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.

As always, we welcome your comments. Join us on facebook to share your experiences or email us at[email protected].

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

Accountability in Action: How One Company President Applied Our Method for Building Accountability in Their Culture

By Bob Irish (recently retired)
For more information on the accountability method discuss, read our book.

A client reminded me of a firm I worked for more than thirty years ago where there was a lot of activity, people were very busy, sales were mediocre, but the profits were not what they should have been. There were too many employees trying to accomplish the same task while other tasks went unattended. Everyone was expected to get “the job done,” and all worked hard at doing that. The firm eventually went bankrupt. The next firm I worked at grew, developed excellent margins and thrived in a difficult economy. What made the difference between the organization that went bankrupt and the current company that thrived? Accountability. Initially, both of the companies lacked this key concept.

When I accepted the assignment with the second firm, Henry Evans’ excellent book “Winning with Accountability, The Secret language of High Performing Organizations” was not available. When the book was published, I read it and knew immediately it was the missing ingredient in every company I had ever encountered. In too many companies, accountability is associated with negative consequences. In Winning with Accountability, the four key pieces to solving the accountability puzzle are about producing positive communication and results.

To integrate accountability into the fabric of this current corporation’s culture, I took several specific steps.

  • I appointed myself CAO, Chief Accountability Officer
  • Everyone in the company received a copy of Winning with Accountability
  • Employees were dispersed into accountability groups to discuss real-time challenges and best practices
  • We wall mounted framed accountability posters in all of our conference rooms
  • We set everyone’s expectation, from the Chairman of the Board down, that accountability training was not a flavor of the month fad. As an organization we were going to learn true accountability
  • We practiced applying the four key principles (outlined in the book) until we were well-grounded in the practicality and application of this important concept.
  • When a new employee joined the team, they were given a copy of Winning with Accountability and mentored by the rest of the team.
  • Each employee carried the accountability wallet card behind their ID badge in their lanyard

Over time, team members learned and applied all four principles in Winning with Accountability, and they became a winning team – a team as well coordinated on the field of business as any professional sports team. Working together in an environment of clear expectations and specific goals, objectives, and requirements became second nature.

The result of adopting Winning with Accountability as our “field manual for success” exceeded my expectations. Today, company morale is high, turnover is nil and teamwork is the norm. Mistakes are dramatically down, duplication of effort is gone and profits are at an all time high. Margins are up more than eighteen percent in less than three years. During an economic recession, the company enjoys its greatest profitability without having to resort to layoffs to polish the bottom line. Best of all, employees own accountability. They do not need management to hold them accountable for consistently practicing the principles in Winning with Accountability; in fact, the reverse is true. Employees hold management accountable by expecting company leadership to practice winning with accountability.

About Bob Irish

Bureaucrat-in-Residence (Ret). Bob is a recently retired CEO for hire. Recently he left the helm of a company that grew 3x during his 5 year tenure as CEO. He contacted our Managing Partner, Henry Evans, to discuss the impact of our method on their company and as a result of that discussion, agreed to allow the use of his testimonial in the form of this article.

As always, we welcome your comments. Join us on facebook to share your experiences or email us at [email protected].

Want to learn how our accountability method can be used to improve your organization? Read our book.

How to Make a Team Retreat Worthwhile

Have you ever planned a leadership retreat only to be met with cynicism about time away from the office and average results? The following take-away tools will ensure you get the maximum return for your investment.

Set Realistic Goals

  • Keeping the agenda to a single focus allows participants to achieve tangible results while avoiding a mind-numbing “laundry list” agenda. Be specific about the desired outcome, such as Create a vision for a newly integrated group or Build a unified, cohesive leadership team.
  • Interview people in advance to identify what challenges and issues will be of primary importance to address. Ask participants, “Three months from now, what changes in the organization will indicate to you that the retreat was worthwhile?”

Location, location, location

  • Psychological distance from daily responsibilities is an essential element of an effective off-site retreat. After all, retreats offer the rare opportunity to step back and see the bigger picture. An environment that establishes distance from the rigidity of a conference room and the traditional conversations that occur in such settings will only help facilitate honesty and participation.

