Tag Archives: accountability

Stand on the Chair and Scream

As the team left the room, Mandy had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. There were lots of promises from her team, but in her heart, she knew that only ten percent of the project would be complete on time. It was, as if, Mandy should stand on a chair and scream at the top of her lungs, “I really, really mean it this time. We have to get this stuff done.”

Those of us who have children know the futility of standing on chairs and demanding. It is pretty entertaining for the children, but hardly effective.

In what way could Mandy create an atmosphere to drive higher performance toward the goals set by the team? If standing on chairs and screaming doesn’t do it, what does? Most Managers are not aware of, or do not leverage team accountability. Managers assume the role of the bad guy and essentially let the team off the hook when it comes to holding each other to account for performance.

Turn the tables. In your next meeting, when a team member reports non-performance or underperformance, stop the agenda. Ask each team member to take a piece of paper and write down how this underperformance impacts their part of the project. Go around the table and ask each person to share that impact in one sentence. Around the table once again, ask the team to create an expectation of how the underperformance should be corrected. Finally, ask the underperformer to respond to the team and make a public commitment to action.

Team members, holding each other to account is a very powerful dynamic.

To Kill A Project

Apoplectic, enraged, irate, spitting mad. That described how Theo felt during his brief encounter with Brad. Two weeks ago, they sat in a delegation meeting, everything according to plan. But here they were, three hours to deadline and the project had not been started. Theo’s ears rang as Brad defended himself, “But you never came by to check on the project, I thought it wasn’t important anymore. So, I never started it. You should have said something.”

Lack of follow-up kills projects. In the chaos of the impending deadline, the manager gets caught up, personally starts, works and finishes the project, often with the team standing by, watching.

One small change dramatically changes the way this delegation plays out.

Follow-up. Schedule not one, not two, but, three or four quick follow-up meetings to ensure the project is on track. Segment the project, and schedule the follow-up meetings right up front, in the planning stages of the project. Check-ins are more likely to happen if they are on the calendar.

New Role, New Authority?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I was recently promoted as lead tech of a lab. My boss feels I undermine her for things I do without discussing them with her first. I explained directions for another technician, so she could speak to patients with more clarity. I was told I undermined my boss because of this. I asked our director, in front of my boss, if she was aware of an issue and I was told that I undermined my boss because I asked without consulting her first. I wonder if it’s a lack of trust or if I undermine her without meaning to?

Response:
Yes. It is both a lack of trust and you undermine your manager without meaning to. The solution is in the question. You must build trust AND stop undermining your manager. In your new role, you have new and specific accountability and authority. Unfortunately, these are rarely defined and that is where the trouble begins.

You have appropriate accountability and authority and your manager has a larger (longer time span) accountability and authority. Your manager is working in a longer time span context, aware of things you may not know. This is why the manager-team member relationship is so important (and often fragile).

Monthly 1-1 conversations with your manager work to bridge that gap. For you, in your role, to be in alignment with your manager, you have to understand the larger context of your manager. The only way to find out is to talk about it.

Following is an example of discussion elements for your next 1-1 with your manager.

Whose Decision Is It?
With accountability, comes authority. Whose decision is it? Is it yours or your manager’s? If you don’t talk about it, you won’t know. Here is a framework for the discussion.

  • Which decisions are reserved exclusively to my manager?
  • Which decisions are reserved to my manager, AND based on my input?
  • Which decisions are mine, but have to be discussed and approved by my manager?
  • Which decisions are mine, but I have to tell my manager before I pull the trigger?
  • Which decisions are mine, but I have to tell my manager, after I pull the trigger?
  • Which decisions are mine, and I don’t have to tell my manager?

As a new lead technician, you have new accountability and new authority. That new authority has to be defined.

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.

Comfortable with Discomfort

The armed and dangerous team tackles the tough issues. Its members run toward the fire, not away from it. Armed and dangerous teams become comfortable with discomfort. The pit of discomfort often holds the real issue.

