How to improve accountability in your team

Improve Accountability in Your Team - 1

"How can I improve accountability in my team?" That's the question we get again and again. Sometimes that question comes in different words. And when we dig in, we often find this is the question underneath.

Looking for Accountability in Your Team

A breakthrough in accountability on your team could become your company's unfair advantage.

Therefore, everybody wants one. Few leaders get one.

It's one of the most common woes of leaders all over the world. "I want more accountability on my team."

In short, improving accountability in your team is mission critical. If you can't count on your people to get stuff done, and done well, then you don’t have a team. And if you're not getting stuff done better tomorrow than you did today, then you can forget growing. And you can forget having a sustainable company. Sooner or later entropy will beat you.

Good news...

Accountability is the antidote to entropy.

Like the antidote in any action movie, it’s do or die. And, accountability -- profound accountability -- is hard to come by.

Which leads us to why. Why’s it so hard to get accountability from your team at every level of your organization? After all, you’re accountable.

The Accountability Surprises

Leaders who work with us encounter three big surprises about driving team accountability.

2. You may be inadvertently (but clearly) telling your team that, “Accountability is not a job requirement.”

3. Modeling accountability is not enough to inspire accountability in others.

1. You cannot hold someone else accountable.

The second biggest surprise:

In effect, if there’s a persistent shortage of accountability somewhere on your team, you’re almost certainly sending out a message you don't want to send. And you're sending it loud and clear.

For instance, you’ve seen this pattern. Someone on the team chooses not to be accountable. That choice costs that person nothing. That choice "worked out." The person repeats it. Again, it costs nothing. It worked out again. Behavior reinforced.

The message you’re sending, "Accountability is not a job  requirement."

In other words -- and this may sting a little -- if your team is persistently unaccountable, then you are not being accountable.

Pointedly, you get what you tolerate. Chronic accountability gaps are a sure sign that leaders are tolerating accountability gaps. If you want a breakthrough in accountability on your team, then you will have to embrace accountability to ensuring accountability

Lee Cockerell, former EVP of Ops at Disney World, illustrated this idea in a story he told me.

Story time

Lee had been the Director of Food and Beverage at a Marriott Hotel. It was summer. And not surprisingly, there were lots of flies buzzing around the dumpster. Some few of those flies made their way through corridors of the hotel to the restaurant.

When Lee gave a tour of the facilities to Bill Marriott, the two of them came to the dumpster.

“If you have flies in your operation,” Mr. Marriott said to Lee, “you must like flies.”

Admittedly, flies will be flies. That’s true. And flies like trash. And hotel restaurants generate lots of food waste. So flies at the dumpster is no surprise.

And still, if you’re dedicated to a restaurant without flies, with effort and ingenuity -- with commitment -- you can have a fly-free restaurant. Lee took the lesson that, “If I’m getting results I don’t like, it’s up to me to do something about it.”

To Improve Accountability on Your Team

I don't want my analogy to be too abstract to be plain. Do you see an accountability gap on your team? Then there's a greater level of responsibility you can take on to help get you there.

Think for a moment of your least accountable team members. If they’re permitted to not choose accountability without challenge or consequence, this let’s them, “off the hook.” And it doesn’t serve them. In fact, it leaves them stuck, arguing for their own limitations. And it leaves you stuck with a post that’s filled with a poor performer, cementing the longevity of mediocrity.

Critically, for your most accountable team members, seeing non-accountability around them builds resentment. Accountable people want to be recognized and appreciated and rewarded for their performance. They value meeting challenges and overcoming them over comfort. They don’t want to see equal rewards going to people who aren’t putting in the effort and the risk that comes with accountability.

Furthermore, they want to be challenged by the environment. There's fulfillment for our most accountable team members in being challenged to grow still more skill and more accountability. (Truth is, that's where fulfillment lies for people who resist accountability as well.)

Unaccountable people feel comfortable in environments where accountability isn’t a job requirement. So they stay.

By unfortunate contrast, Accountable people become uncomfortable and unhappy. So they leave.