Set the stage

  • A great way to lay the groundwork for a retreat is to assign an article or book for attendees to read in advance. New ideas can spark innovation, so encourage your colleagues to not only read the materials, but think about how the information can be applied to your business challenges.

Invite an expert facilitator

  • You need to level the playing field and a neutral party can facilitate and provide skills training, both of which are vital to a successful retreat. Participants often wait to see what opinion their bosses have before voicing their own perspectives, which is counter-productive to the retreat’s purpose. A facilitator will establish guidelines about how everyone will be heard and how decisions will be made.

Create Sustained Accountability

  • Accountability should be built into the overall design of the program. Many leadership teams fail to follow-through on the insightful plans they’ve crafted over the course of a retreat. Before the retreat is over, set a date for team members to report on their actions. Contact us for ideas on how to infuse accountability into your strategic planning process and also, take ideas from our book, “Winning With Accountability, The Secret Language of High Performing Organizations”.
  • Encourage meaningful dialogue to determine what level of support participants have before commitments are made. Are people enthusiastic? Lukewarm? Opposed? Polling for level of commitment enables the team to openly address concerns in ways that maximize real accountability after the retreat.

For more on this topic, read our book.

As always, we welcome your comments. Join us on facebook to share your experiences or email us at [email protected].

CEO coach

Our Coaching and Accountability Solutions Receive National Media Attention in India

Dynamic Results has been delivering accountability programs, executive coaching, and strategic planning services since 2003 . . . In 2010 we opened an office in India.

Although the Western world is well acquainted with the benefits of partnering with a professional development organization, this is not yet the case in the East. There, our industry is less mature, and many potential clients are unacquainted with what we do and how we do it. This makes it challenging to create discussions about the benefits of working with us.

With that background, you will understand how pleased we are to announce that India’s leading business magazine Businessworld recently featured Dynamic Results and our India Managing Director Christopher Doyle, as industry leaders in executive development. Using our accountability method, Chris and our team are leading executive and organizational change in a variety of successful organizations.

Introduction: Meet the CEO Coaches

But who are these people who make the CEOs what they are or what they want to be — confident, assured, poised? Meet the CEO coaches. They are impartial observers who push the CEOs to exploit their potential. They don’t pass judgements; only point out strengths and weaknesses. They help others understand how things can be done differently. Ask them what they do and their most common reply is: “Hold up the mirror to the CEO.” Their guiding principle is: “Ask, don’t tell.” They help the CEOs understand problems rather than give solutions. By asking open-ended questions they facilitate the process of self-discovery and self-motivation.

Begin Reading The Article:

To Be Or Not To Be Coached

“Though a new phenomena by that name now, CEO coaching has existed in India for the past 30-40 years,” says [Gopal] Shrikanth. Earlier, there were strategic advisors who were essentially management gurus and expat professors who, having spent their formative years in India, would combine a trip to India once or twice a year with some professional linkup with their former batchmates. One of the reasons behind asking for external help is age. CEOs today are no longer old men who have spent decades in the industry and learnt through experience. Instead, they are young, mostly in early-to-mid 40s, have all the right degrees and management jargon to spew, full of energy and positive attitude, but often lack the sheer gravitas needed to make the cut. Moreover, expatriates posted in India as well as Indians dealing with foreign bosses now need to understand a lot of cross-cultural nuances.

Read More or buy the book today!

As always, we welcome your comments. Join us on facebook to share your experiences or email us at [email protected].

The Language of Accountability: How Accountable Organizations Use Our Method for Increased Business Results (Part One of Three)

Nine-tenths of life’s serious controversies come from misunderstanding.
-Louis Brandeis

wwa-book-badgeTraditionally, language is perceived to be the structure of how messages are sent and received. However, language actually achieves more by stimulating opinions and creating emotional responses.

For example, there’s a new restaurant in town … and the people you work with are raving about the food. Even before you set foot in that restaurant or have lifted that first forkful of food, you now have an opinion. You have positive emotions about that restaurant, simply because you’ve heard language like “great food,” “ambiance” and “the best I’ve ever had.”

We use language all of the time, either as a transmitter of our thoughts and information or as a receiver of others’ thoughts and information. Since you use language anyway, why not use it in an intentional way to get or achieve what you want?