When a team is comfortable and in total agreement, there is high likelihood they are not dealing with an issue of high consequence. It is only when there is disagreement and debate, where the team is in discomfort, that important issues are on the table.

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.

A Manager’s Accountability for Culture

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
This is not a simple question. What is company culture? And what is my accountability, as a manager, related to culture?

Response:
Some time ago, writing a role description, I added Culture as a Key Result Area. What is the accountability of a manager in the Key Result Area of Company Culture?

Company culture is that unwritten set of rules that governs our required behavior in the work that we do together. It is unwritten in contrast to our written set of rules, policies, procedures. Culture is often more powerful than any policy we may write or attempt to officially enforce. Sometimes, culture even works against our stated policy.

What is the source of culture, where does it start? How is culture visible, how do we see it? How is culture tested? How is culture institutionalized, reinforced and perpetuated? These are the four steps in the Culture Cycle.

1. The source of culture is the way we see the world. It includes our beliefs, bias, our experience, our interpretation of our experience. Culture is the story we carry into our experience that provides the lens, the frame, the tint, the brightness or darkness of that story.

2. Culture, the way we see the world drives our behavior. We cannot see the bias in others. We cannot see their interpretations of the world. We cannot see the story people carry in their minds, but, we can see behavior. Culture drives behavior. Behavior makes culture visible.

3. Behavior, driven by culture, is constantly tested against the reality of consequences. For better or worse, behaviors driven by culture are proven valid, or not. Our culture stands for what we tolerate. This is counter to the notion of the lofty intentions of honesty and integrity. Our culture stands for the behaviors we tolerate related to the lofty intentions.

4. Behaviors that survive, for better or worse, are institutionalized in our rituals and customs. This ranges from the peer lunch on a team member’s first day at work to the hazing in a fraternity house. But, it all starts with the way we see the world.

There is accountability, for a manager, in each of the four steps in the culture cycle.

Beliefs and assumptions. Every manager must be able to verbalize and discuss the beliefs held by the organization. This discussion may be in the form of stories, or observations of specific behaviors that support those beliefs. If the belief is that all team members must return home each day with all their fingers and toes, the manager must be able to tell stories that illustrate safe and unsafe work practices and the consequence of each.

Connected behaviors. Every manager must be able to identify behaviors that support the beliefs of the organization (positive behavior) and behaviors inconsistent with those beliefs (negative behavior). Every manager must be able to verbalize and coach those behaviors, acknowledging positive behavior and intervening negative behavior. If the belief is that every team member must return home each day with all their fingers and toes, the manager must be able to verbalize safe work practices and coach corrective behavior.

Testing against reality. Every manager must be able to reconcile connected behaviors with the consequences of reality. There must be consistency between positive behaviors and negative behaviors with what really happens as a result. If the behavior related to safety is to wear protective gear (safety glasses and gloves), then the manager may not allow unsafe work practices just because it is more convenient. Convenience often wins. We stand for what we tolerate.

Customs and rituals. Every manager must execute in the customs and rituals that support the beliefs of the organization. If it is the ritual to reinforce behaviors related to safety, the manager cannot cancel the morning safety meeting because she is too busy.

Most of the Time, It’s the Manager

“Oh, man, they did it again!” Ralph exclaimed, covering his face.

“And how did you help them screw up?” I asked.

Ralph peeked between his fingers. “What do you mean? I didn’t have any part in this.”

“I know, I know,” I agreed. “But if you did contribute to the problem, what was it?”

Ralph started to chuckle, hands now propped on his hips. “Well, if I did have a hand in this, it was picking this group of knuckleheads in the first place. And I probably didn’t explain what needed to happen very well.”

“Indeed. As a manager, before we jump to blame the team, it is always important to ask the question.

“How did I contribute to the problem?

“The Manager is usually at the center of what goes wrong.” -Tom