Event Date: 10/21/2015 (2:00 pm EDT - 3:00 pm EDT)
SARAH SHAFER: Hi everyone and welcome to today’s webinar, Managing Accountability: Expecting and Getting Top Performance, presented by Rick Lepsinger. Today’s webinar will be about an hour and it’s sponsored by Negotiating Style Profile. As a trainer, you can help individuals to develop their collaborative negotiating skills through thought, preparation, and skill practice. The Negotiating Style Profile offers a simple framework for determining one’s negotiating style and the likely effect it has in negotiating situations. My name is Sarah Shafer and I’ll moderate today’s webinar. If you have any questions throughout please type them into the questions box. We will be answering these as they come in live at the end of the presentation or as a follow-up by email if we do run out of time.
Virtual team expert with more than 30 years experience and a proven track record as a human resource consultant and executive, Rick Lepsinger is the president of OnPoint consulting. He is the co-author of several books on leadership and organizational effectiveness including Closing the Executive Gap of Great Leaders: How Their Companies Get Results, and Virtual Team Success, a practical guide for working and leading from a distance. Welcome, Rick, and thank you so much for joining us today.
RICK LEPSINGER: Sarah, thanks very much. I’m glad to be here. And welcome everyone I’m glad you could join us for today’s session. So today’s topic is managing accountability and we will talk a little bit about what you can do to better manage the accountability of others in your organization. In my work with organizations over the last 20 years or so, I’ve noted and I’m sure some of you have as well that there are some companies, there are some teams, and there are some leaders that are just much better at consistently getting things done. They are much better being able to execute on key initiatives and plans and we wanted to understand what differentiated the best from the rest and what is it exactly that they do. So in our study of about 408 companies, which is the basis of my book, Closing The Execution Gap, we identified five key competencies that really were the differentiators and managing accountability, expecting and getting top performance was one of those key differentiators.
So, today’s session will talk about what is does take to manage accountability. We will spend a little bit of time defining it and giving you some tools to be able to recognize and measure it. We’ll talk about the factors that impact individual accountability and why some people tend to take accountability and why some people don’t and what you can do to enhance people’s willingness to take accountability and responsibility for results.
So let’s just start off with the polling question. And all kind of open this up to get your opinion. I have two of them at the opening that I’d like to ask. In your organization to what extent are employees held accountable for results? So, we will open up that poll and please take a moment to select the response that best reflects that in your organization. And we have quite a few people on today’s call so let’s see if we can get a nice percent of people and see what we have here. Okay, so we’ve got about 70% there I’ll close the poll now and will just see where you are with things. So, here are the results. It looks like the majority, well not the majority, but about 35% are on to a moderate extent. And then a total of about 38% are to a large or very large extent and then we do have a few folks about 27% that are a small to a small extent. So let’s just keep that in mind in terms of where we are with things. Let me just move on to the next question. We will show you that next polling question and here in your organization to what extent do managers deal with performance problems in a timely manner? So this is a slightly different question. Let’s see what your thoughts are relating to that. So, to what extent do managers deal with performance problems? All right, we will show you this in a moment getting a slightly different profile here. Okay we’ve got about 72 or so percent. We will close that poll Let’s see the results,. This skewed just a little differently, right? You can see that this is more, you’ve got a similar percentage on the moderate, but slightly higher to a small extent or to a very small extent. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about the implication of that going forward. It’s really about why accountability matters in general. So, in general 77% of leaders in top-performing companies reported that employees at all levels are held accountable for results. And that’s compared to 44% in the less successful organizations. Now, we of course are just a group of strangers, but if we were taking the survey in a company you get a general profile of where you folks are. The second part of that is we talk to 935 leaders, and, according to their perspective, only 45% believe that managers in their organizations effectively deal with poor performers. And just for what it’s worth, in the behavioral science side of things these two questions and up the responses are very very predictable almost everyone says employees at all levels are held accountable and they certainly say I am held accountable but when asked if managers deal with poor performers, that tends to be a much lower percentage. And the truth is it’s very difficult to have it both ways. People are in fact being held accountable you would all expect a higher level of people agreeing that people deal with poor performers. So, you can see that this whole idea of accountability really does matter and drives business results overall. So, let’s talk a little bit about why managers may not hold people accountable. What are some of the things that get in the way. What are some of the excuses they make? We refer to these as the seven tickets to slide, the seven excuses. In the first one is it will get better if I just wait it out. Maybe this is just a one off. It won’t happen again they’re usually doing a fine job. I don’t have to have a conversation about this. I’ll just wait and see what happens with this going forward. The second is that it is obvious that I was dissatisfied. I’ve used my I’m very dissatisfied voice so they know that clearly that behavior and that performance is unacceptable. But unfortunately sending and in direct message or a subtle signal may not necessarily really clarify what needs to happen differently. The feeling that it’s not worth arguing