Accountability or the blame game, what happens most frequently at your business? When things don’t go as planned in your business, or in your life; schedules missed, customer’s expectations not met, quality of work not up to standards; what do you hear? Blame, excuses, denial? Or ownership of the issue, accountability for the results and responsibility for taking corrective action? If you’re like many small business owners, you hear lots of reasons and excuses.
A sense of personal responsibility seems to be a thing of the past, here and in many other places in the world. We want a label for every behavior and every sniffle. If it’s a ‘thing’ then we don’t have to take responsibility for it.
Why is Accountability important?
It closes the gap between intention and action. Between plans and results. Between goals and success. And it’s the foundation of an ethical business culture and personal integrity. If you focus on or change nothing else but accountability in your business, you will see massive results.
Accountability and empowerment are inseparable. When someone is blaming and making excuses, they see the cause and solution as being outside of themselves. Outside of their control, influence, and power. They have no capability or power to change the outcome. Accountability is a promise and an obligation, both personally and to the people around you, to deliver specific, defined results.
How do I become Accountable?
So how do I become accountable and take responsibility? The first step is the simple awareness and acceptance that you are responsible for creating all aspects of your life and your businesses. Accepting this personal responsibility is choosing to accept that we have the “ability” and the choice, to “respond”. Only by first accepting responsibility can we change the outcome, change ourselves, and change the world.
According to Stephen Covey,“Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise’.”
Accountable people are aware of the positive and negative consequences of their actions – they want different consequences – they take different actions. A team organized for accountability, to achieve a desired result, immediately becomes interdependent. In order to achieve effective interdependence, you must have the structure to support it in place. Accountability in your business requires structure, focus and clarity that supports and builds trusted relationships and gets results.
The empowerment of choices can even be fun and opens your eyes to new ideas and opportunities you hadn’t even given yourself the space to consider before. Once you can take responsibility for your choices, and don’t need to judge yourself if they don’t work out, you are free to do anything. If a choice doesn’t work out, great! You can just be free to try another one without any attachment to the one that didn’t work out how you imagined, blame anyone or have any negative feelings about the result.
If you are accountable and take responsibility for your actions and behaviors, you may come to understand that there are no failures, only different choices and results.
John Wooden once said; “You can make mistakes, but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming others for those mistakes”.
We avoid accountability because we don’t want to feel inadequate, not good enough, not smart enough, a failure. What most of us don’t realize is that being accountable has exactly the opposite effect of that which we fear. We won’t feel inadequate, we will feel empowered, to change the outcomes we have by taking responsibility for our actions, holding ourselves accountable, and making the changes we need to make to get the results we desire. Its magic.
Last time I talked about engaging your employees, through developing the Why, How and What of your company. This week we delve into step one of engaging your employees by creating your Brand Purpose or Mission. Your Brand Purpose engages your employees by giving them a cause, a reason to care that isn’t about the owner’s profits or company market share.
People often get confused about the difference between Vision, Mission and Brand Purpose. The company Mission and its Brand Purpose are essentially the same thing. Brand Purpose defines the enduring, long term, unchanging fundamental reason for the company to exist – the company’s WHY. Rather than just explaining what you do, it explains how the company will leave the world a better place. It explains from a customer perspective what business you are really in. It expresses how the company brings it’s principals to life through its decision making, strategic direction and how it treats employees, customers and vendors.
We won’t deal with Vision today, but its the next level down, specifically where the company will go on its way to achieving its Brand Purpose.
Great organizations have a deep and noble sense of purpose – a significant purpose – that inspires excitement, commitment and engagement. What’s important about a Brand Purpose is it’s meaning to the people it impacts, including customers, employees and partners. People can get excited about and work hard for a cause they believe in, but not for lining the owner’s or shareholders pockets.
Simon Sinek in his book “Start With Why” describes what he calls the Golden Circle of your company’s reason for being.
Examples of Brand Purpose or Mission:
Fannie Mae– To strengthen the social fabric by continually democratising home ownership
3M– To solve unsolved problems innovatively
Hewlett-Packard– To make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity
Pacific Theatres– To provide a place for people to flourish and to enhance the community
May Kay Cosmetics– To give unlimited opportunity to women
McKinsey & Company– To help leading corporations and governments be more successful
Merk– To preserve and improve human life
Nike – To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors
Sony – To experience the joy of advancing and applying technology for the benefit of the public
Creating Your Brand Purpose
Involve Employees in the Process: Get your leadership team or key employees involved in creating your brand purpose. Doing so will give them ownership of the brand, increase their engagement and drive their desire to get the other employees on board. I recommend getting a professional facilitator or coach to run the process and ensure objectivity, good teamwork and an optimal result.
