Tag Archives: Personal Development

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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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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Leadership Guidance: As Parents and Mentors

Steve Riddle:

Two years on and our eldest daughter is celebrating another birthday. The advice highlighted in my blog at that time remains as pertinent as ever…maybe even more so. As I reflect on time passed, the growth we see in our daughter’s and the fact that the themes still hold true, it is worth revisiting this blog from 2012. Let me know what you think…

Originally posted on Linked 2 Leadership:

Handwritten Letter

Leadership points to ponder for teenagers are just as relevant to adults, especially new leaders, viewed via a father’s letter to a teen.

A Father’s Letter

Today you turn 13 years old. I am amazed at how quickly this time has gone and the next 10 years will fly by as well. Then you will be well into your 20’s, however there is a lot that you will see, hear and be tempted by during this time. Much of it will be wonderful, inspiring and of great benefit to you and how you are seen and interact with others.

There will also be some potential pitfalls and challenges, many of which you will not see coming. That is OK. Our job is not to wrap in you cotton balls or bubble-wrap, protecting you from what are ultimately learning opportunities. Our role is and has always been to help you through…

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Success and Influence

You can build a throne with bayonets, but you can’t sit on it for long ~Boris Yeltsin

This quote can be interpreted in many ways. For me, it refers to progress and how we measure our own success.

How we get ‘there’ is as important, if not more so, than the end result.

How do you measure success and progress? Achieving ‘Success’ and career progression through aggression, politicised behaviour, putting self-first and stepping on others to reach great heights, has a limited life expectancy. I have found the most satisfying and rewarding outcomes mostly derive from interactions with others, along with an ability and willingness to give more than take.

The opportunities to succeed often come from your efforts to support as many people as you can through:

  • Engaging thought and conversation
  • Seeking counsel and being willing to act as counsel
  • Listening genuinely with no bias
  • Understanding your own values and how they align with others

Affirming success as a direct outcome of your influence with and through others is not only more gratifying, but is of greater benefit to all. How you are judged by others depends on many things, including how you treat people and how you make them feel. Especially those who matter most to you.

Consider the key relationships in your life and how they have supported you and whether you have been supportive of them achieving their own dreams and desires. Have you reinforced and backed in an encouraging way?

Are you genuinely comfortable in that position or are you wondering how long will it be before you have to move on – or, to put it another way, what is your throne made from?

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Drive and Motivation: 360 View Leadership

CoachStation: Motivation and Drive on Motivation Drive

I recently viewed a clip that peaked my interest regarding what motivates us as individuals. On a side note, being quite visual I genuinely enjoy the RSA animate drawings aligned to the content and topic. The author and speaker, Dan Pink, discusses the science of predictability, human nature and motivation.

Dan refers to two separate studies, one of which has a fascinating finding.

It questions the premise that, if we reward something you get more of the behaviour we want and if we punish something or someone, we get less.

The relationship of what is commonly understood between reward and behaviour may well be a series of misconceptions. Challenging!

That is not necessarily the case, with other factors such as rudimentary cognitive skills, mechanical skills and the link to reward and performance challenging the thinking that higher reward equals higher performance.

View the video now and let us know what you think.

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Roles, Structure and Instinct…Be Like a Bee

In my front garden is a small bush. As we enter the early stages of Spring, it has come into full bloom. The plant is covered in bunches of small, white, delicate flowers. I can see the bush from my office and often enjoy the view of our garden. Under my office window is a bench seat that I made last year using the original wood from a patio that we pulled down in our backyard. It is one of my favourite places to sit.

One beautiful Spring day last week I was sitting on the bench watching the bees, literally hundreds of them, flitting from flower to flower. I watched them for 20 minutes or so working very studiously collecting nectar and doing what bees do….and it got me thinking. How different are our businesses and organisations, the expectations of tasks and designated roles to that required of bees?

I imagine if I followed the bees back to their hives and was able to peer into the inner workings that I would not see:

  • Ineffective meetings being held with members unsure why they were in the meeting in the first-place.
  • Bee committees discussing outcomes like seasonal adjustments related to the weather, honey production rates and similar bee-like measurements.
  • Projects being constructed taking into account the Six-Sigma effectiveness of nectar collection and discussion about how this could be improved…and, so on.