As a result, the team slowly becomes less and less accountable overall. One at a time, you replace accountable people and behaviors with unaccountable ones. You’re in a crushing feedback loop of doom. You're unrecruiting.

The third biggest surprise:

Modeling is not enough.

Leaders we work with tell us, “I keep showing them what accountability looks like. I demonstrate it every day.” They ask , “Why don’t my people follow my lead?”

One CEO recently asked, “Why don’t they get it? It’s common sense!”

The truth is, there’s no such thing as common sense. Common sense comes from common experience, and no two of us truly have that.

If you want accountability from the people on your team, yes, you must model accountability. When you're not accountable, you’ll be seen as a hypocrite for insisting on accountability from others.

And, modeling alone won’t get the job done.

For instance, your people don't all speak exactly the same way you do. You use the word, "ain't." They don't. Likewise, your team won't necessarily pick up your behaviors of accountability simply because you model those behaviors.

The single biggest surprise:

What surprises many intentional and conscientious leaders most is this.

You cannot hold someone else accountable.

Accountability is a personal and an individual choice.

We leaders can ask others to be accountable. We can invite them to join us in accountability. And others look to us to draw inspiration. Inspire others to embrace accountability.

What we cannot do is force the issue.

We’re faced with the famous horse adage, “You can lead a horse to water.” Drinking… Choosing accountability… That’s out of our hands.

In fact, try to force someone into accountability, and you’ll earn more resistance than success.

In the next installment of "Improve Accountability in Your Team," I'll introduce the not-magic formula you can employ to create an accountability breakthrough in three months or less.

 

Follow this link for the second installment of our Accountability Culture Guide, or contact us today to ask for the whole guide all at once.


Receiving the F-word: Feedback

We get a lot of people asking us about the ‘F’-word.

Feedback

Almost every question we get is about how to deliver effective feedback. And that’s a great question.

Often overlooked and at least as important…

How to receive feedback.

People who receive feedback well perform better. They learn and grow faster. They develop more meaningful and more beneficial relationships. Their careers thrive with allies to push them along. Feedback fills in our blindspots, provides motivation, and nurtures relationships.

Today I’ll focus on the corrective kind of feedback.

(I’m not a fan of the concept of “positive” and “negative” feedback. It’s all useful. I prefer “corrective” and “congratulations.”)

So, a brief treatise on taking it in… without shouting the famous F-word in response.

What to do when receiving corrective feedback

  1. Assume positive intent. Decide as a matter of personal discipline that the person speaking to you intends the best for you. Usually it’s true. Even when it’s not, you’ll be well served to act and think as if it is.
  2. Say, “Thank you.” Whether someone is giving you kudos or correction, the first relevant response is, “Thank you.” Especially if someone is giving you critique, they’re taking a risk to provide you with input.
  3. Seek to understand. Do you understand what the other person is saying and why? “You need to do a better job connecting with the audience.” That could mean so many things… It could mean: a)Tell stories that relate to their lives. b) Choose a topic that they care about intrinsically. c) Make more eye contact. You can’t do anything with their feedback until it’s clear and specific. Help the feedbacker get there.
  4. Reflect. Reflect back what you’re hearing. “I think you’re telling me that they audience was disengaged because I was looking at my notes too much.” And, ask for examples from your behavior that reflect the criticism they’re offering. “When you’re telling the story of client success, you were reading the story from your notes verbatim. That’s a particularly important time to be a bit more off-the-cuff, and work on bringing the audience into your narrative.”
  5. Try it on. And… Don’t argue. Seriously. Don’t argue. You can take all the time you need to “try on” the critique you received — consider what parts of it may or may not be relevant to you. Take on what fits. Let go what doesn’t. Move on with your life. Remember, there’s not much feedback you get that doesn’t reflect some bit of important truth — at least in how you’re coming across.
  6. It’s never about the thing. It’s always about the relationship. This is so important and powerful a principle, our entire “Fundamentals of Adeptability” workshop (the 2nd of 3) is built on it.  Don’t let the facts get in the way of the truth. The feedback we receive is rarely just about this moment. It’s a piece of a larger relationship. Feedback is a trust-laden exercise, and by your response, you’ll either invest in the trust account between you, or you’ll take a loss in that account.