Your Brand Purpose should be so clear and simple that everyone can remember it without having to read it! The Brand Purpose should proclaim what’s important and what is at stake. Your team should feel that their personal investment in driving towards the Brand Purpose will enable them to bring out the best in themselves and discover their potential.
Checklist for a Powerful Brand Purpose
___ Is the Brand Purpose future-oriented?
___ Is the Brand Purpose likely to lead to a better future for the organization?
___ Is the Brand Purpose consistent with the organization’s values?
___ Does the Brand Purpose set standards of excellence?
___ Does the Brand Purpose clarify purpose and direction?
___ Does the Brand Purpose inspire enthusiasm and encourage commitment?
___ Does the Brand Purpose set the company apart from the competition?
___ Is the Brand Purpose ambitious enough?
___ Am I excited about the Brand Purpose?
If you can check these boxes, congratulations you’ve got a great Brand Purpose on your hands! If not, feel free to get in touch for help on developing one that does inspire you and engage your team.
If the answer is “no”, don’t worry you’re not alone. According to a well-known Gallup study, only 32% of employees in the U.S. are engaged at work, 52% are apathetic and 16% are actively disengaged. One study also notes that companies with the most engaged teams outperform their peers by 147%.
How do you know if your employees are engaged?
Gallup defines engaged employees as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace”. Those who are actively disengaged are openly negative about the company and workplace. The middle set just don’t care.
Employees who are not engaged can’t help you get the business where you want it to go. They can’t help you because they don’t understand how what they do on a daily basis connects with the higher purpose of the company. When they don’t have a purpose, it’s just a job. Their work doesn’t fulfill the human need to be part of something larger than themselves.
How do you re-engage your employees?
First by spending time developing your brand purpose, your company’s reason for being. The “Why” of what you do. For deeper understanding read Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why”. Why is not about profits, it’s about a purpose, a cause, the difference you want to make in the world. Every single person in your company needs to deeply understand and resonate with your Why.
One of the examples I like is Tesla’s: “Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
As Tesla founder Elon Musk himself put it: “Putting in long hours for a corporation is hard. Putting in long hours for a cause is easy.”
Next, define your “How” – the company culture, the values on which every employee from the receptionist to the CEO, makes decisions on the company’s behalf. Involve your team in developing the company values. Define what you mean exactly by each value, as it relates to customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders. How do you live the value?
In 2014 CVS pharmacy stopped selling cigarettes in its stores because it was out of alignment with their core value of helping people improve their health. This decision was costly to make, but they could not continue operating with this glaring misalignment. Since that decision was made, overall cigarette sales in markets where CVS had at least a 15% market share, overall tobacco sales are down 1%. That’s 5 fewer packs per smoker and 95 million fewer packs per year. CVS went on to spend millions on anti-smoking initiatives. That’s how you live your values. When employees are aligned at a values level in a company like CVS, they become alive and engaged and everyone benefits.
Third, be very clear about your ”What”. The What is the delivery of the product or service your company provides. What are the company’s long term and annual goals? How does what every employee does on a daily basis contribute to fulfilment of those goals? What are the quarterly goals of every employee? What are the action steps needed to fulfill those goals this week, and today? Who is holding accountability for each employee?
To determine the impact of engagement in your organization, get in touch to get a free survey.
Will you meet your goals this year, or next? With the current economic instability, running a business is getting more challenging. I often hear flustered business leaders say things like, “I don’t have enough time to get everything done,” and “How do I find time to work on strategy and goals?”
Time is a conceptually limited resource. We often hear about “time management” techniques to help us get it all done. The truth is you can’t manage time, it goes on at exactly the same pace no matter what you do. What you can manage is what you do, when you do it and how you do it. Time management is really the conscious management of your decisions on which actions to take. Its a core leadership competency for effectively utilizing time to achieve your goals.
It is important to recognize that you have the opportunity to prioritize and to control your own activities, and as the New York architect and teacher Michael Altshuler said, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”
There are a large number of tools available for planning and tracking the actions you take over time. However, it is critical to understand that effective time-management is actually effective SELF management. It comes from inside, not from the outside. Self-management is a critical skill for being an effective leader. It is the ability to be clear and focused on the few things that will create the greatest impact. That focus begins with goal setting.
Setting the right goals begins with the big picture, vision and broad strategies to achieve the vision over a three to five-year period. The next level of goal-setting will be for the upcoming 12 months and this will require documenting specific S.M.A.R.T goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
The third level involves breaking the 12-month goals down to the activities that need to be achieved over the next quarter to be on track for the 12-month goals. And the final level to provide the foundation for effective control of activities is to break the 90-day goals down to the first week of this period. Then measure the results from the first week and set the activities for the next week.
