when we don’t accurately define the work. What are the decisions to be made, problems to be solved in the role?

Who Let Who Down?

Glen was working late. “What’s up?” I asked.

He stared at a project book on his desk. Not in a jovial mood, he took in a long breath and a measured exhale. Blood boiled behind his eyes, betraying his exterior composure.

Finally he spoke, “I thought this project would be done by now, but it’s not. It is due at the client tomorrow morning at 8:00, and is only half finished. My team let me down.”

“Who was the project leader?”

“Andre,” he replied.

“And what did Andre say?”

“Funniest thing. He said he knew the deadline was tomorrow, but since I never came around to check on the project, he didn’t think it was important anymore, he didn’t start on it.”

“So, where is he now?”

“Finishing a different project from another project manager, in Kansas City. Looks like I will be here until midnight.”

“So, tell me, Glen. What happens to the importance of any project when the manager fails to follow its progress?”

“I know. At first I was mad at Andre, but it’s my own fault. I set follow-up meetings and just blew them off. Now I have to pay.”

“And next time?”

“Next time, I will make the follow-up meetings, instead of having to finish the project on my own.”

That’s Me

“I don’t care,” Roberto insisted.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I don’t care if that is what the boss wants. It’s a stupid idea. And my role is not to do stupid shit.”

“Pushback?”

“Call it what you want. CEOs run fast, sometimes making a mess. That’s why I have a job, to clean up the mess they call strategy. Somebody has to execute. That’s me.”

And We Have a Winner!

“We have an idea for a new product line,” Alicia sounded off. “It’s a logical extension of our core product. We all think it will be a winner.”

“How are you going to fund the startup and who are you going to assign to this new project?” I asked.

“Well, that’s a problem. We are currently under a hiring freeze and while we have a budget for development, actually ramping into production is going to pinch,” she grimaced.

“What are you going to let go of?”

Alicia was a bit surprised. “We hadn’t really discussed shutting anything down.”

“Alicia, the biggest mistake that young companies make is that everything looks like an opportunity. Before long, all their resources are spread thin and their product portfolio is a hodgepodge. They can’t figure out if they are in the shoe business or the construction business.

“To be truly successful, the company has to decide on its focus, and create a discipline around that focus. Especially in times where resources are tight, we have to make sure we have enough staying power. This requires an approach of systematic abandonment. As you adapt to the market, it is important to cut off those projects that are no longer returning value.” -Tom

Short of a Temper Tantrum

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I was recently promoted to a manager role. Our company is really big on accountability. My first big challenge is holding other people accountable. I seem to stand by in a dream land watching a team member underperform or make a mistake. I point out the mistake, but that doesn’t seem to solve the problem. The mistake is made again. And, now my manager is telling me that I don’t hold my team accountable. Short of throwing a temper tantrum, what am I supposed to do?

Response:
Most companies get accountability backwards. A technician on your team makes a mistake, and your manager expects you to hold that technician accountable. It is YOU, the manager, that I hold accountable, for the output of your technician. You picked the technician for that assignment. You provided the training. You inspected the quality of the training. You provided the tools. You created the work environment. You provided the coaching. You provided the materials. As the manager to your team, you control all the variables around that technician. It is you I hold accountable for the output of the technician.

So, if the technician makes a mistake, what are the variables that you control? What changes will you make? How will you manage the risk in this task assignment? The source of all accountability is self-accountability. What are YOU going to do? -Tom