I know…

This is an admittedly short and simplistic take on a complex subject. And like most things interpersonal — it’s also SIMPLE. Simple and DIFFICULT.

And receiving feedback well will serve you perhaps better than any other single skill you ever develop. And it makes you a safe and rewarding environment for others. It makes you a leader.

Try it. Commit to a significant trial period. If you’re like me, your ego will shout bloody murder. It wants you to fight. Or to flight your way right out of there. Have you ever watched yourself deny the validity of a criticism leveled at you, even when you knew it was right on the money? I have.

It’s profoundly powerful to stand in calm and to thank instead.
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If you’d like more on effective feedback — give and take — check out this past episode of our podcast, Mighty Good Work. https://www.theyesworks.com/business/mgw-16-drive-learning-and-growth-with-elaine-lin-hering/


How to deal with fear of the unknown so work can be fun

Fear of the unknown is one of the great performance killers. It doesn’t have to be.

Embrace the Fear

We’ve got a choice. We can freeze. Or flee. Or fight.  Most of us clench our jaw, grit our teeth, hold our breath, and try to face down the fear.

That’s the circumstance in which fear compromises our judgement, makes us touchy and reactive, burns us out.

What other choice have we got. We’ve got the hard choice. We can embrace fear. Decide it’s our friend.

Transform the Fear

Disarm Fear of the Unknown

Fear of the unknown can lose its teeth when we limit what aspects are unknown. When we can assure and reassure one another… We’re a team. I’ve got your back. You may falter, but we will not allow you to fall… When those are the circumstances, that’s enough that’s known to take the unknown in stride.

 

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Your team’s response to the unknown is a success-level determining aspect of culture. Culture shapes and defines the destiny of your company. Adeptability Training helps build the got-your-back culture that supports communication, collaboration, and innovation. And fun. Book a call today.

 

P.S. For another great insight into how to embrace the fear, gotta love this from Simon Sinek. “I wasn’t nervous. I was excited.”


Why No Feedback Is Very Bad Feedback

We recently conducted a workshop on cultivating a high-performance, collaboration culture at HR West in Oakland. Here’s a teaser. Feedback is a critical component.

A Common Critical Feedback Error

At one point, a CEO in our workshop loudly bragged. “Here’s what I do. My executive assistant knows she’s doing a good job when she doesn’t hear from me. If she’s not doing well, I tell her exactly what she’s doing wrong. That works!”

That doesn’t work!

The absence of communication is indeed communication. The absence of performance input is indeed feedback. It communicates volumes. And here’s the thing…

You have absolutely no influence over what your silence communicates. You may think it communicates, “good job.” Not likely.

At the very least, it communicates a message that is far more complex than, “good job.”

And every time, it leaves lots of uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to fear. And fear leads to poor decision making and bad performance.

The Only Effective Feedback Is Deliberate Feedback

Check out this video.

And, please, Let us know what you think.

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Deciding to give more input to your team is a great start. And not all feedback is created equal. We’re always happy to talk with you about what it looks like to be a skillful performance communicator. This podcast episode with Elaine Lin Hering is a great place to start.

Want an Adeptable team?

Book a call today.


Who Is Accountability For?

Accountability: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions

Who’s it for?

Accountability is one of the biggest concerns for leaders today. It’s a word I hear multiple times daily.

At The Yes Works, we very often get the question, “How do I hold people accountable?”

People resist accountability when they don’t trust the intentions of the person having that accountability conversation.

There’s Science

In his book, Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek lays out the evidence. In many workplaces, people wonder whether they belong. People feel ill at ease, anxious, or concerned for their belonging or well being. In that context, there’s a neuro-biological imperative to cover one’s ass.

The brain biologically cannot accept accountability when it feels threatened.