over where the concern that you’ll have a conflict or disagreement and we would like to avoid that kind of confrontation and just decide to let it go. The fourth is your team really knows what to expect, but, the fact is you may not have clarified what good looks like and what the standard of performance should be meaning that baseline of clear expectations has not actually been set for people. And the concern about not wanting to lose your top performers the feeling that you might kind of break their rhythm or break their momentum. He may be inclined to give top performers a little bit more leeway because they are doing so well. So if you’re not covering everything, there are other things they’re doing not particularly good, so your top salespeople if they don’t want to do paperwork maybe that’s okay because you don’t want to lose them and you want to keep their focus on sales. The sixth line is one of the greatest concerns of managers is the fear of being a micromanager and the equating and following up on progress with micromanaging and being fear of being labeled negatively. In this world of collaborative and collegial leadership, the idea of follow-up and monitoring tends to fall by the wayside. And were so concerned of being seen as a micromanager that we really do step back to a great extent. In the last is the greatest manager myth of all time, it’s easier if I do it myself. And unfortunately if someone misses a deadline or misses an accountability we tend to take in on our self and really what we end up doing is becoming complicit in the cycle of poor performance and lack of accountability by basically reinforcing and sending the message it’s okay, I’ll just do it myself anyway. They just take a low profile so things blow over and it’s back to business as usual so here’s the thing about this notion of when there is a lack of accountability there are three key outcomes in terms of the impact overall and two of them are fairly obvious. One is the low productivity, which I think is pretty straightforward. If everyone is not pulling their load in general, that the productivity as a group decrease the second is around punishment of top performers, which may be a little more subtle and here someone else drops the ball, does not fulfill their commitment, what we do is if we don’t take it on ourselves we handed off to somebody who we trust. Somebody who we believe can get the job done. And unfortunately what were doing there is we are punishing our top performers. People tend to work well we give them more work because we believe they can get it done. The people who missed deadlines and don’t take accountability we tend to let them slide a little bit so, inadvertently were setting up a situation where top performers will start saying and why am I working so hard? What are you doing about this other person? Why are you taking action and that leads us to the third outcome and for me this is the one that really had the greatest impact on me personally. When I was leading a team of about 55 people in the idea of dealing with poor performance or holding people accountable for breaking peoples rhythm or momentum when they’re doing other things so well, what finally dawned on me is that by not taking action on these poor performers are people who were not carrying their full load, it really did impact how the rest of the team saw me. They saw me as someone who either had a double standard who is not willing to have a difficult conversation, who didn’t treat people fairly, and equitably. Now is the thing that really helped sort of push me forward to say even if it’s an uncomfortable conversation, even if it’s a potentially stressful conversation this something that needs to be done. Even if only for that reason as well as productivity and a sense of fairness and equity.
So let’s talk a little bit about what we mean by accountability and as you can see this idea of accountability is around everybody pulling their load. Doing their full share. In a team situation this becomes especially critical that everybody does their full job. And when we talk about accountability in general the classic definition is about accepting responsibility, admitting mistakes, not blaming other people. And this is actually quite true. And a big part of taking accountability is not pointing fingers making excuses. However, when people are operating with a significantly high level of accountability that also looks like taking initiative. Even when it’s not your fault or not your problem. People with high levels of accountability, high levels of responsibility will act in a proactive way that looks like taking initiative which is where we’re trying to go with this overall. So in order to recognize the level of accountability we put together a brief accountability scale that goes from a -2 which is absolutely no accountability to a -1 which is acknowledges the responsibility but deflects it off on other people. To a plus one with the except for responsibility for their actions but they would like you to understand the contributing factors to a close to where they accept responsibility for actions and for the impact of their actions. So for the plus to the primary focus is on action and consequences the typical kinds of language, the way people talk in general is I took those actions and I am responsible for the outcome of my actions and there is no fear. There is a total acceptance of the overall consequences and thoughts toward directing action toward them. On the plus one the primary focus is on acting accountabily and acknowledging accountability, but explaining the influencing factors. So for instance their language could be yes I did do those things and here are some the factors that influence the situation. So again, this is more directed toward problem-solving as opposed to deflecting responsibility and their thoughts feelings around accepting responsibility but wanting others to understand the contributing factors with an intent toward resolving the issue. As you move into the negative side, the -1, here the focus is on deflecting responsibility. They may knowledge that they did something or did not do something, but they have a number of excuses to explain why. They demonstrate frustration with others who might have dropped the ball or they rationalize their own accountability. And on the -2, the lowest level, this is all about blame and denial there’s no acknowledgement at all about what their responsibility is or what they were accountable for doing and they generally demonstrate extreme defensiveness.