In creating a high-accountability culture, the appropriate language will elevate performance and improve your communication efficiency. Your dialogue will be fast, powerful and complete.

The Four Stages of Language Development

Accountability language is real. It is visible and palpable, and there is a process to learning and using it to help you achieve positive results.

Learning the Language of Accountability is similar to how human beings learn their native language. Toddlers, for example, hear their parents using language. At some point in their development, toddlers may even mimic the sounds their parents are using, even though they don’t know the words or understand the meaning.

Eventually, these little ones begin to connect meanings to words, learn to string them together into sentences and then begin using language to convey their needs or get what they want. That’s one way we learned our native language.

Now, suppose your native language is English and you’re sitting in an airport. The couple next to you is speaking Portuguese, a language you’ve never heard before.

Several weeks later, you’re watching a Portuguese movie with English subtitles and you immediately recognize this as the language the couple had been speaking at the airport. Because you’re a lifelong learner and you are interested in foreign languages, you decide to sign up for a Portuguese course at the local college. By the end of the semester, you have a basic understanding of close to 100 vocabulary words. As you continue to read, study and listen to Portuguese, before long, not only can you understand spoken Portuguese, but you are also beginning to speak it yourself.

The learning process of developing organizational accountability language is very similar to learning a new language. The same four phases of language learning – hearing, recognizing, understanding and speaking – apply.

To learn more, read the full book.

The Four Steps of Learning a New Language

1. Hearing
2. Recognizing
3. Understanding
4. Speaking – this is when organizational change begins

In this chapter, you will discover that as you apply the Language of Accountability, you will model it for your team and others you work with. Eventually, it will be a natural process. Your accountability culture begins … not with the organization changing as a whole but, instead, with the language that you as an individual choose to use. It is through individual change that organizational change occurs and the change begins with you!

Accountability Gaps and How They Grow

You will also discover that high-accountability cultures are something you can see.

To illustrate this, let’s take a professional basketball player, a star of the NBA who, at one time in his career, declared, “I’m not a role model. Parents should be role models.”

We’re not using his name here because that was a goofy thing for any star athlete to say. Because, despite what he thought, there were thousands of children admiring that NBA star, wearing his jersey number, and shooting baskets until dark to become just like him. In the context of accountability, even though he was a top scorer and exciting to watch on the court, you could see that athlete wasn’t a star in the Culture of Accountability.

Now, let’s turn the dial to 1993 and the confrontation at the Mt. Carmel Complex of the Branch Davidians led by David Koresh in Waco, Texas.

On April 19, 1993, Attorney General Janet Reno gave the FBI permission to flush the Davidians out of their residence, using tanks to smash holes in the walls of the building and then spraying tear gas into the residence. Agents then fired more than 350 “ferret” grenades into the building, but none of the Davidians obeyed the FBI’s command to exit the residence. A fire then broke out and 76 Davidians, including 27 children, perished.

As word of the confrontation and resulting deaths made the evening news, Janet Reno stepped up to the microphone at a White House press conference. “I made the decision,” she said. “I’m accountable. The buck stops with me.” Her words were notable – and noticeable – because you rarely hear politicians speak this way. At that time, she was the first female U.S. attorney general and fairly new to her job. Yet, in the face of a tragic and controversial situation, she stepped forward and was accountable. You could see that Janet Reno was exhibiting an accountability culture that was the model for her entire organization.

So, what does a high-accountability culture look like? Accountability cultures do not happen overnight. The culture evolves from one person or event to the next.

One common denominator is that in accountability cultures, everyone holds each other accountable for their commitments in a positive and productive manner.

Earlier, we asked if you had ever had a relationship or a project fail. If you answered, “Yes,” chances are high that failure occurred because specificity was missing at the front end and expectations weren’t clear. That relationship or that project failed because there were “accountability gaps.”

Accountability gaps are like potholes in a road. The gaps are holes that need to be filled quickly with specificity before greater damage is done. Just like potholes in the road need to be filled quickly with paving materials before the holes become so large that they damage the cars on the road, an “accountability gap” exists when specificity is missing.

