Tag Archive for culture

The Necessity of Accountability

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Accountability.

Depending on your experiences and philosophical perspective, that word can conjure a wide variety of feelings, many of which seem similar to that feeling you got in the pit of your stomach when your mom told you to go wait in your room for your dad to get home. However, most of us would likely agree that accountability, at least in some vague, general sense, is a necessary component of healthy teams and organizations.

But here’s the thing. Accountability, rightly understood, is a shared thing between two or more people. It’s not a one-way street. In other words, it is two or more folks holding each other accountable to uphold shared values and/or performance expectations. That sort of accountability can have an amazing and positive impact on a team because it builds trust, promotes healthy conflict, and so on.

Unfortunately, though, accountability is not always thought of in this way. This is an issue that plagues many organizations, often the higher you go on the org chart. Leadership positions, up to and certainly including the CEO, need to have real accountability in place. When leaders don’t have real accountability, they are able to essentially do whatever they’d like. And that can ugly in a hurry.

Imagine a boss who has limited real accountability, and on top of that has a narcissistic personality, is emotionally abusive, and possesses a nearly non-existent moral compass. That boss will likely terrorize those who work for him or her, because what’s to stop him or her? It’s a recipe for disaster.

How do you know there might be a lack of real accountability? Ask yourself the following questions.

What happens when someone raises concerns about a manager, executive, or CEO? Do they end up being victimized as a result of speaking up? 

Are legitimate and concrete corrective actions put in place for managers up to and including the CEO, or are issues routinely swept under the rug and/or rationalized away?

When managers up to and including the CEO see regular turnover on their teams, are the reasons for that turnover really explored? Or are leaders able to simply shrug and chalk it up to what they might call “bad” employees?

Do managers up to and including the CEO insist on accountability for everyone, but then avoid it at all costs themselves? 

Are managers up to and including the CEO able to routinely talk their way out of any potential issues? 

When’s the last time managers up to and including the CEO took full and complete responsibility for things going wrong on their teams? Or is it typically an exercise in deflection and rationalization?

A lack of real accountability usually has a destructive impact on teams and organizations, and the longer bad bosses are allowed to function without real accountability, the longer the organization will suffer the consequences.

You Don’t Have to Wear Skinny Jeans

I want you to try something. Walk around your department or organization, and ask people how creative they are. Say something like “Would you say you’re not as creative as most people, just as creative as most people, or more creative than most people?” 

And then watch them squirm.

It’s an interesting question to hear people answer, both in terms of how they answer the question and why they answer the question the way they do. Most seem to fidget, at least momentarily, or look off into the distance as if the answer were inscribed on some distant wall and they were trying to make it out.

After the pause, you’ll get one of the three options listed in the original question. In their minds, they’re either not as creative as most people, just as creative as most people, or more creative than most people.

The follow-up question, then, is “Why do you think that?”

This is where it seems to get more difficult for folks to answer. The reason for this–at least partly–is that people have all these strange notions in their heads about what “creativity” or “being creative” is. Some people equate creativity with wearing skinny jeans, having unkempt hair, and producing some sort of art, be it on a sheet of music or a piece of canvas. In many minds, that’s a picture of what a creative person is and looks like.

Others have a broader view of creativity. They see creativity as being able to occur on a grand scale or a not-so-grand scale. They see it in pieces of art, and they see it in cleverly constructed spreadsheets. They see it in beautifully-crafted original music, and they note it in how organizations treat and relate to their people.

You see, the thing we’ve got to get our teams and organizations to understand is that most people are creative in some way, shape, or form and to some degree. Most people, given the right environment and tools, can be creative in that they can think of new ways to do things, or time after time find ways to make things that are already good, better.

So one key for leaders, then, is to find ways to create environments for people that allow them to exercise that creativity. Create venues for them to explore their creativity–whatever that looks like for them–and make your team and organization better.

The other key–and this one is likely a prerequisite–is helping your team and organization understand that creativity is about more than wearing skinny jeans. It looks different from person to person, both in its degree and its expression.

As organizations and leaders, it’s incumbent upon us to find ways to unlock the creativity in people, and help them discover things about themselves that they may not yet see.

3 Reasons You Should Listen to Negativity

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The undercurrent.

Every organization has one – even yours. Maybe especially yours. Sometimes it lurks in the shadows, while other times it can be noticed slithering through various departments. It’s almost always viewed negatively; this is due, at least in part, to the fact that the undercurrent often contains negativity, or at least content presented in a negative light.

Allow me a quick sidebar here. I’m not necessarily condoning the contents and/or tone of the undercurrent. I know, like you do, that often the undercurrent is a place where whining and complaining thrives; and I’m not a fan of either of those things. Further, I’m not saying that employees ought not be coached toward embracing a positive attitude and eliminating as much negativity as they can. But I am saying this: the undercurrent is a reality in most organizations, so why not use it? Here are a few reasons you should do just that.

1. It’s the “inside scoop.”

Maybe we’re missing something. Maybe we’re overlooking an opportunity here. You see, often the undercurrent is representative of the unpolished, unfiltered feelings and sentiments of the employees in an organization. If that’s the case – if the undercurrent really is the uncut, unedited version of the employees’ perceptions of the organization – than perhaps we’d do well to quit ignoring and start listening.

2. There’s probably some truth in there.

Instead of simply complaining about the undercurrent, if we can sift through the whining and complaining, we just might find that there’s some truth nestled in there somewhere. Perhaps, underneath it all, there’s some validity to some of the complaints. Maybe folks’ managers and/or executives really aren’t doing a good job with this or that.

So here’s what I’m suggesting: Leaders, keep an ear to the ground. Listen. Learn. Sift through the complaints with an eye toward how you might effect positive change within the organization. Search for the kernels of truth – even truth you’d rather not acknowledge about yourself – that can be found beneath the layers of complaining.

3. It forces us as leaders to take a hard look in the mirror.

And then – and this is the hard part for us in leadership positions – take a hard look in the mirror. Are we discounting what they’re saying simply because their critique is couched in a complaint? Are we avoiding taking responsibility for things we need to be improving upon as leaders?

If we can wrap our heads around these things, we can lessen the chances that we’re missing opportunities to not only improve ourselves as leaders, but also to be servant leaders who effect positive change within our teams and organizations.