So, let’s take a look at a couple of cases to give you a chance to try to work with that scale. And this is the first case study with Rhonda. And Rhonda is a sales associate for a company that sells talent analytic software. Rhonda works from home and has been trying to close on what would be the biggest sale of the year for her. As Rhonda starts her workday, she gets an email from the prospect, who tells her that they decided to go with another vendor. A few hours later, Rhonda’s boss calls and asks if she heard from the prospect. She said she just got the email and the prospects selected another provider. Her boss doesn’t say anything. Rhonda acknowledges that it was her job to get the sale, but blames the development group for not setting the demo up correctly and the finance department for not getting back to her promptly about the discount requested by the prospect. So, let’s take a look and see how you would read Rhonda’s level of accountability. I will open up a polling question. Would you rate her +2, accepting responsibility for actions and impact; would you rate her +1, accepts responsibility for her actions; would you rate her to a -1 about deflecting responsibility or -2 taking no accountability? We have about half the votes will take a few more minutes. All right, why don’t we close the polls. There’s about 65% of the folks responded there and it looks like about 84% identify Rhonda as -1 acknowledging some responsibility but deflecting. A few people picked absolutely no accountability. In this particular case, Rhonda does verbally say it’s my responsibility, but she clearly is focusing blame on other people. Which would put her more solidly in the -1. Now again, this exercise and this scale is really more about having a language to talk about people’s level of accountability. It’s not actually scientific. We have a couple of people that put her up in the plus one where she was accepting responsibility and I think a few people who put her up in the +2. So a lot of this has to do with how you see it and how you interpret it. But it in general most groups identify Rhonda as a -1.
Let’s take a look at another case and this is with Cheryl. During the team meeting each manager provides an update on his or her coaching activity. When it’s Cheryl’s turn she says, “I committed to meet with each of my direct reports at least twice a quarter but I didn’t do it last quarter. My manager’s manager put me on this special project, which required extensive travel in Asia. When I’m away from my office, time difference makes it difficult to schedule coaching calls. It’s just a scheduling problem I ran into. I commit to rearranging my schedule and leveraging technology to get my coaching schedule back on track by the end of the week. I will also make up the coaching sessions I missed.” So let’s open up the poll and see how would you rate Cheryl’s level of accountability in this particular situation. Already, so that new poll is open. Okay, great, we have a quick response right away. All right, we have about 75%. Let’s close it right there. It’s about 72% or so. Let’s see what we have. All right, so quite a few people half of you rated her a +2 responsibility for actions and impact, close second is a +1 on accountability for actions and then we had a few in the minus area. In general most people would rate Cheryl on the plus side in terms of either a plus one or +2. Most of the time people would put her as a plus one because she’s accepting responsibility, but she wanted to explain some of the reasons about what were the contributing factors. However those of you that rated her a +2 I think that makes sense because she really did talk about what she was going to do, what immediate action she was going to take to resolve this issue with a high level of commitment. Some of it depends on how you read the text. Do you hear her speak with a high level of commitment or do you hear her reading it without a sure, I’ll just take care of it. Most people put her in a +1, but the +2 I think makes a great deal of sense as well.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why people don’t take responsibility. Again why doesn’t everybody just step up when they need to and take accountability for what mistakes that are made or admit when they don’t do something or when they dropped the ball. Well there are three key factors. One of them has to do with this preserving self-image. We all have a belief of our capability and see ourselves a certain way and we also want others to see us that way as well. So rather than admit that we lack competence in some areas where that we’ve made a mistake, is easier for us in terms of preserving self-image to say something like rather than say you know I’m just not a very good project manager, I just really can’t seem to handle that complexity. We would say something like we would’ve hit all the milestones, but the other group didn’t give us what we needed and it caused us to miss our deadline. And that’s more about preserving self-image. The second is social loafing which I find it fascinating concept. What we find is that when people don’t believe that others can connect their behavior, their contribution, their actions to the ultimate outcome they tend to have a put in the lower effort and take less accountability. So the study, just one study where that comes from is they took a look at swimmers on swimming teams and that what they find is that when you swim individual medley you swim faster than when you are in a four-person relay. Also they found that when you call out the times of each person’s lap so they can hear it and other people can hear it they tend to swim faster than when you don’t do that. So would people believe that the expectation for their performance and they believe that their effort can be connected to the final outcome they tend to put in higher levels of effort, take more accountability, and the reverse is true. Locus of control is on a continuum, people have either an internal locus of control or an external locus of control. There are some people who believe that the internal locus of control is that we control our world. My actions, my decisions tend to determine the course of my life. An external locus of control is people believe that it’s all external factors. It’s the economy, it’s the weather, it’s other people, it has very little to do with what I do in terms of how my life runs and the course of my decisions. So depending on where you fall on that continuum, that may impact your ability and willingness to take responsibility.
