I’ve been thinking about accountability a lot lately, and what it means. The word “accountability” is used often but true accountability is hard to find.
Accountability is the understanding of and responsibility for the impact of the decisions we make and the consequences for our organizations. It comes from the presence of trust and respect and the absence of fear. When a leader is trusted and trusting, all the players know where they stand. This builds the secret sauce holding an empowered and cohesive team together.
Ultimately, we are responsible; we are accountable for our decisions and actions creating an outcome. Hopefully, our decisions and actions will produce the intended outcome. But what happens when we get it wrong?
What happens when trust is undermined? Fear finds its way in. Fear of failure, fear of consequences. Accountability means more than being willing to take the blame; it means owning it, cleaning up the messes the situation caused. It means proactively working toward an outcome with a plan that acknowledges what went wrong. It means accepting responsibility and dealing with the cause and effect relationships to make it right. The time to build the trust and feelings of accountability is when decisions and changes are made, not when the steaming pile of our mistake is in front of us.
It means cleaning up the mess and making it right before it is tracked so far into the corporate carpets that there is no stain remover that will fix it. It means cleaning up your messes. Poop happens.
Are you a placeholder keeping the chair warm until either a) you find something better, or b) they find someone better, c) your work is done, or d) some/all of the above?
The placeholder position can be one of positivity and growth for both you and the team. At first glance you might say, nah, not so much. But the position is a reality, so embrace it.
Consider this; as an emotionally intelligent leader, the placeholder position offers you the opportunity to increase the elements in your life that will contribute to your well being, your own growth and happiness and that of your team.
- The emotion. Practice positive emotion - your dreams, your enthusiasm and finding the good. It's there.
- The engagement. Be engaged. True engagement comes from factors of trust and respect in what you are doing. If those elements are there, it is easy to be engaged.
- The relationships. Build positive relationships. Building relationships involves strong foundations and shared visions.
- The meaning. We all want to feel that there is meaning to us, to what we do. The value. Acknowledge the value you bring. Acknowledge the value the team brings to you.
- The accomplishments. Allow yourself to shine. You have accomplished much. Use those accomplishments to build future plans and actions moving forward. Share the shine with your team. Accomplishments are intricate little critters dependent on more than just you.
As organizations flex and bend there are placeholder positions created or identified. The position is there as we succession plan and mentor to build the organization, just as it is with building our strengths and talents moving us forward into new adventures.
Remember, the placeholder position is flexible, moveable, transient. Some individuals make a career of holding the placeholder position and enabling the sand to level with the tides and then moving on to the next challenge. Bring the emotionally intelligent elements to the placeholder position that will build success for everyone. Have some fun with it, too. Kind of like a game of musical chairs.
Celebrating International Women's Day this past week -
1) Sitting in the back seat on the way to dinner when I hear one of the two guys in the front say "yeah, like a 65 year old grandma........er.......a....... 75 year old .........
What made this "that awkward moment" are the dynamics that have been at play with the characters, the incredible pause, then clarification in acknowledgement of the derogatory comment it was initially meant to be. For clarity, I am not a 65 year old grandma, but close to it, and proud of it. But it didn't feel like a good moment.
2) At an event celebrating International Women's Day, I met an amazing woman. She used to be a man. She shared some of the colours she has seen through the prisms of her journey and with a wicked sense of humour, some insight into leadership challenges she has faced. It did feel like a good moment.
Yes, "we have come a long way, baby" in some ways, and we still have miles to go to appreciate and respect the women we are and the women in our lives. To not be known for our bra size, or the birthdate on our driver's license, or the deeper voice than expected, but for who we are and what we bring in the moment to the tables we are at. After all, isn't that all any of us want - a few good moments?
As we waited to deplane, I asked the flight attendant a question that had been bothering me for some time. Why don't you get the maps fixed so they show the proper elevation? Is it a technology thing that when the plane lands the maps stop registering? He says uh.... what do you mean? (Looking at me as if I'd grown a horn on my forehead). Well, I kind of huffily point to the map which plainly shows we are at an elevation of 879 feet - and I say, we are landed! Yes, he says but we are not at sea level. We are nearly 900 feet higher.
That moment. The moment when it strikes you with absolute clarity that you have so missed the point, the meaning, that there is nothing left to do but say, ah, thanks. And your real name is on the boarding pass too, damn it.
The moment in a team meeting when you realize that you just don't get it. I know a leader who has a rapier quick mind bordering on brilliance. I occasionally get lost in a sea of acronyms as he blazes through an explanation of an issue or process. I'm pretty certain that his mind is expanding the acronyms as he says them and it's very clear to him, but sometimes, not so much for me, and I have learned to say, hey Mike, I need the full version.