A Powerful Context for Accountable Cultures

Accountability is not for the company’s or for the leader’s benefit. It’s for the benefit — pride, fulfillment, growth — of the person being accountable.

In fact, it’s best to shift one’s thinking away from “holding people accountable.” Shift to simply “being accountable.” That way, it’s an action and a choice of that person for their own sake. It’s not something that’s being done to them.

Would you rather BE accountable or be HELD accountable?

Check out this video.

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Adeptable teams are accountable teams. Accountability becomes something people crave, seek out, ask for. Trouble is, reading an article doesn’t often change behavior. That’s why we created Adeptability Training for your team for a communication and collaboration culture as a matter of habit and mindset. Want an Adeptable team?

Book a call today.


Why Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Says who? Often, it’s said to be Peter Drucker — management guru for the ages.

Why? How does culture eat strategy for breakfast?

Who do you imagine will perform better… A team of competent, motivated, collaborators without a plan at the start of the day, or a team of arrogant, unmotivated, uncommunicative people who start the day with a solid plan?

Which team is going to have an easier time recruiting and retaining great people?

Important or Critical or Both

Strategy is very important. Culture is critical. Turns out, if you’ve got a great culture, you can set the team’s culture to work on strategy as priority number one. Then you’ve got both.

Catch some more of our thoughts in this here video.

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Communication and collaboration are some of the hardest things to get right in any company culture, and the difficulty increases exponentially as you add more people to the team. Adeptability Training gets teams communicating and collaborating effectively as a matter of habit and mindset. Book a call today.


Empathy Without the Pity Party Pitfall

Empathy is a relatively new buzzword in discussions of corporate leadership. And it’s a good thing.

Without empathy, leaders cannot profoundly effect employee engagement, motivation, and performance. With empathy, they can.

Empathy alone can be disastrous.

It’s important to be able to relate to one another’s feelings, to understand where one another is coming from, and to be able to predict what stimuli may lead to what responses.

Without other emotional intelligence ingredients, empathy can lead us to a pity party. I know what you mean. And, I feel for you. Moreover, I feel your pain. Of course these circumstances are hard. Those statements lead to connection. Left alone, they can lead to inaction and ineffectiveness.

And… Empathy + commitment to purpose = compassion.

Check out this video.

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Compassion is a key element of successful high-performing culture. And culture shapes and defines the destiny of your company. Adeptability Training helps build leadership habit that supports communication, collaboration, and innovation. And fun. Book a call today.


Why Most Corporate Training Doesn't Work, and What to Do About It

There are a number of factors contributing to the prevalence of mind-numbing corporate training programs out there that don’t lead to change.

In this video, 4 reasons and remedies.

It’s not a lack of great information. And it’s not a shortage of well-meaning corporate training providers. I blame school. It’s the model we all have for information transfer. So school is what most training programs are modeled after.

Here are the reasons most training doesn’t work.

1) It’s not training. It’s teaching — an information dump with a bit of practice for good measure so you KNOW how to apply it. Training involves reps, exercise, solidifying the principles and strengths required to “DO” in the field. KNOWING how to apply the learning is less important than having the experience and habit of using the tools to actually practicing what you’ve learned in real-life.

2) It doesn’t inspire emotion. Our brains have evolved to dismiss as unimportant anything that doesn’t inspire emotion. We need to remember the things that scare us, delight us, excite us, cause us pain, make us laugh. Emotion is the brain’s signal that I may need to avoid or repeat what’s happening now. So I’ll need to store it for future reference.

3) It doesn’t create community reinforcement. Habits are powerful things. Community can help us shift habits over time by providing feedback and modeling. Without encouragement and feedback, we all revert to easy, established habit.

4) It doesn’t effectively answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” Like it or not, our brains are deeply concerned with this question. It’s hard to get the brain to resolve to maintain a new direction without a clear reward in sight. An abstract and distant reward doesn’t change behavior as fast as a clear and present one that’s directly tied to the desired change.

Want your training to be impactful, effective, memorable? Address these 4 shortcomings, and reap the rewards.