The idea is to repeat this process each week and at the end of first quarter, re-establish specific goals for the second quarter and repeat the disciplined setting of weekly activities and weekly reviews. Each weekly review and planning session should take about one hour each Monday (or Friday) and should include the business leader and each direct report.
The discipline of this process will allow the differentiation of urgent versus important activities. Important activities are those that lead to the achievement of defined goals and provide the most likely chance of achieving the desired outcomes for the business. However, many of the important activities are not urgent.
Pareto’s 80/20 rule applies here as 80 percent of the outcomes will be generated by 20 percent of the activities. Unfortunately, urgent activities tend to be part of the 80 percent of the activities only producing 20 percent of the outcomes. The weekly process is designed to help differentiate between important versus urgent activities on a weekly basis. The benefits of this disciplined approach to managing activities will be the measurable control of goal-focused activities and the actual completion of targeted goals.
Here are seven suggestions to apply self management discipline within the context of achieving better business results and the more effective utilization of your personal time:
Delegate: Delegate activities to the staff with the appropriate skills. Manage this approach through an organizational structure and individual Positional Agreements appropriate to the size of the organization.
Prioritize: Prioritize your daily work by reviewing the next day’s important activities in a ‘to achieve list’ at the end of each day. You can maximize personal productivity by focusing on this list the next day. And don’t do what’s not on the list – resist the urge to be distracted and to do things that you enjoy more.
Clean up: Clean up your desk and office shelves once per month. Categorize everything into four groups: ‘Do it’, ‘Delegate it’, ‘Defer it’, and ‘Dump it”. Before getting rid of anything, just ask the question, “What is the worst that can happen if the item was gone?” If the answer is “nothing”, then dump it.
Handle each piece of paper only once and never more than twice: Don’t set aside anything without taking action.
Put personal interruptions on hold: Put your calls and personal interruptions on hold for one hour, two hours or whatever is appropriate to your task at hand. It is amazing how much work that can be achieved by using this simple technique and not being distracted by a phone call or personal interruption – and most of these potential interruptions will not meet the definition of ‘important’.
Learn to say “No”: This maybe the most effective way to maximize your personal utilization of time and is often the hardest word to use in business. Make sure that if you don’t say “No,” it is because the activity is important in context of your own role in the business.
Balance: Make sure you set aside personal relaxation time during every work day. Don’t work during lunch. It is neither nutritional nor noble to skip important stress-relieving time to recharge your energy level. Take vacations, particularly mini-vacations. The harder you work, the more you need to balance your leisure and exercise time. As any pro athlete knows, recovery is an important part of performance.
As a business leader, the key to effective self-management is to build your personal and business life around your desired outcomes through planned and measured activities, while maintaining flexibility for the unexpected. Time management is, in fact, the ultimate in self-management because it is the foundation for achieving your goals in every aspect of your life.
To get an analysis of your current self effectiveness,get in touch!
Diversity, inclusion and gender parity are overwhelmingly proven to be fundamental to producing our best results, yet it remains a significant challenge for us to achieve sustainable change. Companies have spent millions of dollars on workplace diversity training yet most are left with little to show for it. Most workplace diversity programs fail to produce meaningful, sustainable results, and some have actually increased bias among individual employees.
Turns out you can’t mandate the elimination of bias. The command and control methods being used don’t work. Currently, just 20% of C-suite executives in the U.S. are female, despite the fact they earn college degrees at a higher rate, and start out in equal numbers in the workforce. And Just 3% of C-suite roles are held by Asian, black, Latina or other women of color.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
To understand what we can do to create true gender parity and diversity in the workplace, it’s useful to look at how we got here. The evolution of the human species gives us insight to begin to understand the challenge we face.
Humans evolved, and survived as a species because we lived in tribes. Inside of our tribes, was safety, trust, and survival. Everybody had a role, we had to cooperate within our tribe to survive. If you had a bad day hunting, it was ok, someone else had a good day. Everyone was going to eat.
Inside the tribe was a circle of safety, a circle of trust. Going it alone outside the tribe was certain death. Outside the tribe, were people who weren’t “like me”. Anyone who didn’t look like me and my tribe couldn’t be trusted. Adhering to this principal was critical to survival.
Nearly every system in the human body evolved and exists to help us survive and thrive in this tribal environment. Thousands of years ago, other hominid species died off while we lived on. Today, at least throughout the developed world, finding food, shelter and avoiding danger no longer occupy our days.
In our modern world, advancing our careers and trying to find happiness and fulfillment are the definition of our success. But the systems inside us that guide our behavior and decisions still function as they did tens of thousands of years ago.
