Strategies For Building Accountability
Interview by Elaine Morris – Senior Associate
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It is a well know fact that people resist change at first and can be threatened by new standards of performance. How do effective leaders communicate their vision in a way that creates accountability while achieving results?
This month, Senior Associate Elaine Morris interviews Dynamic Results’ Managing Partner, Henry J. Evans, author of “Winning With Accountability, The Secret Language of High Performing Organizations”. Henry has led workshops all over the world in the last 18 months since the book came out. Over 11,000 books have been purchased and thousands have attended the Accountability workshops. Henry will share, in this 5 minute video, how to face the challenge of implementing these methods and how to help others in your workplace embrace the needed changes.
Here’s a transcription of the video:
EM.: Hi Henry, how are you doing?
EM:Well, I’m here to talk with you about your book, “Winning with Accountability” and I know it’s been very popular and a lot of people have gone through your course and how many books have been sold now?
HE: Well, we know that over 11,000 have been purchased directly through the publisher, but we don’t know how many have sold total.
EM: I imagine, when people pick it up they want to practice it and they want other people to use it with them. Is it useful if they go back and share the book with people they work with, is it applicable enough, will they be able to really use it?
HE: Well, the book was written to do a few things very simply. Since the average executive only reads the first 80 pages of a book, we are a 100 page book. So we figure if you’re that close to the end you’re probably going to finish. The other is that it was written to give you intellectually simple, immediately accessible and applicable ideas, and there are only four of them. So, it’s a very limited in terms of what it’s offering and it’s very simple and you should be able to read it on a 60 or 90 minute flight, land and communicate better in your next meeting.
EM: What would be your best tip to leader or employers trying to change their culture?
HE: Well the first thing I would do is focus on myself and not on all the “stupid people” around me, and that’s the trap I think we all fall into, I think it’s very easy to identify the contributions other people are making to our challenge to identify our own contributions to others. So if you read the book or attend one of conferences and take in one of my concepts, my number one bit of advice is that you will take the time to practice them and do not expect other people around you spontaneously the ways you’re trying to cultivate.
EM: Leaders have been effective in holding people accountable in their performance and in general just to communicate better in the workplace. However, we’ve also heard stories where people go back and get pumped up after the workshop and they’ve had a chance to practice the language of accountability methodology you teach them, and they encounter challenges and resistance from the people around them. Can you give me some examples of the kinds of challenges people can expect and what you would advise them to do about it?
HE: The expectation that other people are going to change because you read our book or because you’ve been exposed to our method. So, when you’re excited about creating a more accountable culture, in our method that begins with the way you behave and the way you internalize this method, so it’s about the clarity of commitments when you are making them, it’s about the clarity of requests you make in others. So everything boils back to you, not to the organization.
EM: I’ve heard you often say it’s about looking in the mirror. It’s about working on yourself. And yet when they go out there, back to their office, and they try to use your method effectively, what kind of challenges can they expect?
HE: Well, one challenge can be that when you start asking people for more specificity when you’ve never done that before, they can interpret that as you suddenly not trusting them, they can interpret that as you losing faith in their ability to perform at a high level. So one of the things we encourage people to do through our method is to go back to their teams and say, “Hey I’ve been exposed to a method, I’ve set some developmental goals for myself, and I want to be better at being more specific when I make requests. I also want to be better when asking people for more specificity when I’m asking people, so if you notice me asking for more details or information, that’s part of my effort to develop myself, that does not imply you’re doing something wrong.
EM: And I hear you saying that with peers in direct reports. What about when they use it with people above them, like with their own bosses, what kinds of challenges do people face?
HE: Well that’s a cultural diversity question, and I mean cultural in regards to your country of origin, but it’s also your corporate culture. So, within individual teams, some bosses and leaders strongly encourage feedback and they love getting constructive criticism but those leaders are rare. Most leaders will make the mistake of pulling rank and they might say, “Well Elaine, I appreciate you asking me when I’m going to keep that promise I made but why don’t you worry about your own performance and I’ll worry about mine. I didn’t get here because I’m a dummy or low performing.” And they deflect the accountability as a company and encourage leaders of developed leaders and actually embrace appreciation for being held accountable for their own commitments.
Henry’s tips include:
- Focus on yourself and improving your own communication with the use of the 4 piece Accountability Puzzle™
- Let your team members know you will be practicing a new way of relating that may possibly come across as more challenging at first.
- Especially assure those around you that you do trust them – this is important because you will be increasing the amount of detail you are sharing in your expectations and in your requests, which can trigger tension.
- Be a good model for being accountable in keeping your own promises, giving commitments with specific outcomes and deliverable times and being open to feedback from your team members when they share how you can better meet their needs.
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