Let’s take poor Max, who was hired by a large company. His boss told him, “Max, we’re glad to have you on the team, and as long as you do a good job, your employment with us is solid.” Unfortunately, his boss didn’t tell Max, specifically, what a good job looked like (count this as one pothole). When Max headed the team for a major project, the boss said, “Get that final report to me as soon as you can.” Once again, did that mean tomorrow or next week? Max did his best but the report was several days tardy in his boss’s eyes (another pothole).

By the time Max was fired, his tenure was rutted with potholes, lacking specificity and becoming deeper and causing more damage as the weeks and months went by.

Max failed because there was specificity missing in every expectation and assignment. Nothing was clearly stated at the front end … and when there’s no specificity on the front end, Max was set up to fail.

But, let’s not throw Max’s boss under the bus just yet. Max made a big mistake, as well. He “assumed” he knew what the boss meant when he was told to “do a good job” and to get the report completed “as soon as you can.” Assumptions dig deep potholes and are great contributors to accountability gaps leading to a failed project or relationship … and these lead to bad feelings, which become a vicious cycle of dysfunction. Accountability is a two-way street. If you complete a task that was not specific and someone is disappointed in your work, you are the one who is considered unreliable. You’re past the point of no return. It’s too late for expectations. It’s a “gotcha” of the worst kind in every sense.

It is the role of both the sender and the receiver of the information to make sure all the potholes are filled before the task begins.

Henry Evans, Managing Partner of Dynamic Results and author of the best-selling book, “Winning with Accountability: the Secret of Language of High Performing Organizations” currently printing its fifth edition and being distributed internationally. We’ve seen a big response over the years to our method and the delivery of it

Thank you for reading the first (of three) installments of chapter three. Next month, we’ll continue with more free content from our best selling book “Winning With Accountability, The Secret Language of High Performing Organizations“. In that article, we will expose the “glossary of failure”™, or put simply: the language which leads to relationship and project failure.

Want to know more about creating accountable cultures? Take our free assessment or buy the book here.

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

With the global success of our best-selling book “Winning With Accountability, The Secret Language of High Performing Organizations” (now in its fifth edition) we are giving you the third chapter in three installments. In this, the first installment, we are sharing the “Language of Accountability”.

The preceding text is copyrighted material from the best selling book; Winning with Accountability, the Secret Language of High Performing Organizations.

As always, we welcome your comments. Join us on facebook to share your experiences or email us at [email protected].

The Language of Accountability: “Glossary of Failure” ™ or put simply, The language which leads to relationship and project failure. (Part Two of Three)

The Glossary of Failure

wwa-book-badgeLanguage used to forecast relationship or project failure is called the “Glossary of Failure.” It’s ambiguous, lack’s specificity and will assuredly lead to disappointment, failure and bad feelings. Ambiguity and generalizations lead to disappointment.

Here’s a good example. If you ask three people what “ASAP” means to them, you’ll probably get three different answers as to the specific timeframe in which “ASAP” is carried out.

Now, let’s say I’m promising an external customer a new copier and I’m relying on you to complete the service contract. You tell me you’ll get it to the customer ASAP – an ambiguous answer. How can I make a real delivery commitment to that customer?

Or, what about the ambiguous “I’ll get right on it”? Do you mean you’ll do the task immediately … or as soon as you finish reading your e-mails … or after you’ve had lunch? When is “right on it”?

Don’t confuse the Glossary of Failure with lack of intention. Sometimes, “I’ll get right on it,” means that they have great intention and, in fact, really intend to complete the project. You don’t want to dampen their enthusiasm but you do wish to clarify the commitment.

Intentions can’t be measured. The employee who promised to “get right on it” may have had no intention of getting to your project this afternoon, the next day or even this week. That’s not lack of accountability. That’s grounds for termination due to lack of interest.

Suppose someone says they are going to have a report “by the end of the day.” So, what’s “the end of the day” for you? Is it 5 p.m.? Is it your bedtime? Or, does the end of the day come when the clock strikes midnight? Who knows and how can the person be held accountable for an ambiguous answer?

If you’re working with branch offices around the country or around the globe, the “end of the day” occurs at many different times. Let’s say you’re working on the East Coast and someone on the West Coast promises a completed task by the end of the day. Is that Eastern Standard Time or Pacific Time? Is it at 5 p.m. on your coast or 5 p.m. on their coast?