So, what can leaders do about this? In terms of setting clear expectations of performance? Many of you may be familiar with the Pygmalion effect. It’s a concept that’s been around for literally decades. It’s based on a Greek myth were a sculptor made a statue, fell in love with the statue, the gods took pity on him, and brought the sculpture to life. The movie my fair Lady was also based on that story where a professor was challenged or bet that he could take a street urchin and turn her into a great lady. So the idea here is that expectations drive performance and let’s talk a little bit about what that means, because here, positive expectations and setting those expectations high drive confidence, increased effort, persistence, and improve performance, where negative expectations tend to have the opposite effect. But where did this idea come from? So just a quick summary on the study. The study, this is several decades ago, the first study was in an elementary school with fourth grade teachers. And they basically told the fourth grade teacher that her children were tested and that half of the class were identified as late bloomers and that over the course of the year they would learn, they would grow, they would become just excellent students. The other half of the group are just normal children. No problems, nothing at all. They were just the normal children going through the course of their education. At the end of the year, when they tested the children again, all the kids that the teacher was told were late bloomers ended up doing better than the children who the teacher was told were just regular kids. Now the punchline for some of you who don’t know the story, the punchline is there is actually no difference between the children. The only difference is in the teacher’s head. The teacher had an expectation that some children would do better than others and for some reason in some magical way those children actually did do better. So, what is actually going on here? Is it just sort of a mind meld where I expect you to do better and then you do do better? What we found and there were additional studies after that, there were actually hundreds and hundreds of studies, but one individual wanted to understand what leaders are doing that’s different. And what they found is that there are five leadership practices. When you have high expectations you believe people are competent, leaders tend to do five things. They enhance and maintain self-esteem. They set challenging goals. They create a supportive environment. They provide recognition and catch people doing something right. And they provide constructive feedback. And this package seem to be the five things that drives high levels of performance. So, when this study was done and I think his name was Dov, he figured he had the secret sauce. So he started to train managers. He figured if I could train leaders to do these five things, I would solve all the performance problem. However, it was a total failure. Because what they found is that once we frame someone as either a poor performer or in some way deficient, it’s very difficult for us to pretend that they in fact are a good performer or that we have a high expectation. So, basically what happens, we frame someone as either as a high performer or a low performer and then our behavior tends to follow suit. So, in order to make the shift we as leaders need to break that cycle. How can you break the cycle and start to, the people who are having difficulty and struggling are the ones that really need that positive attention. What can you do to be able to shift your perspective and in a genuine, authentic way treat them as if they’ve got the potential and use those five behaviors?
The first is to assume value. You need to focus on the positive. So, in someone’s performance overall, rather than thinking about what it is they did wrong, to really focus on both the balance on what it was they did well and what your concerns are. So, again, when we look at a top performer and they make a mistake our view is, hey, that’s the learning experience. They will bounce back from that right away. Somebody who has a history of not being a particularly good performer when we see them make a mistake it’s just yeah, they did it again. And they can’t seem to get out of their own way. So, our job is to really focus on the positive. And when we are giving feedback we’re going to be more balanced, right? Talk about what you like about the idea and reinforce those strengths and put your concerns in an actionable form. So rather than say we just can’t do what you are suggesting to say how can we do what you are suggesting and still maintain our budget and still maintain our deadline. The next is to start with the strength. One of the problems is you want to have confidence that the person can in fact make that stretch and take on the new accountability and be successful. So you want to focus on what the person currently does well and from that point set a modest stretch goal. Again if you can’t find anything personal does well, then you got a different problem on your hands. So start out with that’s a strength for them and just stretch them a little bit. In that way you would be able to provide coaching and support in a genuine way, in an authentic way as this person tries to take some risks and tries to do something new to move forward. And you want to make the unconscious conscious. Think about these five things because these five things in all the studies were being done unconsciously. In a lot of ways the leader, the teacher, the lieutenant of the platoon did not realize or does not intentionally use these five behaviors. They did it in a sort of more automatic way as they were engaging with someone who they thought had real potential. So what we need to do is keep these five things top of mind and then by focusing on the positive and starting with the strengths, we can deliver these in a much more authentic manner.