There are times when the message is cloudy, or scrambled, or it's just plain something you missed in 7th grade social studies when you were worried about passing notes to your girlfriends without getting caught. It's never too late to seek clarity - ask the questions and yes, shake your head at yourself when you need to. And you will be able to share the message and direction with your team with much better if you do so.
I write this from elevation 5 ft. pretty much sea level as I sit in the sand by the ocean in Maui. Got it, Mr. West Jet. Thanks.
One size does not fit all. We know it and still, whether it's our need to compartmentalize, our need to make order out of chaos, or it's just plain easier, we often try to mold our teams to look alike, act alike, be alike.
Everyone wanted white go-go boots. And to be in junior high and be able to dance the pony, the swim, the other crazy dances of the sixties and look like The go-go dancers in the cages suspended from the ceiling at concerts and teen fairs - well, it was just too cool.
I got go-go boots, but here's where the catch came in, the trade off deal. I had to share them with my two little sisters. Sounds like a reasonable parental decision-based arrangement, only didn't quite work out that way. First of all, our feet were not the same size, so the boots were tight on me and big on them. Secondly, we never did agree on an equitable "sharing the go-go boots" arrangement simply because we all had different agendas. Mine was to wear them as much as I could and look like every other junior high girl. My sisters' agenda was to want to wear them simply because I did, and they could. This was intended as a learning experience in group dynamics and problem solving.
The arrangement was a failure. My feet grew quickly squeezing me out of the boots before I had a chance to perfect my go-go style. Coincidentally, my sisters lost interest and wanted their own styles about the same time. The go-go boots were given away to the neighbor girl who danced her way to the bus stop every day for weeks in our boots.
How often do we provide something; a directive, a process, equipment to our teams and a) expect that one size fits all and, b) the team can figure out on its own how to make it work. Much like realizing that there are different learning and reasoning styles, there are different problem solving styles within teams as well. Following up and getting meaningful feedback is how you can see where the breakdown not only occurs but where it can be rescued as well.
Failing to recognize your team members as individuals is a setup for missing opportunities. Acknowledge the sameness where it is, uniform presence, shared goals, shared performance objectives, and so forth, but also be cognizant of the individual characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. And boot size.
It's hard to dance when your feet hurt.
The roar of the crowd was deafening. The shouts of jubilation from Patriot players and fans as audible as the gasps from the Seahawks. It's been called the game ending interception.
And there is no doubt that the sound of bad leadership decisions can feel like the resounding decibel level of of a major stadium full of fans as you sit in your office and play it over and over again in your head. As a leader, you WILL make some bad decisions. Some will be biggies and some easily fixed; some will have far reaching and long lasting consequences, and some you will be able to brush off.
" The reality is that important decisions made by intelligent, responsible people with the best intentions are sometimes hopelessly flawed". Harvard Business Review Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions" by Andrew Campbell, Jo Whitehead and Sydney Finkelstein. " Leaders make quick decisions by recognizing patterns in the situations they encounter, bolstered by emotional associations attached to those patterns. Most of the time, the process works well, but it can result in serious mistakes when judgements are biased".
Russell Wilson "You have different options....we thought we had them...I thought it was going to be game over".
Hindsight, debriefing, review- it all looks easier from there, but in the moment, you identify what it is you are dealing with, assess it and manage the situation by making a decision to act.
Our brains leap to conclusions and are reluctant to consider alternatives; we are particularly bad at revisiting our initial assessment of a situation.
And here is where, as a leader, you need to acknowledge that bad decisions happen. You make some. Fix what you can and move on from what you can't .
Pete Carroll "for it to come down to a play like that I hate that we have to live with that because we did everything right to win the football game."
Stay classy, Seahawks.
I follow some individuals whom I consider to be influencers; those who with their ideas and opinions are able to compel me to inspiration, to transform, grow and change.
As an influencer, my role is not to impose change, but to invite transformation and the discovery of those “ah ha” moments in my team members by providing the guide of thoughtful reflection and destination. We are creations of our words, thoughts and actions and are constantly open to the influence of others.
In order to positively influence change the ground work or foundation needs to be defined. Ask some questions. What’s working for our team? What are we doing that is making us successful? How could we get better at....and how? Looking around from our team winner's circle, what next? Then inspire transformation into greater than we currently are by sharing vision and thought.
Influencing is the ability to take what is present and inspire some fantastic change if done right, taking ideas and creativity to your team.
The power of influencing transformation is a gift.
The importance of the team huddle, the sharing of how the play is to be run is something we have recognized not only in sports (Go Seahawks!) but in our corporate worlds as well.
It’s not a discussion forum, it’s about the leader coach sending in the direction or play, the manager / quarterback reiterates it, the team hears the play and scatters to make it happen with a clap or a team cheer demonstrating unity.