Even things that seem obvious can be a part of the Glossary of Failure. What about a promise to complete a project by the end of the year? If your corporation works on a fiscal year, that could be August or September or October. If it works on a calendar year, it’s December – but is it the first of December or the last day of December?

As you are probably observing, these types of ambiguities are all part of the Glossary of Failure … and every one of these vague phrases increases the chances of relationship or project failure.

Here are some of the biggest offenders from the Glossary of Failure:

  • Soon
  • ASAP
  • Right away
  • I’ll get right on it
  • The end of the day/week/month/year
  • Later
  • Try
  • Should
  • Best
  • Might
  • By the “next time” we meet
  • We

So what can you do to neutralize this ambiguity? Begin using the language of specificity.

High-Accountability Language

The opposite of the Glossary of Failure is the Language of Specificity.

Instead of saying, “I’ll have this report on your desk ASAP,” you say, “I’ll have that report on your desk by 1 p.m. this afternoon.”

Rather than saying, “We’ll have the project completed by the end of the day,” tell your counterpart, “I’ll have it wrapped up by Tuesday, June 13th at 10 a.m., your time.”

Like the three most important rules of real estate are “location, location, location,” the three most important rules in creating an accountability culture are “specificity, specificity, specificity.”

Practice making commitments, using the Language of Accountability by saying, “I will do it on ‘X’ date at ‘X’ time.”

The Language of Specificity includes:

  • What date and time should I follow up with you to make sure the loop is closed?
  • Who owns it?
  • I own it!
  • Will (e.g., “I will’ in lieu of “try,” “should,” or “might.”)
  • Here’s what it will look like when it is completed.
  • Using the Language of Specificity will increase accountability and strengthen the accountability culture within your organization.

As you practice avoiding the Glossary of Failure and increase your mastery of the Language of Specificity, you’ll see your performance increase. High-performing leaders are skilled at listening for ambiguity in language and replacing it with specificity.

Remember the four steps of acquiring new language – hearing, recognizing, understanding and speaking? You will experience this same sequence as you become highly skilled at listening for specificity.

You’ll also move through these same four phases as you begin using the Language of Specificity when asking for – and making – commitments and building a Culture of Accountability within your organization.

Thank you for reading the first two (of three) installments of chapter three. Next release, we’ll continue with more free content from our best selling book “Winning With Accountability, The Secret Language of High Performing Organizations”. In that article, we will expose the “glossary of failure”™, or put simply: the language which leads to relationship and project failure.

Want to know more about creating accountable cultures? Take our free assessment or buy the book here.

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

As always, we welcome your comments. Join us on facebook to share your experiences or email us at [email protected]

Henry Evans, Managing Partner of Dynamic Results and author of the best selling book, “Winning with Accountability: the Secret Language of High Performing Organizations.” If you tuned into us last month, we gave you the first part of Chapter three of this book, we introduced the idea of accountability gaps. In the second part of Chapter three, which we’re giving you this month, we’re going to talk to the specific kind of language that is a good predictor of future relationship and project failure, as well as what the language of specificity sounds like. Finally next month, we’re going to give you some of the best practices that our highest performing clients deploy in order to stay ahead of their competition. Hope you enjoyed this month’s article and look forward to seeing you again next month.

With the global success of our best-selling book “Winning With Accountability, The Secret Language of High Performing Organizations” (now in its fifth edition) we are giving you the third chapter in three installments. In this, the second installment, we are sharing the “Glossary of Failure”.

Please enjoy chapter three with our compliments.

The following text is copyrighted material from the best selling book;
“Winning with Accountability, the Secret Language of High Performing Organizations”

Your Role in Creating an Accountable Culture for Your Organization: How You Can Apply Our Accountability Method for Increased Business Results (Part Three of Three)

wwa-book-badgeState It Once

A Culture of Accountability also helps eliminate redundancy. Focusing solely on a problem and not on the solution wastes resources on redundancy. Everyone knows what the problem is … your energy and resources need to be focused on solving the problem. It may be productive to voice the problem once, but then it is time to move the momentum toward a solution to improve our position. Redundancy is not in many job descriptions.