So, I want to talk a little bit about some of the tools that you can use to help manage accountability. But before I do that let’s take a look at this particular situation and see how you would handle it. So, through your efforts to understand the reasons for your team’s performance plateau, it’s come to your attention that David has been consistently missing deadlines. He recently missed two important deadlines, which caused a delay in the product release. So David’s performance is negatively impacting the team. You need to take some action. Now David does not report directly to you. He is on your team and he’s a dedicated member of your team, but he reports to Pamela Jones, who is your colleague. So now here are five choices. All of these choices are good choices. They all have real potential. I want you to think about which one you would take. What would you do to handle this particular situation and manage accountability with David? So we will open up that polling question and give you a chance to think a little bit about how you would manage this particular situation. All right, so the votes are starting to come in. We have about 30%, we have an interesting pattern that is forming. Just give it a few more moments, get a few more votes in there. Let’s see if we can get it up to 70%. Okay, why don’t we close it down now. Let’s see what we have. All right, so, it looks like most people pick D, clarify expectations. We have a few people talk about going to David’s boss and a few people in the emails. Let’s kind of go through each one of them. Calling David’s boss is definitely something you would want to do somewhere in this process. But it might not be the thing you would lead with. David is your responsibility so to put it off on Pamela might be a little bit of you not taking accountability overall. A few people picked send David an email. The problem with sending him an email it really is very impersonal and there is a real opportunity for misunderstandings overall. And then on E, a few people pick that as well the team meeting is not a bad way to do it. The problem with the team meeting is that it’s too dissipated across the group. David might not even get that you’re talking to him and the rest of the team might wonder why you’re talking to them because they are not having a problem with deadlines. So, C and D are the two best answers and in this case D is really, really good. Clarify your expectations for David’s performance, his current projects, agree on check ins, and discussed progress and anticipate problems is great. Something you definitely do on the front end. Now, C is just a little bit better. Those of you who picked see, C&D is a combination are fantastic. C is a little bit better and the reason why C is a little better is because David has currently missed some deadlines and C is about him taking accountability right now to get things right back on track. D, again, is a great thing to do going forward or something you would’ve done on the backend, but C is about taking accountability right now.
So, there are four accountability busters, four mistakes people tend to make when they are managing the accountability of others. One is that they talk about ideas but they don’t agree on action and accountability by people’s names and then everybody assumes that somebody else is going to do the work. It falls through the cracks. The second is they may agree on the action but they don’t necessarily discuss the completion date. So the end date is open to interpretation and differing opinions as opportunities for misunderstandings. The third is you wait until the completion date to check on the results and this is that fear of micromanaging. Or you may not even check at all. Busy life, a lot going on, you may not even follow up. And the fourth is not holding people accountable for missed commitments after the fact. And that would be either handing it off to one of your top performers or taking it on yourself overall.
So, let’s take a look at the first tool. What can you do to set people up for success? And here we are talking about the ATC model. The first is action, be clear about your expectations and what you want people to do so it’s not just a task but is also what looks good looks like. One of our concerns about confronting people constructively when they miss a deadline is based on the fact that we are concerned we have not been clear about expectations. But if you’ve been clear about what you expect and you’ve been clear about the timeline, when it’s due, you have a much more solid foundation to discuss what was expected and why it did not happen. So these two components are critical in order to help people succeed and to enable you to have a constructive conversation about it. The third component are checkpoints. This is setting up key milestones to be able to meet with people to talk about progress. Now the importance of the checkpoints, and it’s the very simple technique, but one benefit is that it combines the coaching aspect and the project management aspect. So many of the leaders say I just don’t have time to coach. But, this is a way to combine coaching with the management of the project. It’s also a way to have check ins and course corrections before you get to deadline, so that you can take those actions and increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to achieve the intended outcome. It’s also an opportunity to provide recognition for aspects of the work that are being done well. And this goes back to this notion of maintaining and enhancing self-esteem overall. So the first tool is the ATC model. Think of it as air traffic control helping someone come in for a safe landing. Now, despite the fact that you are clear about expectations are clear about time frames and meet with people periodically to talk about progress and make course corrections, people may in fact drop the ball. So, there are three accountability questions, and frequently managing accountability is and looks a lot like a coaching intervention. So, there are three key questions. The past you asked them or looking back what you have done to prevent the problem? What might you have done that contributed to the problem? In the present which is the key question what can you do right now to get things back on track? Not that you are going to take it not that hey, how can I help you, but really, what are you going to do to make this happen? And the future question is also critical. What can you do to prevent this problem from happening again? Now the key to this question and the future oriented aspect is people will make excuses and, again, they will say I couldn’t do it, they didn’t give me the information, I didn’t have what I needed. And it sounds like an excuse and it feels like an excuse but it also might be true. The key here is to get people focused on why are they going to do about it? Because, if it is true excuse or not, if something is not done that’s going to happen again and we’re going to find ourselves having this same conversation in the future. So, what will you do to increase the likelihood that the things you need will be available. The people you need will do what they need to do to get what you need. This is all about working effectively across organizational boundaries. Now, when you’re doing this you might start with the present question and then move to the future and in the past question last because that may create a little bit of defensiveness it might sound a little accusatory, but the present of the future question are much more problem-solving oriented.
