Are You An Accountable Person…and Leader?

Over the past 12 months I have noticed a trend within my circles of influence about the importance of accountability. Particularly in reference to leadership.

As a result when asked earlier this year to contribute to the e.Mile People Development Magazine by owner, Christina Lattimer, I jumped at the chance to write an article about this topic. I recently wrote a separate, yet related blog on accountability however wanted to bring to attention the importance of accountability and where it is ‘falling down’ in some quarters. By the responses received to the blogs, it is definitely striking a chord with many.

In my 25 plus years of working as an employee, consultant and leadership coach there have been several themes that continue to recur when working with senior leaders, many linked to being an accountable leader.

Earlier in my career it was initially surprising to me how many senior leaders were genuinely stressed and deeply concerned about their capability to lead others, regularly questioning whether they have earned the right to lead. In some cases they were losing sleep and living unhealthy lifestyles due to the real or perceived pressure of their roles.

I now recognise that much of this angst and lack of self-belief has been developed over time based on habitual, intrinsic and external influences, both perceived and real. Excitingly, for the same reasons, these skills and attributes can be grown to turn the negative aspects into positives.

Read More here…Be Accountable To Be A Leader

 

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Leadership and Courage

Steve Riddle:

I recently wrote, “One of the key elements of accountability is the comfort to have the ‘right’ conversations. Being accountable is addressing all issues and providing feedback for positive behaviours also. This is not something that we pick and choose depending on our own levels of comfort or fear. You are either all in or you are out! Strong relationships with high trust allow us to have the right conversations. In all of our relationships, both inside and outside of the workplace, we earn the right to hold others accountable. A surface level conversation once every few months will never cut it. I believe there is no conversation that cannot be had – with the caveat that it is what happens in between the formal discussions that enables us to ‘go there’.”

Gwyn Teatro often writes blogs of substance and relevance, with her most recent revisited offering spot on in terms of the reality of organisational culture and the various challenges that exist in most businesses.

The real decision is whether you are the sort of leader who is willing to develop deep relationships, be accountable and be brave enough to challenge the norms, not because it is easy, but because to not do so does not sit comfortably with your own values and beliefs. I share this blog as another great example of Gwyn’s thoughts and the extension of my own.

Originally posted on You're Not the Boss of Me:

courageCourage has many faces. It doesn’t always show up complete with epaulets and a shiny sword yelling “Charge!!” In fact, I would suggest it more often demands a much subtler approach. Either way, courage is not something we can buy or fake. It lives in the heart of our character. And, it is something we hope to have enough of when we need it most.

Brave leaders go first and inspire others to find their own courage. They defy convention. They admit their mistakes, apologize and make amends when they are wrong. Brave leaders explore unknown territory in service of something greater than themselves. They deliver bad news with clarity, determination and compassion. And, they stay the course when the going gets tough

Brave leaders, too, frequently look in their personal, and organizational mirrors to find something in themselves or in the systems they create that works against their potential…

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Accountability In Leadership

For a variety of reasons I have recently been encouraged to consider where accountability sits within our businesses and cultures. Many would agree that it has always been one of the core inputs to success as a leader. However, how many of us can state with certainty that it is well understood in theory and more importantly in practice and application?

Accountability is defined as, the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner. (1)

The word obligation is interesting in the above definition. I see many managers who balk at this type of ‘obligation’. It is often easier to work in a space of denial rather than acceptance that leadership is an earned right not a response to a title and is never enhanced through bullying or threatening behaviour. Embracing the responsibility of leadership and being transparent in all that you do is a great next step to leadership improvement and credibility in the eyes of others.

Many leaders I have worked with would nod at reading this, acknowledging the importance of being accountable and holding their team members accountable. Interestingly various studies and personal experience highlights that often the same leaders direct reports differ on how this is applied in reality. After all, as a leader how your team members perceive you and make choices as to whether to follow you is a decision made by them, not you.

Being accountable is an attitude and behaviour. As leaders we must hold ourselves accountable first.

What we do matters more than what we say.

Over the past few months I have been making notes as to the types of behaviours, attributes and attitudes that restrict or block people/leaders from being accountable. It is not an exclusive list although does highlight many of the core restrictive inputs to being accountable, especially prevalent in leaders:

  1. Denial: inability to see their part to play and contribution to cultures, situations and outcomes. Quite often this relates to the element of fear mentioned below.
  2. Pride: unwillingness to accept the views of others; inflexible thinking; arrogance and other related attitudes will stifle how accountable you are prepared to be. Importantly, others will see this very clearly, impacting your ability to influence and develop trust in and from your team.
  3. Recognition of impact: taking credit for work completed by others and conversely not accepting when things go wrong. Relates to blame.
  4. Failure to acknowledge or understand the culture of your business and sub-cultures that exist within smaller business units and teams.
  5. Blaming others for what is in existence or where it is at. You are the leader…be accountable and lead!
  6. Lack of self-awareness and emotional intelligence: understand the influence and impact you have on others. Use it to the advantage of all. The satisfaction and benefits far outweigh the stress of the alternatives.
  7. Filtered information acceptance: be honest and upfront in your conversations, even when it is hard…in fact, especially when it is hard.
  8. Fear: the fear of the unknown; change; your own capability; how things will be accepted and many other negative fear-based elements can stop accountability in its tracks.
  9. Make it about themselves: inability or unwillingness to put others first. Being a leader is a privilege and acknowledging that your role is about other people first and foremost, is a big step for many however is a critical aspect of effective leadership.

As leaders we are obligated to lead, which includes setting our team members up for success. It is unfair and unreasonable to expect people to understand our expectations if we have not clearly explained the context and parameters. Clarity matters. The onus is on us first. This can only be achieved if the responsibilities, tasks and expectations are clear and understood in the first place. A great way to lose trust and credibility is to hold others accountable for what we have not done initially and reinforced along the way.

To expand upon this point the simple step-process below that I created some years ago highlights 5 core steps that assist leaders in practice. It is a simple reminder that we can only hold others accountable to what was set up and clarified correctly in the initial phases of the relationship or role i.e. be clear about responsibilities, ownership and expectations. The ability to measure the performance including inputs and outcomes of every one of your employees and the team as a whole is important. Lastly, supporting the process of improvement and change through coaching and development shows that you care enough to be part of the solution rather than a manager who prefers to challenge from afar and criticise without assisting to improve the situation.

  1. Responsibilities
  2. Accountability
  3. Performance
  4. Measurement
  5. Development/Change

One of the key elements of accountability is the comfort to have the ‘right’ conversations. Being accountable is addressing all issues and providing feedback for positive behaviours also. This is not something that we pick and choose depending on our own levels of comfort or fear. You are either all in or you are out!

Strong relationships with high trust allow us to have the right conversations. In all of our relationships, both inside and outside of the workplace, we earn the right to hold others accountable. A surface level conversation once every few months will never cut it. I believe there is no conversation that cannot be had – with the caveat that it is what happens in between the formal discussions that enables us to ‘go there’.

Assessing the reality of situations and relationships is an important skill to gain confidence in these situations. Emotional intelligence and the ability to assess where an individual is ‘at’ will provide a platform for trust, connection and relationships with meaning. Once established most of these conversations become less stressful, relative to the depth of relationship.

One of the biggest challenges to accountability is politics and gamesmanship. These negative behaviours have very little useful contribution to holding ourselves accountable let alone others. In fact, whether it is clear to you or not most people can see politics in play early on – this is a relationship and credibility killer.

In my view those who feel the need to spend most of their time in this space often lack genuine direction, confidence and self-esteem. This style is a way to compensate for gaps such as these, along with skill and capability to own the relationships. Being accountable is a choice, but don’t fool yourself into thinking others cannot see through the masquerade.

Being consistent in your approach and following through on your commitments is a significant contributor to being seen as accountable.

Be an accountable leader by helping your team members through coaching and building a connection where the responses to your questions have depth and meaning. Most people cannot interpret feedback to the point where they are able to translate this information into a series of meaningful actions leading to growth, improvement or change. Interestingly, feedback instead of coaching is what actually occurs more often than not. Feedback has its place within the coaching methodology or framework but is neither a replacement for nor the same as coaching. The core mantra here is to give much more than you take.

The brief video below from Kevin Eikenberry highlights the importance of knowing that accountability is everyone’s responsibility…including yours!

 

(1)   http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/accountability.html#ixzz339dgjVXG

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A practical way to improve leadership in contact centres

Steve Riddle:

Leadership and its impact on discretionary effort and employee engagement are well-discussed…but less commonly become a genuine focus. This excellent blog from Geoff Hardy looks at a case study in the contact centre industry, however it could easily be applied to any company focused on their team members.

Originally posted on discussions on leadership & management:

conceptual-image-of-teamwork-100196527 W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne describe the extent of widespread employee disengagement in an article in the May edition of the ‘Harvard Business Review.’ They quote a study by Gallup (2013- ‘State of the American Workplace’) showing 50% of employees merely put their time in at work and 20% actually act in a counterproductive way; negatively influencing their colleagues or providing a poor level of customer service. Although the contact centre industry wasn’t the subject of the study, who would doubt the findings would be worse if it was?

While the figures may seem high at first, it is the case that staff absence and turnover in contact centres are at high levels even when the economy is downbeat; backing up Gallup’s findings. Figures of 10% absence and 30% plus attrition are still seen.

Gallup identify the main reason for widespread employee disengagement as ineffective leadership.

