Are You Walking Your Talk?

Whether you’re the CEO of your own company or a mid-level to senior executive in a large corporation, how you behave is more important than what you say.  Accountability begins with you. If you’re not accountable to yourself and your team, don’t expect your team to be accountable to you. Your behavior speaks much louder than words.  

Many business owners and executives come to me as an executive coach seeking to improve their performance as a leader. Once we agree on what they’re going to work on, part of my role is that of an accountability partner who can check in regularly to ensure that they’re doing what they said they’d do.

One of the issues that frequently arises is how they can improve the accountability and performance of their teams. My book, Inspire Accountability, out on April 9th on Amazon, provides a process of inquiry I call the 7Cs to identify why employees aren’t more accountable and what’s driving their behavior. These same 7Cs can provide a leader with guidance on why they may be having a hard time holding themselves accountable for their commitments to themselves and others and how they can improve their accountability.


This is the first of a series of on how you as a leader can apply the 7Cs to improve your accountability and become a more effective leader:

 
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The 7Cs: Culture, Clarity, Capacity, Competence, Confidence, Commitment, Compensation.


C#1 - Culture – How does the culture of your company impact accountability?  I believe a culture that makes it safe for people to speak their mind and be vulnerable and honest with each other is essential to the creation of high-performance teams.  

Is it safe in your company for you, the leader, to be vulnerable? Can you say you don’t know how to do something or that you made a mistake or that you aren’t sure of the answer? Can you ask for help?  

If you’re not vulnerable, your team won’t feel safe being vulnerable with you and you won’t know when they can’t do something or don’t want to do something, or think your request is a bad idea. The more human and approachable you are, the easier it is for people to be real with you and share their thoughts and concerns. So, how does this impact your accountability? If you need to be strong and have all the answers, and you’re afraid to ask for help or say you aren’t sure of how to get something done, sooner or later you’ll find yourself unable to do something you’ve committed to and you won’t feel comfortable asking for help. You’ll maintain a strong external image and fail to accomplish the task on time or to the desired standard of excellence.

Part of a healthy culture is moving from no excuses to no surprises. What this means for you as a leader is that when you are experiencing difficulty accomplishing a task you committed to doing, you are better off sharing your challenges with your team so they are able to help you than keeping the challenge to yourself and then surprising them with your inability to accomplish the task you committed to doing. Just as you want your team to keep you informed of roadblocks and things that may interfere with the accomplishment of their tasks, you want to do the same for your team. Keep them in the loop so they know what you are wrestling with and how they can help.

Integrity is at the heart of leadership. When a leader walks his talk, others will follow his example. When a leader is a role model for the core values of a company, employees really believe those core values matter. And, when leaders think that everyone needs to be accountable except for them, they send the wrong message and don’t get the accountability they desire from their team.  Remember, your accountability is the key to their accountability.

Ken

What Makes Leaders Inspirational?

People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
— Maya Angelou

Dear Reader,

Here are three articles I’ve read this month that I think you’ll find useful for managing employees and millennials in the workplace. Each of these are consistent with many of the same leadership principles that appear in my book, Inspire Accountability.

Stay tuned! My book will be available this month for pre-order! You can access your free chapter, today.

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Here are some qualities that I have observed that make leaders inspirational:

1) Effective listening skills
Unless you're listening to people, you'll never know what people really think. Too many leaders multi-task when people are talking and send the message that what they are saying isn’t important.  You control the conversation when you ask questions and powerful questions force people to think and share what they really know and why they think what they do. In my book, Inspire Accountability, I provide a lot of good questions that get to the heart of what is motivating people’s behavior.

2) Showing you care
How people feel about themselves is often influenced by how they are treated at work.  As a leader, you need to be sensitive to how you make people feel.  If you want people to care about you and the company, you have to demonstrate that you care about them - their learning, their career, their growth,  their development and their life outside of work, including their family and personal interests.

3) Being decisive
When you give an order or make a request, people must know you are not going to change your mind or forget what you requested. While it is ok to occasionally change your mind, you don’t want to appear indecisive or give orders that people begin to execute and then tell them to stop and do something else! 

4) Clear, unambiguous communication
Leaders need to be clear about standards, deadlines and metrics so people know how to stack-rank their priorities and whether you want something done quickly or perfectly. It’s also important for you to be clear about your priorities and what can wait. It helps to check in on their capacity to take on a new task and understand what else is on their plate before making a new request.  Some of the questions that will help you with this are in my book, Inspire Accountability,  in the chapter about Capacity.

Inspiring Accountability Through Inquiry - The 7C Methodology

The power balance between employer and employee has shifted in the US and across the industrialized world. Employment levels have peaked, and companies everywhere are finding it challenging to secure proficient workers, especially in major cities.  Previously, most organizations were accustomed to hiring from a position of power. Today, employees have that edge and they are less willing to make concessions. They know that work opportunities abound, and they don’t fear being left without employment. What’s more, social media, the internet, and the proliferating workplace-review websites now make it easy for employees to get the “inside scoop” on companies, to find out if they are good places to work. Millennials, who will comprise more than 50% of the workforce by 2020 and 75% by 2025, won’t stand for “or else” management. The days of command and control leadership - of “just do it because I said so” are over! Millennials are educated consumers who seek to retain the work/life balance they value so highly. They know their value in the marketplace, they know your competition, and they know what kind of wages and benefits they can command. Today, the burden is on you, the employer, to attract and retain your workforce. They want to be aligned with and inspired by the mission, vision and values of the organization they work for. And they want to be led by compassionate and caring managers who seek to understand what matters most to them and who are committed to satisfying their needs.