So, let me talk a little bit about some tips and best practices and then we’ll open it up for some questions. The key is to be a role model by holding yourself accountable, but it’s also about being aware of what language you use. When you talk about other groups or other people and what they did or did not do, are you in fact modeling, you know a subtle way about blaming others or not taking full responsibility? It’s helpful to use that accountability rating scale to evaluate the level of accountability of your direct reports and then you can use the three reasons why people don’t take accountability to identify probable causes. Also your use of the ATC model and the extent to which you do those three things, clear about expectations, clear about timeframe, periodic check in might also impact the level of accountability of your employees. So, again, it’s not just about them it’s also about the way in which you engage and work with them especially if they may not be your consistent top performers to be able to focus on the people who need your help and coaching the most. You want to enable honest, open communication about problems. You want people to be comfortable coming forward with concerns before it’s too late. Now, again, some people will wait as long as they can before they bring an issue forward hoping that they can fix it or hoping that it will work itself out. And sometimes by the time they do come forward you don’t have enough runway to be able to address the situation. So you want to make it possible and make it the norm where people come forward with potential problems. Come forward with concerns before it’s too late to be able to resolve them. And that, by the way, is definitely based on the leader’s behavior. When you are open to these concerns and you don’t, what they call, kill the messenger, you increase the likelihood that people will come forward. You want to set people up for success by using that ATC model. Be deliberate and conscientious about those three parts. Be clear about what you want and what good looks like. Be specific about the time frame. Even saying something like Wednesday is a problem. We might say as soon as you can because we know people are busy and we’re trying to be understanding, but we don’t mean as soon as you can, we mean I need it Wednesday. But you also need to say I need it Wednesday at 2 o’clock. Because you might come and say is it ready and I’ll say what I got three more hours. So, if you’re not specific, you just set yourself up for these kinds of issues. And, if you are clear and the person is unable to do it, problem solve in the moment. The use of action plans is a good key tool for managing accountability. Many of you may not take advantage of this, it tends to be a highly underused tool. But action plans, even a low-tech version in a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet, basically the action plan document agreements. Who is going to do what and what are they going to do it. And when you post these action plans for everyone to see and increasing transparency that not only clarifies what I’m supposed to do so I can better manage my time and that you can better manage our periodic check ins, but it also gets at this idea of social loafing. Now, everybody knows what I’m supposed to be doing and when I’m supposed to be doing it and because of that I tend to put in a lot more effort and get much more focused on delivering results. The three accountability questions are great for you to use especially during your check is with people to help them make the course correction. What you really want to do is encourage them to ask themselves these three accountability questions as they run into obstacles and roadblocks along the way as well. And encourage what else can I do to achieve results attitude. You want to create the desire and make it possible for people to be both proactive to take initiative and to put in maximum effort.
So, everyone, thank you that’s it for the formal part of our presentation. We have some time for questions if any of you have an alternate back over to Sarah to help manage that part.
SARAH: All right, great, thank you so much, Rick, that was awesome. So Rick’s contact information is on that slide right now. So you can go ahead and get in touch with him after the session if you have any questions. We do have some time to answer some live questions now, so attendees, go ahead and submit those to me. And while we wait, let me share just one more way you can gain a little bit more knowledge about today’s topic. And you can use the Accountability Experience. It combines the self assessment in a one-day workshop to allow employees to feel more in control of outcomes and improve key relationships. And then for a limited time we are offering 25% discount on any Accountability Experience product and you will receive that coupon code in your email after the session. And then also if anybody’s interested, we are doing a very, very short product review after the session. So, if you want to stick around for that, that would be awesome. So, we do have a number of questions coming in some I’m going to go ahead and open this up.