A good example of the momentum of leadership would be a conversation like this:

Manager: “I’ve noticed Phil isn’t coming through with his assignments on time … and it’s getting to be a real problem for me.”

You: “I’ve also noticed that, too. What’s causing it? Where have we failed to set specific timelines and expectations?” In pointing out that the failure may be on leadership’s shoulders, you’re looking into the mirror to find solutions.

State the problem once, eliminate redundancy, and move toward the solution.

Reversing Momentum

Language momentum can be reversed … from any person in the organization.

Here’s an example:

In 1975, a movie about a mammoth killer shark was filmed. The title – Jaws. After this shark has eaten a few tourists, a town meeting is called where the mayor, the chief of police, the city council and some influential business owners are all in attendance.

Many see no other option but to close the local beaches to fend off any more attacks and more bad publicity. However, businesses in the community want to leave them open. This is the “high” season for tourists and closing the beaches now will bankrupt most of the community.

The argument goes back and forth between the two factions for several minutes. No ground is gained and neither of the two sides is willing to give an inch or find a compromise. The meeting is at a stalemate. The upper echelon of the town’s organizational chart is stuck in the problem. The arguing is getting louder and louder.

Then, the gut-wrenching sound of nails being dragged down the blackboard interrupts the argument. Suddenly the room is silent and necks are craned to see a simple fisherman sitting at the back of the room near the blackboard. When he has the room’s attention, he quietly offers, “I can kill that fish for $6,000.”

That pronouncement, made by the somewhat obscure and low-profile fisherman (who was probably not on anybody’s org chart), changed the entire momentum of the meeting … and also changed the direction and focus of an entire town. The simple fisherman had taken on the leadership role, and from that point forward, the town’s momentum had shifted to assembling the team that would kill that shark!

That’s the way it can work in any situation. It’s the leader’s job to reverse the momentum of negative interactions – and anyone can be the leader regardless of their position on the organizational chart. You can reverse the momentum by applying your skills and energy toward a new, positive outcome. When a conversation is in the past (with celebrations as an exception) you are probably focused on a “problem” or, perhaps, assigning blame. However, by changing the momentum and focusing the dialogue on the future, you are now working on a “plan.”

In short, you have the power to identify Accountability Gaps during interactions and fill them with Specificity. You have the power to identify when an interaction is “going negative” and reverse the momentum so that everyone involved in the interaction benefits!

Wipe out the Glossary of Failure within your team or your organization … use the Language of Specificity!

In the next four chapters, we will examine the four components of an accountability dialogue. This is where you learn to apply the language principles you just read. By including these

Four Pieces of the Accountability Puzzle in our language, we increase individual and organizational performance!


    • A Culture of Accountability is a culture where all team members hold each other accountable for their commitments in a positive and productive manner.
    • “Potholes” occur when specificity of language is missing, particularly in making commitments. These potholes can be filled in with specific and accountable information.
    • The Glossary of Failure contains the language we use that forecasts relationship or project failure. It’s ambiguous, lacks specificity and will assuredly lead to disappointment, failure and bad feelings.
    • The opposite of the Glossary of Failure is the Language of Accountability … the Language of Specificity.
    • It is the leader’s job to reverse the momentum of negative interactions and anyone can be the leader.

With the global success of our best-selling book “Winning With Accountability, The Secret Language of High Performing Organizations” (now in its fifth edition) we are giving you the third chapter in three installments. In this, the third installment, we share best practices for building and sustaining accountability in your culture.

Please enjoy chapter three with our compliments.

The preceding text is copyrighted material from the best selling book;
“Winning with Accountability, the Secret Language of High Performing Organizations”
As always, we welcome your comments. Join us on facebook to share your experiences or email us at [email protected].

An Interview with Author Henry J. Evans

An Interview with Author Henry J. Evans

Winning with AccountabilityIn the book “Winning With Accountability, The Secret Language of High-Performing Organizations,” (2008), author Henry J. Evans offers a step-by-step guide to help any organization improve performance by creating an accountability culture.

The book and the method it covers are in use by organizations ranging from multi-national corporations, to U.S. and European Executive MBA programs. In this interview, Mr. Evans answers questions about the system and how accountability can transform an organization.