Then how do the bees work so efficiently? How do they instinctively know their roles, understand the structure and are so effective at what they do?

Although I respect and appreciate nature, often reflecting on the miracles that occur around us every day, I am not an expert in this field. I also wonder what external influences have the most impact on the bee colonies? At another level it is also fascinating that there are so many different types of bees collecting nectar from the same bush. In fact there are over 1500 native varieties in Australia, along with the common introduced varieties. They have all learned to co-exist and in fact play a vital role in the balance of nature, especially the pollination of agricultural crops, horticultural crops and the household garden.

CoachStation: Knowing Your Role, Business Structure and Purpose

The different bees do not appear to get in each others way, are able to amicably work together, efficiently moving from flower to flower, pollinating and collecting as they go. There are significant size differences between varieties – but this does not seem to make any difference. There is no apparent political maneuvering, bullying, struggle for alignment or loss of effectiveness through too many bees congregating around a single flower. Bees know their roles and do it well  – how did they learn all of this?

Is there an instinctive drive to play their role or is there a learned behaviour such as replication or demonstration via senior roles or leadership within the colony?

My point is not to make light of the efficiency of nature nor that of businesses and organisations, but to delve into why we do what we do in the workplace. Understanding our roles, the structure and influences on choices we make is often taken for granted. Is this consistent with your workplace? There is value in stopping to think about your own role, that of your team and the structure we work within. This is important at any stage but no more so than with our present economic situation.

The general feel in the population is one where we are ‘holding our breath’. In Australia there are boom regions and sectors and industries and cities that are doing it tough. A high level of conservatism is prevalent – it is like businesses are on pause, waiting for a change and stimulus to occur – without knowing when or where this might come from. Retail spending and other financial measures are also reflecting this conservatism. As a result employees remain hesitant also. Possibly not feeling comfortable to look for alternatives if dissatisfied or worse, disengaged in their current role.

People are stretched in their roles, covering more work that previously may have been completed by others who have been made redundant and/or have never been replaced.

Employees are being asked to do more with less and ‘collect more nectar’, at ever-increasing rates with targets and expectations growing year-on-year. Structure, knowing your role and what is expected of you are crucial in times such as these, however these tasks and associated roles have probably changed significantly over recent years. The role of leadership, engagement and direction remains critical to team and individual success

Good leaders ensure that they:

  1. Focus on the tasks that matter most – they may not be the tasks you are currently doing.
  2. Communicate clearly to all members of their team what is required of them, what support will be provided and how and when the objectives will be measured.
  3. Provide opportunity for their employees to have input into their roles, tasks assigned and offer solutions to existing problems.
  4. Meaningfully engage their team, as a team and as individuals, providing context and opportunity to be involved in the direction of the team and business.
  5. Revisit development plans – their own and that of their team on a regular basis – quarterly is generally a good time-frame.
  6. Challenge themselves to learn something new and substantial during the remainder of 2012.
  7. Review team structure, capability and diversity to meet current and importantly, future objectives. What can be done now to fill any gaps or remedy a potential future issue?

It is not enough to rely on history, your gut or instinct and assume that what is currently being completed is the ‘right’ piece of work. This must be clear to all involved. For  bees, their role is vital, yet simple in practice – pollinate and collect nectar. Your team member’s may not see it so clearly. They each have different expectations, beliefs, values and willingness to apply discretionary effort. Now is the time to stop, recheck what is most important to you, your family and employer. It is a great time to assume nothing!

Set yourself up to maximise the opportunities when the economic situation improves. Start to think about your goals for next year. What does success look like by December 2013?

If working on the same things day-to-day meets your needs, that is fine. But if it does not, or is inconsistent with business expectation, issues may arise. Knowing your role and how it fits into the bigger picture is important. Without making appropriate choices, taking action and setting goals, little will change. You will simply be just another bee doing the same thing and you may not reap the future rewards (honey!) if you do not choose how growth / change will occur and take appropriate steps…today.

The road to happiness lies in two simple principles: Find what it is that interests you and that you can do well, and when you find it, put your whole soul into it – every bit of energy, ambition and natural ability that you have.