 

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Imagine your team operating with great effectiveness and efficiency. And imagine a sense of community among you to fuel that performance. Trouble is, reading an article doesn’t often change behavior. That’s why we created Adeptability Training for your team for a communication and collaboration culture as a matter of habit and mindset. Want an Adeptable team?

Book a call today.


Five Cent Company Culture Upgrade

With just 5 cents, you can make a major upgrade to your company culture. And are you ready for the kicker? You don’t even have to spend the five cents. You can keep your money and still get the upgrade. Look in the sofa cushions, grab five pennies, and read on.

COMPANY CULTURE

There’s a lot of talk about the importance of company culture. There’s not a lot of clarity about what company culture means. At The Yes Works, we have a useful definition of culture:

A company’s culture is the set of contagious tendencies of behavior, language, and values common to the people working there.

Want to know the secret to this five-cent/free company culture upgrade? Thank you. No, I am not thanking you for your interest (although, thank you for your interest). That’s the secret. “Thank you,” is the secret.

Thank you is a behavior that reflects the attitude of the thanker and affects the attitudes and the behavior of the thanked and of everyone who overhears the thanks. In an environment of recognition and gratitude, people are engaged.

A so-called leader I once spoke to said, “Why would I say, ‘Thank you,’ to my employees for doing their job. I pay them. Their paycheck is my thanks.” He wondered why he had to constantly police people to insure they spent their time on task, and why there seemed to be a problem of petty theft at the office. He didn’t believe in a connection. “That’s how people are.”

Whenever I hear, “That’s how people are,” I know that’s a team that could benefit from a shot of Adeptability.

Another employer I met recently complained that her executive assistant said she’d like more feedback. “I don’t know if I’m doing a good job.” This employer bragged, “I told her, ‘You’re still here, aren’t you? I haven’t fired you. That’s how you know that you’re doing well.’” She added, “You can’t coddle people.”

You may find these exchanges cartoonish. The sad truth is, they’re painfully common.

You’re here, reading The Yes Works blog, so your culture and your leadership are doubtless light-years ahead of that. Let’s take it to the next level. Introduce or turn up the volume on a “Thank You” Culture.

“Thank You” Culture

The research shows that if you want performance, you should be thanking people. Non stop. Thank the people who work for you. Thank your customers. Thank your vendors. Thank the people you work for, and those whom you work with. Cultivate a company culture of thanks.

Why bother?

THE THANK YOU ROI

The reasons are simple:

  1. It’s polite. Don’t get a reputation as a self-centered boor.
  2. It’s good for relationships, and as you may have heard me say before, “It’s never about the thing. It’s always about the relationship.”
  3. We crave it. One of the top complaints people have about work, “My contribution is not recognized or appreciated.”
  4. It’s contagious. When we’re thanked, we thank. Thank a lot, and the thanks are going to propagate all over your company.
  5. It reinforces the behavior you want. Behavior recognized and rewarded is behavior repeated. Thanks encourage performance.
  6. Use it or lose it. Behavior not specifically recognized and rewarded fades away. It’s not because people are peevish. It’s the way our brains are wired. Thanks reward the centers of the brain that crave belonging — and those centers are powerful indeed. “Thank you” is the best kind of peer-pressure.

A management truism is, you reliably get what you measure. That’s true of ourselves as well as those we supervise, so we’ve got a tool for you. It’ll help you drive your “thank you” performance.

Five-Cent Thank Yous

Here’s the five-cent tool you don’t have to pay a dime for. It’s an easy and contagious company culture upgrade.

  1. Put five pennies in your left pocket.

  2. Every time you thank someone for something they’ve done, move one penny from your left pocket to your right pocket.

  3. Every single day, make sure you’ve completed the transfer of funds from left to right. That’s 5 thanks a day. Better than an apple for company health.

Sound simple? It is. Still, it can be quite a challenge. We all like to think we’re gracious bosses and colleagues. Fact is, when the pressure is on, when we’re feeling busy and pressed for time, gracious may go right out the window. Saying, “thank you,” it’s only going to count — only going to deliver the benefits — if you’re received as genuine.