 
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There are many reasons why what we term “non-accountability” has been expanding in the workplace, including an employee disengagement rate that according to the Gallup organization’s 2017 report, “State of the Global Workplace” has alarmingly hit the 85% mark, worldwide. Because of disengagement at work, employees of companies large and small, domestic and global are less likely to demonstrate full ownership of their responsibilities, and less likely to deliver hoped-for results to their bosses. Even senior-level employees in Fortune 500 companies, many of whom have been sent to me for executive coaching, disappoint their CEO’s.

Leaders and managers of people at all levels of the organization need to embrace a new paradigm when it comes to accountability. Leaders need to change their mindset from one of “holding people accountable” to “inspiring people to be accountable”. This requires an entirely new style of leadership and a different set of leadership skills. People behave the way they do for reasons that are internally logical to them (read Freakonomics) and that are consistent with their personal values and beliefs.  Unless we understand what is motivating an employee’s behavior, we cannot hope to change it. That means we must change our behavior as leaders. We must want to get inside their heads and understand why they do what they do. We must change our approach from a passive one of just making assumptions about why they behave the way they do (they’re incompetent, lazy, uncaring…) to a proactive one of understanding their truth behind why they do what they do. Leaders need to create a culture of open dialog and appreciative inquiry that makes it safe for employees to say what they think and feel and that enables managers to really understand what is driving an employee’s behavior.

In my soon to be published book, Inspire Accountability! The breakthrough workplace transformation for 21st century leaders in the Age of Millennials, I outline a 7C Methodology for appreciative inquiry. It provides a basis for managers to explore and understand why employees behave the way they do and what they need to do as managers to inspire different behavior from their employees.

Here is a brief overview of the 7C methodology:

The first C is Culture. Understanding why people behave the way they do starts with a culture that makes it safe for people to say what they think and feel and safe for them to respectfully challenge the requests of authority regarding acceptable standards of performance and deadlines. (For example:  Do you really need this done today, or can it wait until Friday?) In many large organizations where I have coached executives, it is frowned upon to ever challenge or question authority. When your boss says jump, you say how high!

The second C is Clarity. You can’t be too clear and just because you said something doesn’t mean that people truly heard and understood what you said or requested. As a leader you need to hold yourself responsible for the hearing of the listener and make all your goals as SMART as possible (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound).  If they aren’t smart, they lend themselves to mis-interpretation and faulty execution. (I thought you wanted it done quickly, not perfectly!)

The third C is Capacity. When managers ask an employee to do something, oftentimes everything seems urgent and important and employees are left wondering what to do first and what to delay, delegate or drop. As a manager you need to ask employees what else is on their to-do list before assigning a new task and help them assign priorities to tasks. You also need to engage them in a conversation about whether they have adequate resources to accomplish the desired task in the time requested vs. saying “I want no excuses, just get this done”. In the absence of this, you may say get this done by Friday and they may think, there is no way I have the time to get this done with everything else on my plate and no one to delegate things go.  At the minimum this causes stress and disengagement for the employee. It is also likely to cause rushed or faulty execution.

The forth C is Competence. Before you hire an employee, you review their resume and work history and satisfy yourself they have the skills to do the job you are hiring them to do. Then the needs of the job changes in real time and the things you expected them to do are no longer the things you are asking them to do. As a manager you need to know whether you are asking them to do something that is consistent with their skills, or if you are expecting them to do things they were never trained to do and never expected to have to do well. Effective management puts the burden of providing ongoing training for employees so that their skills grow to match the requirements of the tasks you expect them to complete on you as the manager. In the absence of this, you can’t blame the employee for a lack of skill. Blame yourself!

The fifth C is Confidence. Oftentimes people have the competence to perform a task, but they have never performed it before under the pressure of deadlines or when there is a high risk of failure and serious career consequences associated with failure. It’s up to you as a manager to make it safe for an employee to fail at a task as long as they learn from the experience and don’t repeat the same mistake twice. You also need to make it safe for them to ask for coaching or guidance on how to do something. Especially with Millennials, it is important to provide coaching and encouragement to build their confidence before assigning something they haven’t done before.

The sixth C is Commitment & Caring. I put these two together because if an employee isn’t committed to you, their boss, and/or to your company, they are unlikely to care about results. This is the hardest C to fix. When an employee first joins your company, they are excited to start a new job. If they have lost heart and no longer have affection for you as their boss or for the company, they are unlikely to do whatever it takes to get a task done well and on time. Your role as a leader is to demonstrate your caring for employees through your behavior as a manager.  You need to survey your employees frequently regarding their engagement with your company and what they would like to see changed at work. Furthermore, you need to respond to suggestions you receive in a timely fashion and make changes that are economically sound that improve work conditions or performance.

The seventh C is Compensation. Many organizations think that compensation is the most important motivational tool. The assumption has been that people work primarily for the money they earn and that they will do whatever they have to do to earn more money.  Today, this is no longer true for many workers, especially Millennials. They are no longer motivated by money alone. They desire to earn a good living, but they also want a reasonable work/life balance, opportunities for learning and growth, fun and social interaction at work, and respect and caring from their managers. When companies only look to tweak their compensation or benefit packages, they often miss the mark. As a leader, you need to align your compensation system with the rewards that matter most to your employees. It may be that they would prefer more time off or more flexible working hours to more pay.  Many people would take less money to be able to work from home.

In conclusion, to quote Stephen Covey – “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” Your path to higher accountability starts with inquiry and only flourishes in a culture that permits an open and honest exchange of feeling and ideas.  The 7C’s provide you with a framework for appreciative inquiry. When you seek to find out why people do what they do, you can also learn how to inspire them to do what you would like them to do.