The first question is coming from Mark: How can I use the three people use the three reasons people make excuses to help me better manage accountability in others?
RICK: Things to help them manage the accountability of their teams as well? Is that what you mean?
SARAH: How can I use the three reasons people make excuses to help me better manage accountability and others?
RICK: Okay, I’ll just take it at face value. The key thing is that when you use those questions, what you really are really doing is causing people to think a little bit about what they can do differently. Rather than just solving the problem for them rather than just saying here’s what you’re supposed to do or here’s what you should’ve done, what you are able to do now is use these three questions to really require them to think a little bit about what they can do to get things back on track what they can do to keep this from happening again and what they have done to contribute to this problem overall and what they might do differently. So, it really is making it coaching conversation rather than just telling them what to do overall and hopefully I got the meaning of your question.
SARAH: All right, perfect, thanks. Our next question is coming from Adam: If we know which leader behaviors have the greatest impact on a direct reports competence and performance, why don’t all leaders consistently use them?
RICK: I alluded to that a little bit in the presentation. I mean the key here is that, and it seems to be a human nature thing, once we frame someone in a negative way, either as a poor performer or someone that is not as competent as others, it’s very difficult for us to change our perception of them. I think I gave the example of when someone says a top performer who screws something up who makes a mistake, we put that in the they all learn from that box and we don’t tend to get too concerned about it just because we assume that they are competent and will help move things forward. But someone who we believe is not competent, when they make a mistake we just assume that they just continue to screw up so if they do well it was like lucky, they just sort of fell into it. So the whole challenge is to be able to break that cycle and see people in a genuine, authentic way, frame them differently to be able to help them to continue to learn and develop overall. And that’s one of the most difficult things. It appears it’s difficult because we know what those five things are what a leader should do we just have trouble doing them with everyone on the team. We can do it easily with people who we believe are competent, we just have problems doing it with people who are not as competent.
SARAH: All right, great, our next question is coming from Alan: Holding employees accountable often involves confidential management action. Do you have any advice on how to let other employees know that something is being done without violating this?
RICK: Yeah, if I understand it it’s like giving someone feedback or coaching it’s supposed to be done in private. I think some of it depends on what it is that they have not been accountable for and you may be able to talk more in general, but I think again you can’t say to people well I’ve spoken to him and or and giving them feedback in front of everyone but, as the leader I think it is important to help people understand that action is being taken. You may not necessarily go into detail, but again people can also see how you treat people, how you work with people, if you are being consistent, fair and equitable across the group. People tend just like they can see when you are not managing accountability and they believe people are getting away with things, they can also observe when you are holding people accountable and expecting them to perform to standard overall. So, you may not even have to do anything particularly explicit. People can just observe your behavior and interaction with them.
SARAH: All right, great, thank you. Our next question is coming from Naheed. Any tips to manage increase accountability of peers as a non-manager to an individual or to a group?
RICK: That’s actually a good question.
The three accountability questions work really well. As a matter of fact the ATC model and the three accountability questions work very well with colleagues and peers just as they do with direct reports because sitting in a let’s say a cross functional team with colleagues you can still facilitate the conversation about being clear about what the expectations are, being specific about the time frames, and mutually agreed upon when the check-in should be. And then using that as an opportunity for the discussion. Now again, the tone of the conversation might be a little bit different if they’re not a direct report, but not too much different because again you’re trying to be collaborative and collegial in terms of how you’re trying to problem solve. The three coaching questions are also appropriate. It’s not inappropriate to ask a colleague what are you going to do right now to get things back on track and what can we do in the future to keep this from happening again? And to explore what contributed to this. These three questions and the ATC model can work beautifully across organizational boundaries with colleagues and peers.
SARAH: All right, great, thank you. It looks like our next question is coming from Nurali: Do you notice the higher you go up in the career ladder there is less accountability?
RICK: No, actually I noticed the opposite. There tends to be more accountability but, see again some of it be dependent on how you define it. As you move up in the organization you need to be able to delegate more and get work done through other people. And I guess if something doesn’t happen or doesn’t go well, the extent to which is do you accept responsibility as the leader of your team or do you throw people sort of under the bus and say, hey, it’s their fault? So, again, I don’t think it’s just related to the level that you have in the organization, but, if you are going to be an effective leader, as you move up and have a broader span of control, you need to be able to delegate effectively, get work done through others, and enable people to be accountable, but you still may be the final arbiter or be the person who ultimately would be accountable. But, it’s about sharing it overall. So, I don’t think it gets less just because you are more senior in the organization.
