Tag Archive for leaders

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.

5 Reasons Your Employees are Lying to You

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Newsflash #1: Your team lies to you sometimes. Maybe a lot of the time.

Newsflash #2: It’s at least partly your fault.

Newsflash #3: If you deny the possibility of #2 above, you may as well stop reading now.

If you’re still reading, I’m going to assume (yes, I know what they say about assuming) that you’re at least tentatively OK with the above assumptions. So what are those reasons? Why do folks sometimes lie to their managers and/or executives? Why might they lie to you?

1. They don’t trust you.

At least not really.

2. They feel like you’re always talking to them, not with them.

When you talk to your team rather than with them, it’s pretty clear to them that you’re not really all that interested in their feedback. So when you ask if they agree with what you’ve said to them, don’t be surprised when they all nod and smile. And further still, don’t for a moment believe that that means they’re actually agreeing with what you’ve said.

3. They’ve learned — somehow, some way — that being candid, especially with difficult truths, can lead to them (1) being the targets of your passive-aggressive behavior, (2) being labeled or (3) maybe even something worse.

People pick up on this crap really quickly. You may think your passive-aggressive nonsense is so subtle they won’t notice it. But you’d be wrong. You may think they don’t know they’ve been labeled. But they probably do. People are going to talk about the experiences they’ve had with you, and you can be sure that word will get around if people don’t feel like talking candidly with you is beneficial.

4. You say you’re “open to candid feedback,” and yet they can tell that you’d like to strangle the messenger who delivers the aforementioned candid feedback.

We’ve all got triggers, right? Things that really burn your bacon [or insert your preferred colloquialism for being annoyed here]. It’s important to have enough self-awareness to understand what sorts of things set you off. At the same time, just because someone presents information in such a way that you’d dump cayenne pepper in your eyes if you thought it’d make them stop talking; that doesn’t mean that the actual content of what they’re saying isn’t legit. And if people providing feedback get the sense that you’re considering the cayenne pepper, do you really feel like they’re going to tell you the hard truth?

5. They have reason to suspect you won’t do anything with the information you get.

This happens all the time with those organizational surveys. Some organizations do a great job with the info they get. They use it as just one of many ways they get feedback from their team, and they act on the information they receive. That, in turn, makes employees more apt to provide it. See how that works?

So what do we do? Well, we realize that if our teams feel compelled to be less than entirely forthcoming with us, we have an opportunity to build trust within the team. We must embrace humility, fight for greater self-awareness, and find ways to continue using our leadership as a vehicle to serve our teams.

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.