Leading With Accountability, Part Two

Excerpt from Irish Director Magazine

Dynamic Results and Managing Partner, Henry Evans, were featured in the latest edition of Irish Director Magazine. In April, the Dynamic Perspective brought you Part 1 of the article, self-generated accountability. We now present to you Part 2, healthy nervousness. To discover how to build a culture of accountability at your organization, read our book.

It is not uncommon in organizations for people to have no idea what their leaders are doing much of the time, says Evans. “That’s a real liability people at the top sometimes have. They have great innovative ideas, they see the path and the journey that will get them to the execution of these ideas, but they’re not always as masterful at communicating those on a timeline, and in a way that brings everyone else along.”

In order to get this across to clients, Evans asks them to look back at a time in their career when they were reporting to a difficult manager or a difficult board of directors. “We can all relate to a time earlier in our career when we worked for somebody, and when we were going to go to see that person we felt a little bit nervous in our stomach – a physical sensation that we got when we were going to see that person. Because we knew that they were going to hold us accountable for whatever our responsibilities were. As we move up the organizational chart in our careers we experience that feeling less and less, because there aren’t as many people who can hold us accountable – or are willing to.”

What we try to do is to help our clients self-generate that feeling. An action you can take to start doing that is:

  • Identify the important things that you’re responsible for doing in the next 30–45 days
  • Send out a memo to key stakeholders saying: ‘Here are the things that I’m going to be doing’
  • Use the four pieces of our accountability puzzle for each of these commitments.

“In short, you are saying ‘Here’s what I’m going to be doing, here’s what it looks like, here’s this date in time when it’s going to be finished, I’m the owner of the task, or here’s who the owner is, and I wanted you guys to know about it’.”

According to Evans, this action should generate a healthy nervousness. “And I’m not talking about the kind of nervousness that makes you sick or causes heart disease. I’m not talking about work-related stress here. I’m talking about the healthy kind of nervousness you have before you attempt to something that is truly challenging.”

“There’s a lot of emotional intelligence woven into our accountability method,” says Evans. We encourage our clients to create an environment of emotional safety, and in doing so, positioning them not to be the last person to ‘find out’. Here’s how:

  • View your primary role for the next year, not as a manufacturer of silicon parts, or deliverer of financial targets, or builder of automobiles, but as one who creates emotional safety for employees
  • Focus on people having a comfortable feeling when they walk into your office to give you bad news
  • Ensure employees feel safe and encouraged to talk to you about a mistake that they have made – or a mistake that you have made – or something that is wrong in the supply chain, or in the delivery to a customer.

“It is quite common for those leaders who use their title as the reason people should be performing to be the last people to know what’s actually happening in their own company,” he says. They also tend to have a higher attrition rate, says Evans. “It is like the old adage that people don’t leave companies, they leave leaders. Now, in the current recession people are likely to hold on to their jobs, but that becomes a problem when there’s the inevitable upturn. At these times a lot of leaders legitimately and accurately realize that they don’t need to change or improve that much. People aren’t going anywhere. However, that puts them in a seriously handicapped position once the market starts to upswing, if their competitors have more sophisticated and developed leaders. So, just as you would refine your processes and your systems during a recession, you should be refining your relationships, you should be refining your abilities and skills around them so that, when the upswing comes, you are better equipped to capitalize on the opportunities.”

For more information about Winning With Accountability, the book the introduces the simple method to help any individual build Accountability in to their culture in an emotionally intelligent way, click here.

Printed with Permission: Irish Director Magazine, Issue 19, Spring 2011.

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Enjoyed this article? Learn more by reading our book on accountability.

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