There’s a skill to finding and delivering a thank you that’s genuine even when you’re stressed, even when under duress. We’ve got some suggestions.

Here are a few guidelines from our Adeptability program:

  1. BE SPECIFIC. “Thank you,” even, “Thank you for your work,” is nice but gets limited ROI. Specific is far more powerful. “Thank you for double-checking my work to ensure we’re error free on this report.” That’s specific. That’s powerful. “Thank you for consistently turning your work in ahead of schedule. That keeps us on target for our clients and ensures we have a reputation for value.”
  2. TALK ABOUT BEHAVIOR. It’s not useful to thank people for generalities or for your interpretation of  their attitude — “Thank you for being friendly. Thanks for being awesome.” Thank people instead for behavior. “Thank you for smiling at me this morning.” Thanking someone for being, “helpful,” is fine. Thanking someone for, “giving me a heads-up before the meeting that Greg might need the Klein Numbers,” is better. Not only does that make the behavior easier to repeat. It’s also more gratifying to hear. I know you mean it.
  3. CULTIVATE GRATITUDE. Nothing is too small to be worthy of thanks. Thanks for holding the door. Thanks for the paper clip. Thanks for hearing me out. Thank you for coming early to the meeting so we could start on time. Thank you for always doing what you said, or communicating in advance if there’s trouble. (Gratitude, by the way, is good for you — physically and psychologically.)
  4. DEBT ACCUMULATES. CREDIT DOESN’T. Did you miss all your thank yous yesterday? Get ten in today. Did you get ten in yesterday? You still owe five today. (Need proof that this idea that credit doesn’t accumulate is a practical principle of real truth? If you get a bonus this week, is it okay with you if your employer doesn’t pay you next week?)
  5. SPREAD THE LOVE. Don’t focus all your gratitude on your close-in teammates. Spread some gratitude to others in the group, and also to those outside your department. Together with your teammates, become the “Thank you” department. Build a department reputation for gratitude. Watch how easy it becomes to get things done across silos that used to be like pulling teeth.

BONUS

Are you crushing your thank you numbers? Here are a couple of suggestions for upping your game.

ADVANCED SKILLS:

  1. FORGET 5 CENTS. Go for 10. Go for 15. When you’ve cultivated your gratitude capacity, you begin to notice oodles of opportunities. It becomes an unstoppable habit. Spread this culture contagion even wider.
  2. TALK RESULTS. You’ll notice that some of the examples above don’t end with thanks for the behavior. They go on to name the result of the behavior. “Thank you for checking my work,” names a behavior. The likely result, “We turn in an error free product.” You can also build an Accountability Culture on this behavior-results type of feedback. Actually, you can’t separate the two. “Thank you for pointing out where I was failing to deliver.” Behavior. “I’m beginning to notice a tendency I have to gloss over that area of my work, and I’m taking actions to insure I remain attentive.” Result.
  3. PLANT AND FERTILIZE. Sometimes people hold back the behavior you’re looking for. Maybe they’re not sure you really want it. Maybe they’re uncertain their efforts will be recognized and received. Only getting a shadow of what you’re after? Try thanking people for the whole thing, even if you’re getting only the barest hint. “Thank you for your quality control attention on the whole project like that.” Even if they’ve only been scratching the surface, you’ll watch the behavior grow under a nurturing thanks. Thanking someone for their effort in building a new skill will drive and motivate more effort and faster improvement.

Gratitude is an Adeptability Culture skill. It’s contagious. It’s productive. It’s not the only way to get exceptional results. It is one of the easiest and most sustainable ways to drive ever improving performance and productivity.

And it does a body good. Pass it on.

 

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Communication and collaboration are some of the hardest things to get right in any company culture, and the difficulty increases exponentially as you add more people to the team. Adeptability Training gets teams communicating and collaborating effectively as a matter of habit and mindset. Book a call today.