Everyone is already accountable at some level for his or her job performance. How does your concept elevate accountability to a more crucial state?

“Great question! We provide a simple, accessible, easy to understand framework for making and requesting accountable commitments. By having a shared language, we decrease ambiguity and increase understanding in the workplace.”

Accountability requires a level of trust on the part of everyone involved. What should happen when a task is given to someone who doesn’t live up to expectations?

“We wrote about this in the book. Our next book will address this in more detail and in short: everyone makes mistakes. This should be expected. We feel that people who make redundant mistakes should be treated differently than those who make ‘new’ mistakes. Sometimes when an organization is looking at an individual with consistently poor performance, the organization may wish to ask itself ‘how many poor performers do we have?’ before it starts to drop a hammer on the individual in question. In other words, if you have too high a percentage of ‘poor performers’ within an organization, division, or workgroup, you may want to look at your hiring and training processes before you start singling someone out for corrective action. Additionally, you may have a performance problem with one of your leaders if you have a disproportionate number of low performers on one specific leader’s team.

For those who make redundant mistakes and don’t express a willingness to change, you may want to help them exit the organization. We believe that if you have sound assessment and hiring processes on the front end, this is usually not the case. Our Accountability Method provides a framework for setting and reviewing expectations on the individual and team levels.”

A key component of your strategy is the language of specificity, in both written and verbal communications. Sometimes, though, we are trained to soft-pedal our language in dealing with co-workers. How can we re-train ourselves to be more specific?

“One best practice we recommend is to work through your last few days’ e-mails in your ‘sent items’ and ‘clean them up.’ This means that for every request or promise you’ve made in the last few days, you re-write people and fill in the pieces of our Accountability Puzzle that were missing from your original request or promise. Lastly, contract with your team members so that it is okay for people to check in with one another on the current state of particular commitments. This sounds like ‘Hey Rajiv, I know you are committed to making it safe for others to check in with you. How is it going with your financial projections for the Western half of the United States? I know they are due tomorrow at 3 p.m.’”

You stress the importance of an accountability partner, someone who you trust to keep you on track and check you when you go off track. What are the qualities you should look for when choosing an accountability partner?

“First, your accountability partner should not be your boss or direct report. Your accountability partners should be:

  • At a peer level (or outside of the organization).
  • Someone who has your best interests at heart.
  • Someone you trust.
  • Someone who is assertive enough to call [nonsense] on you when you are dancing around an issue.”

Front-loading accountability is a great idea, and yet many tasks and projects are tackled head-on without clear expectations. How do you overcome this in an organization?

“I just left a client organization yesterday after facilitating a day of strategic planning and implementation with them. They keep our Accountability Posters on their conference and meeting room walls for the express purpose of checking in the ‘quality’ of commitments being made in each meeting. They also allow time at the end of each meeting to address action items and lastly, they start each meeting with a review of the action items identified in their previous meeting. We have other best practices as well: try embedding the four pieces of our accountability puzzle in your requests and commitments.”

Your book says that in a high-accountability culture, it is important to first focus on yourself. How can this self-reflection help others become more accountable, other than mirroring the behavior?

“Now for me, this is a deep question. The answer certainly transcends our method and in my opinion, involves some best practices for life. A lot of the work we do in client organizations is getting all members of a team to self-reflect before they begin to externalize the root cause of the challenges they are experiencing. We believe that we have the greatest impact on organizations that allow us to catalyze this type of change. In other words, self-reflection is more powerful as a culture than it is at the level of one (or a few) individual(s) when working towards organizational change.”

Most people are familiar with S.M.A.R.T. goals, but you take it two steps further, with S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals. Why is it important to add “Ethical” and “Recorded” to the list?

“We spend a lot of time on this in our workshops. In short, if you want people to do their best work, what you are asking them to do must be aligned well with the values they thought they were signing up for when they first joined your organization. For example: If all I value is money and my ethics allow me to lie in order to earn it, I will fit very well into a project team which is tasked with making a profit ‘at any cost.’ In my experience, most people don’t fit this description.

‘Recorded’ simply means that accountability is created when someone else knows about your commitment.”