The huddle is necessary to share vision and provide direction to reach the goal. Within the huddle, roles are defined and responsibility made clear, and it is an opportunity for team members to share success and challenges. Corporate huddle time can be used to recognize and engage the team, but too often we fall into the trap of talking at the team instead of talking with the team through effective communication.
1. Make huddles part of your culture with regularity
2. Preparation is essential to ensure your message is clear – what is the purpose, the direction, the play your team needs to make to be successful
3. Keep it interesting – don’t sacrifice spontaneity for the ease of regurgitating information the team can find elsewhere - watch out for the signs it is turning into a template for just another staff meeting
4. Share the huddle floor with your leadership team – there are many coaches in an effective team
5. Send your team away from the huddle engaged. It‘s all about unity in action!
The environment of the huddle is important in order to create an atmosphere of inclusiveness, and in this world of telecommunication and media sources, the opportunities are endless. Be innovative and keep your huddles fresh with guest speakers and topics that help grow and support the vision – the team play.
Remember that huddles are all about reinforcing shared values, culture and goals. Have fun and build your huddles! Go Seahawks!
You are being criticized. In fact, the reviewer has absolutely nothing good to say about you even with input from all other sources. It happens, and you are hurt and mad. What is based on a single person’s perception can have long-term and irreparable effects on your leadership journey in the organization.
How do you react to this? By trying to justify and show tangible results of the projects you lead, and the work you do? You can try, but the reality is that you will inevitably end up wearing the cone of shame around your neck for the next year or so as your leadership is brought into doubt by someone who happens to have the power to send out the ripple effect of this far and wide.
Do you react by arguing and trying to change the outcome? By walking away from the situation you feel you have no control over? It’s a damned hard place to be in, and one most of us encounter at one time or another in our long leadership journey.
When we were out on a hike one balmy mosquito filled summer day, Ben, our big black lab, did the Olympic time winning sprint to the lake, dove in, and cut his foot on a piece of glass some moron had thrown in the water. It didn't slow him down because if you know labs, the only thing that slows them down is a big dose of anesthetic and even that is temporary.
We wrapped his foot and he proudly tore off the wrapping and brought it to us; we put big Band-Aids on it and he danced a crazy hilarious dance until he chewed them off and promptly swallowed them. So, it was back to the city and to the vet. A few stitches and we were good to go. Except for the cone. The vet said most dogs don't mind it and it will allow the wound to heal properly. Oh yeah. We got home and it was like a tornado banging through the house. Doorways are ample width to allow a cone wearing dog through, but he managed to literally bounce off doorways and walls. Small tables were sacrificed and bowled over like ten pins.
Ah, the cone of shame. We can take note from Ben. He shows us how to proudly wear the cone and some handy little tricks. Like the skill of standing on your shiny black tip toe nails, balancing the cone on the toilet seat and stretching, really stretching your neck to get a good drink of fresh flushed toilet water. Oh yeah, rocking it out with the cone.
Chew off the bandages of the wounds from encounters you have no control over. Tear off the wrappings of hearing opinions you cannot change and have to live with. Bounce the cone around your neck hitting the walls of meetings, of projects and conversations. Then move into the acceptance (with some grief) stage. This does not mean to acquiesce and accept what is ever wrong, or unfair criticism, but to move on past it and acknowledge what you simply will never be able to change. The very hard part, but it is an essential part of being a leader for your teams being able to move forward and realize that sometimes you just need to eat the Brussels sprouts even when you hate them, and file the letters and conversations away.
It’s not so bad. In fact, stretch and see how you can balance your cone on the edges of the corporate toilet seats in order to get the fresh water. Might be some marks on the walls where you test your cone and that’s part of the process. Pay close attention to the tricks you can learn and the motivation you can find even while wearing the cone of shame. It’s there. Remember, the cone is temporary and is prescribed as part of the healing process.
This is a photo of Jasmine soaking up some late fall sun with her sharp- eared shadow. In asking a class of future leaders to caption this photo, I heard everything from “wolf dog” to “bat dog” to “quiet fearsome” to “aloof in the sun”. One caption was “I can’t hear you”.
This was all based on perception of Jasmine and her shadow and perhaps the students' past experience with dogs. All the factors that lead us to make decisions based on information at hand.
I asked them now to think about what kind of leadership shadow they wanted to have and the importance of recognizing how others see you and your shadow. The shadow you leave as you walk away from any situation, conversation, or incident.
The point is, nearly all of them gave attributes of some sort of assertiveness to Jasmine because of her pointy, alert ears. Had her ears been folded down, it may have been a different story. It was the shadow she cast at that time and moment lending to judgements, prejudice, and opinions.
Be aware of the shadow you cast with your actions and words. Shadows follow us around are and open to interpretation.
The reality is that Jasmine is a lurcher, very, very timid and somewhat of a cat-dog. Very quiet and shy. And she casts a cool shadow.