SARAH: All right, great, thank you. And our next question is coming from Jill: You mentioned five key competencies of which managing accountability was one. Could you briefly mention the other four?
RICK: Actually there are 10 factors, five of them are prerequisites, and the five that are prerequisites even companies that are not very good at execution have those things in place so the prerequisites are a clear vision, a feasible realistic strategy, high quality products and services, a highly engaged workforce, those are things, people, even if they’re not good at execution, you know we get that we need those things, but the five things that really differentiate the companies that were most effective at execution were managing accountability, which is the expecting and getting top performance, the facilitating change readiness was the second, and most aspects of execution there some change or difference required, and your ability to prepare people for change and facilitate their readiness through change was a key differentiator. Working across organizational boundaries was the third, both on cross-functional teams. But to be able to coordinate and collaborate across the organization. The fourth one is leader behavior consistent with organizational goals and values. And that’s one of those ones where you go that’s like mom and apple pie, you go, what’s the big deal? It’s one of those factors that you don’t see the impact until it’s not there. So, for instance, you know the let’s say Volkswagen more recently with the emissions. You know, with the leader, they espouse value around clean energy and clean environment, yet leader behavior seems to be totally inconsistent with that. Now, normally that would not, you would not see that when it’s not aligned it really becomes clear how important that is. In the third has to do with making high-quality decisions, critical thinking, focusing particularly on involving people in decisions that affect them to improve decision quality and improve decision acceptance. And we run through all those factors in my book Closing The Execution Gap, which is available on Amazon.com. And thank you for asking that question.
SARAH: I think we have time for just another question. I know we have a few more, but we’re getting cold close to 3 o’clock, but the last question that we will do is coming from Cheryl: If a leader is already earned a reputation among the employees as being poor at managing accountability, what is the best approach to turn that attitude around?
RICK: Again, not to over simplify it but I think, for me it would be the consistent change in behavior. So in other words you can’t just do it once and expect everybody to say ok, you have to demonstrate that you are holding people consistently accountable fairly and equitably across the team and you need to do that on a regular basis over time. And as people start to see the consistency of the behavior, it will gradually change people’s perception of you. But once or twice or sporadically or randomly won’t necessarily change anyone’s point of view. I do think that you can come back just because you happen to be labeled as not managing accountability well, doesn’t mean that you are relegated to that label forever. There are specific tools, specific behaviors you can start to use if you do them consistently over a period of time people will start to see that that is a serious legitimate change in your behavior.
SARAH: All right, great, thank you so much. Those were some great questions. If we did not get time to answer those questions today for you, you will receive an email response with Rick’s answered questions probably about like mid next week. So, Rick, would you just like to add any final thoughts before I go ahead and wrap up this session for today?
RICK: Yes I would just like to thank everyone for joining us today. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. And I would just mention again, you know, the idea of managing accountability is the one of five key differentiators for effective execution and you can read a lot more about our study of 400 companies and what those factors are and specific leader behaviors to be able to close the execution gap in my book and it’s on Amazon. So thank you, and Sarah, thank you for the opportunity.
SARAH: All right, great, thanks, Rick, again and a big thanks to our sponsor The Negotiating Style. And if your organization would be interested in sponsoring an HRDQ webinar, you can go out ahead and reach out to me. My email is email@example.com. So, we appreciate your time and we do hope you found today’s webinar informative.
Your organization’s ability to manage accountability is key to its success. Among top-performing organizations, 77 percent of leaders reported employees of all levels are held accountable for results, according to an OnPoint Consulting survey. Only 44 percent of leaders said this was true at less successful organizations. Learn how to recognize and measure accountability, manage accountability more effectively and evaluate how well your team or organization is performing in this area.
Many leaders would say they want to create a culture of accountability, but what does this look like when it’s put into practice? How can you measure accountability within your team or organization? What are some challenges that keep you from holding others accountable? How do you respond to someone who makes excuses?
Participants Will Learn
- How to recognize and measure accountability
- How to create a culture of accountability
- How to use two effective tools to manage accountability in others
Who Should Attend
A virtual team expert with more than 30 years experience and a proven track record as a human resource consultant and executive, Rick Lepsinger is the president of OnPoint Consulting. He is the co-author of several books on leadership and organizational effectiveness, including Closing the Execution Gap: How Great Leaders and Their Companies Get Results and Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance. Rick currently sits on the faculty of GE’s Management Development Course (MDC) and leads the program, Making GE’s Global Matrix Work.