Deadlines worry most people, and your proposal to focus on timelines instead seems much more appealing. How are timelines just as effective as deadlines?

“We don’t mean to convey that one is more important than the other. We do mean to convey that they are different. In school, most of us were taught about deadlines, which is ‘when the work is due’ and we received very little training on timelines, which is ‘when the work gets done.’ We recommend that clients manage their calendars based on what they have already identified as ‘most important.’ We have a process for doing this with and for clients in our Executive Coaching practice.”

Sending accountability up the ladder is a daunting mission for most of us. How can we be truthful about accountability without some trepidation about the process?

“You should have some trepidation when going ‘upstream.’ If dealing with a difficult boss, we recommend using a permissive approach. ‘Hey boss, if I had something to share that might be difficult for you to hear and from my perspective was important for you to hear, when and where would you want me to share it?’ We warn you, if your boss tells you they don’t want to hear it, believe them.”

Your “Glossary of Failure” should occupy a place on everyone’s bulletin board. What are some techniques we can use with our Accountability Partners to make sure we are more specific?

“That’s nice of you to say. Tell people you are working on being more specific and invite them to ask you for more specific information when they hear you being ambiguous. When they do check in, thank them.”

How do you avoid giving too many tasks to your “go to” person?

“Having a regularly occurring and reciprocal feedback loop. An introvert and/or people with certain cultural backgrounds will continue to accept requests from you even when it is sinking their ship with too heavy a load. You need to be checking in (looking people in the eyes) when you are monitoring their workloads. Lastly, we have a theory about what percentage of the time people should be doing what they are best at. The number is 80% and we will write much more about this in our next book.”

Winning with AccountabilityHenry J. Evans is the founder and Managing Partner for Dynamic Results, LLC, which provides coaching and consulting solutions to companies and individuals. He provides performance coaching to independent executives, as well as those in national organizations, helping each achieve their desired goals. You can buy a copy of his book here.

Winning with AccountabilityWant to know more about creating accountable cultures? Take our free assessment and buy the book here.

As always, we welcome your comments. Join us on facebook to share your experiences or email us at [email protected].

State It Once: One Way to be the Leader in any Interaction

“State It Once” means you should, in a productive and constructive way, name a problem if a problem exists. This might be a problem with somebody’s behavior, it could also be a problem with a process. But, it’s never good to just leave it alone and not mention it. By Stating It Once, you call attention to the problem, you put it on the table where people can look at it and you acknowledge its existence.

If you are now starting to repeat the problem or having a redundant discussion about a person’s shortcoming, you are starting to ruin their reputation, demean them and you are also not helping us solve the problem. We suggest that the best thing to do is that after a problem has been stated once, which again that’s productive and constructive, it’s time to change the momentum of the discussion from the acknowledgement of the problem to a solution.

It might sound like this: if I were late to meetings and that were bothering you and a colleague – one of you might say,

“You know, Henry’s late to meetings and I find it disrespectful.”

And the other person might say, “You know, you’re right.”

And here is where the leadership moment happens. Instead of saying, “Yeah, you’re right, Henry is always late to meetings and that drives me crazy too.” They say:

“You’re right, Henry’s always late, what do you think might be causing that?”

Or, “You’re right, Henry’s late, is there anything going on in his personal life that could be causing that?”

Or, “You’re right, Henry’s late, what do you think the root cause is and what can we do to help him be on time?”

If you hear what’s happening in that moment, this person’s kind of doing a judo throw. They are changing the momentum of the interaction so that it becomes a solution oriented one. And we think that the leaders in an organization are the people who do that habitually.

Whenever they hear that negative momentum, they immediately convert it to a solution oriented dialogue. We are saying that those leaders can come from ANY area of an organizational chart, your title doesn’t matter. Our next book is going to focus on moments like this and these are the moments when you can create leadership wherever you are on the org chart.

Thank you for spending time with us again this month and we look forward to seeing you again next month.

 The preceding text is copyrighted material from the best selling book;
“Winning with Accountability, the Secret Language of High Performing Organizations”

Want to know more about creating accountable cultures? Take our free assessment and buy the book here. http://www.dynamicresults.com/book.php

As always, we welcome your comments. Join us on facebook to share your experiences or email us at [email protected].