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Our Leaders of Tomorrow

Who are our next generation of leaders – who is going to step up and take the reins?

 Lead In, Lead On: Leaders and Culture

One of the key issues that I continue to note is that many companies are not adept at identifying the gaps in their business. This includes gaining a genuine and methodical understanding of leadership practices and effectiveness in the organisation. It is very difficult to solve an issue that is not identified or put another way, a question unasked remains unsolved. Non-awareness can be due to various reasons often cultural, political or personal. In a broader, strategic sense this lack of identification can be seen in the outcomes and sub-cultures born out of poor leadership. Leadership development is a theme explored in a recent article in the InsideHR magazine titled, The Best leaders: Few and Far, Born Not Made.

A significant leadership shortage is looming over the world…Leadership is in crisis. Baby boomers are retiring and fewer Gen Y’s want to step up to the plate, creating a massive gap. Quality leaders are now hard to find. We have some data here on 3000 Australian leaders and 50 percent of the leaders in our study are creating environments that are demotivating for people.

If identification and subsequent action is not a deliberate and discussed corporate goal, then other seemingly more critical focus areas will be followed instead. Denial of leadership ineffectiveness in the first place means that businesses ignore the existing issues and not enable future growth in individuals and culture as a result.

Part of the problem is that there are too many leaders who just don’t measure up.

Another related issue is the mismanagement in effort and action for those leaders who are not capable of effectively leading and developing their teams. It is a corporate and social responsibility to ensure we provide the platform, support and opportunity for leaders to contribute and grow in their roles. In my experience this is most commonly performed poorly, with the effort to change and address challenges seemingly too difficult, or is not performed at all.

I have been in positions where individual employees have been dismissed based on poor, ongoing performance and behaviour – some who are long-term employees. When this is discussed at senior levels, there is acknowledgment that these team members had been a ‘problem’ for many years in some cases. My response in return is always, if this was a known issue, then why was no action taken to either develop or remove them? To date, there has never been a reasonable response to this question.

Denial, ignorance and/or laziness to act only lead to dismal results. Is this something you are prepared to accept…or do you wish to alter the outcomes by changing your contribution? A challenging question to answer and even more so to exploit. It is an important query however, reflecting the tytpe of issue highlighted by poor leadership practices and a culture that accepts varying degrees of mediocrity.

Creating a regular process to identify actions for the development of your leaders is an important step. This may form part of a bi-annual review, linked to other formal appraisal or assessment processes. A quarterly review of the progress, goals, contribution and direction of all team members could act as a catalyst for discussion.

A focus on how results are achieved as well as focusing on the end results themselves adds more value to the process. How we get there is as important as the outcome, enabling relationship-building, trust and process improvement throughout the process, amongst other benefits. When we focus on the outcome only, there is a tendency to cut corners and drive aspects of culture that ignore many necessary positive aspects…and often drive negative elements of culture also. This is just as important when focusing on leadership as a contributor to and receiver of cultural growth initiatives. The InsideHR article highlights 5 key leadership trends:

1. A shortage of leaders means there will be a gap in middle managers.
2. Succession planning is likely to be the hot issue ahead.
3. The best companies will be out recruiting future leaders.
4. The shortage of leaders will shape HR strategies.
5. There will be a heavy focus on leadership training.

A willingness to acknowledge the gaps in leadership and developing a culture of learning and growth, along with succession planning steps is a useful next stage. The challenge for many organisations is their willingness to spend the time and funding to understand the existing situation and culture. Considering the current status of individual leaders and the organisational leadership position should be part of the review process.

A blind hope that culture and leadership will somehow ‘look after itself’ is naive and poor business practice. The effort and discussions at senior levels that drive culture and direction can be difficult. However the benefits of developing strength in leadership now and for the future can be seen and felt…now and in the future.

How does your business stack up?

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Why Leaders need to ask Empowering Questions?

Steve Riddle:

The willingness and ability for leaders to engage their team members through asking rather than telling is a critical skill, particularly in the current era. This blog by Tal Shnall via his Leadership Cafe site offers much to think about business culture and our contribution to it.

Originally posted on Leadership Cafe:

Leadership-Questions

Peter Drucker, considered the leadership guru of the twentieth notes that,

“The leader of the past may have been a person who knew how to tell, but certainly the leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.”

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Character and Personality Contribute to Leadership

Is a strong personality an asset or a hindrance in leadership and how does it compare to character?

In my current role we have been recruiting quite a few new team members to our business in recent months and it has me thinking about the impact of character on business and team success. Personality and character are regularly referred to in similar terms and sometimes interchangeably, but I think the difference is most stark when looking to find diversity and the right mix for your team. That has certainly been my experience.

What is the difference and does it matter? Read the most recent blog on my CoachStation website to see my view…Character and Personality Contribute to Leadership

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