Our primitive mind, the one that acts in our unconscious, still perceives and evaluates the world around us in terms of threats to our well-being or opportunities for survival. Our brains release certain chemicals in reaction to these perceived opportunities and threats, or trust and distrust. These reactions actually happen in different parts of the brain. Trust happens in the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC), while distrust happens in the Amygdala, or primitive, unconscious brain.
Some of you may have read Malcom Gladwell’s book, BLINK – The Art of Thinking Without Thinking. He calls this functioning or the part of our brain that leaps to conclusions, the “adaptive unconscious”. It is also more commonly known as Unconscious Bias.
This is the part of our brain that acts like a giant computer that quickly and quietly processes a whole lot of data then makes decisions and takes actions, that we need in order to keep functioning as human beings.
Think about it, when your tribal ancestors were out hunting and gathering, and a shadow passed by, did they take time to think about whether it was a passing cloud or a predator, or someone from a waring tribe? No, they ducked for cover, at least the ones who survived did. Today, when you walk out into the street and suddenly realize that a car is bearing down on you, do you stop to think through all your options? Of course not. You act, immediately without thinking.
That’s the only way that human beings could ever have survived as a species for as long as we have is that we’ve developed an unconscious decision-making apparatus that’s capable of making very quick judgments based on very little information. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s much better to perceive a threat that turns out to be innocuous, than to miss a real one, and die. Our massive brain computers got very efficient at identifying anyone who wasn’t in “my tribe” and was therefore a potential threat. It does this completely unconsciously.
This is the evolutionary survival mechanism that is at the heart of our challenges with gender parity and diversity. Just using training alone, will not change this mechanism. We have to do more. We have to systematically identify and address the structural barriers to diversity. We need to unlearn bias at the individual level and implement reasoning based decision making techniques. We need to create culture shift at the corporate level, supported by ongoing process, measurements and diversity training and coaching.
Countless management books, seminars and programs offer insights into how leaders can develop trust within their organizations. Their consistent theme—“It begins with you”—is certainly valid, as leaders must model trust and set an example for their people. Success depends on a personal campaign of inner reflection, values assessment and emotional intelligence. Training can be effective and rewarding, but much of the focus, and effectiveness, often stops there.
Leaders develop trust in their team to enable them to rely on others to do the right thing. They do this by observing people’s character and behavior over time and gaining confidence in them. They earn trust by consistently displaying personal integrity, accountability and concern for others.
Trust, in fact, is the most potent tool in a leader’s arsenal, asserts JetBlue Airways Chairman Joel Peterson in The 10 Laws of Trust: Building the Bonds That Make a Business Great. Trusted leaders are more productive, profitable and prosperous. Their people are more engaged, passion and loyalty soar, and the overall work ethic is enviable. The organization sees lower turnover, waste and inefficiency.
Trust is not just for the C suite
While we’re often led to believe that trustworthy behavior will permeate the work environment like ripples in a pond, this trickle-down theory is overly simplistic. As Gallup studies reveal, employees trust their coworkers even less than their leaders. Organizations cannot reach their full potential until leaders establish a culture where employees trust their coworkers. Leaders may require assistance from a professional executive coach to achieve this goal.
When there is distrust throughout an organization, creativity and innovation are greatly diminished. Brain science shows that when people distrust their co-workers, the amygdala – the part of our brain associated with the “fight or flight” response, gets triggered. When the amygdala is triggered, it puts our prefrontal cortex – the “executive” part of the brain associated with rational thinking and creativity, on lock down. From an evolutionary stand point, this response makes sense. When we are out hunting or gathering, and a shadow passes overhead, survival dictates that we respond immediately, without stopping to analyze whether it was a predator or simply a fast moving cloud.
To make matters worse, once our amygdala goes into high gear, it activates the limbic area of the brain – where all those past memories of similar situations are stored. Once that has happened, it dredges up similar threats and weaves them into the movie we are producing about the person in front of us whom we don’t trust. Once that has happened, we go into protection mode, and it’s nearly impossible to have an open, engaging, free flowing conversation about anything, much less be able to come up with new ideas and innovations.
What can we do to begin to re-establish trust?
The first steps are to look at ourselves, and work to increase awareness of when we are experiencing what Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligencecalls an amygdala hijack. She suggests the following ideas to help sideline signals from the amygdala:
Notice how you respond to threats – fight, flight, freeze or appease
Notice patterns, do we always choose the same response?
Choose an alternative behavior at the triggering moment (ie; deep breathing..)
Become more aware of our responses and realize we have choices (journaling helps)
Recognize the patterns before they happen, and interrupt the pattern.
Ultimately, we want to work to actively transform the fear into trust. Transforming a company culture from one of fear and distrust to one of openness, collaboration and deep trust, has transformative impact on the overall success of the business.