(John D Rockefeller III)

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Development and Training – Same, Same: Maybe Not?

Are learning, training and development the same thing? The short answer is no, however training is one avenue to learning and development. Why does defining the difference matter – aren’t I really just splitting hairs? Now, that is the interesting question!!

CoachStation: Development and training - Same, Same? Learn  and Lead

Having worked with many varied people and business cultures and recognising the similarities and differences, it is clear to me that many managers think training and development are the same thing. I have seen examples where a manager has sent one of their team to training to ‘rectify’ a skill gap and behaviour. Attending the training did not make the difference expected by the manager, so he sent the employee back on the 2-day training course at the next available opportunity.

Of course, there was no change as a result. When this manager attempted to send the same employee a third time, I felt it necessary to intervene and ask the pertinent questions to broaden the manager’s thinking and related actions.

I have written about this before, however it continues to surprise me that people in leadership roles too often do not have the skills, foresight or desire to understand the different components of learning and development in practice, not simply as a field within the HR function.

Professional Development refers to skills and knowledge attained for both personal development and career advancement. There are a variety of approaches to professional development, including consultation, coaching,communities of practice, lesson study, mentoring, reflective supervision and technical assistance.

Personal Development includes activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitates employability, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. The concept is not limited to self-help but includes formal and informal activities for developing others, in roles such as teacher, guide, counsellor, manager, coach, or mentor. Finally, as personal development takes place in the context of institutions, it refers to the methods, programs, tools, techniques, and assessment systems that support human development at the individual level in organizations.

Training is the acquisition of knowledge, skills and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies…(and) goals of improving one’s capability, capacity and performance. (1)

At face value the definitions are similar, however there is a significant, almost palpable difference, possibly not obvious in the definitions, but evident in practice. Training is the imparting of knowledge. It is the provider of information, the opportunity to be exposed to new concepts, tools, standards or similar. In itself, it is rarely the changer of behaviours.

Having knowledge is one thing, applying this knowledge in a practical and discernible way that makes a difference, is quite another.

In order to make sure the learner takes in the information in a way that makes a difference for them, the learning must be reinforced post-training. This is where the manager or leader has a huge part to play. It is also where the process breaks down most often. Understanding and applying the basic principles of adult learning are sufficient to aid in development, reinforcing the knowledge gained from training. These principles assert that:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Adults are goal oriented
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
  • Adults are practical
  • Adult learners like to be respected

I recently created a model to visually demonstrate the principle that training, coaching and understanding the nuances between people has significant power in the transformational development of an individual. Any one of the components can make a difference, but rarely does a person have the ability, knowledge or drive to take the learning program to its ultimate state of change without assistance. This is one of the key reasons that training, coaching and self-development tools exist in the first place.

CoachStation: Development Model - Training, Coaching, Profiling and Leadership

John Wenger of quantum shifting articulates this exceptionally well:

For many of you in a leadership position, you probably don’t need more top tips or knowledge about your job.  You probably don’t need much more information about ‘stuff’; you would probably enjoy developing something else, something deeper that frees you up to apply the knowledge and information you have already acquired with greater ease and finesse.  It’s one thing to know about emotional intelligence, for example.  It’s quite another thing for you to apply this elegantly in a living, breathing workplace with real life people in real life situations…(when) more organisations wake up to the idea that, rather than sending people on more training courses that treat them like receptacles for yet more tools, tricks and tips, they should be investing in developing the users of these tools.

Many pertinent questions can be asked relevant to this theme, some of which may be applicable to you:

  • Do each of your team members have a development plan?
  • If not, why?
  • If so, when was the last time you meaningfully revisited this with your employee?
  • How actively involved are you in the development of your team?
  • When a member of your team is scheduled to participate in a training session, has the purpose been linked to an actual development need and/or built into their development plan?
  • Do you discuss expected outcomes and learning prior to the training session? Do you follow it up post-training?
  • In what ways do you reinforce the development of each of your employees,every week?

A good leader recognises that there is a difference between training and development.

An effective leader ensures that he or she is not only aware but actively participates in the development of each individual – this is a responsibility of the role. What are your thoughts?

(1) Source: Wikipedia, accessed on 18/7/12

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