Wednesday 2 April 2014

7 special ways to accelerate accountability

This post is my feature article for this month to subscribers of my Changing What's Normal Strategies and Tactics Newsletter. Subscribing is the easiest way to get my Changing What's Normal book with my compliments. You can subscribe here.

Right now most business owners/leaders are suffering from lack of accountability. 

How much is lack of accountability costing your business right now?

Scary number isn’t it?!

Here are 7 special ways to accelerate accountability and save yourself a lot of time, energy, and money.

1) Stop trying to take responsibility for other people. You are only responsible for yourself.

We are all 100% responsible for our intentions, feelings, thoughts, and actions.

We are not responsible for anyone else’s intentions, feelings, thoughts, and actions.

What other people do or don’t do is none of your business. Get over it.

The great paradox is that the more you take full responsibility for yourself, the more others will follow your example.

2) Destroy job descriptions and create role clarity statements

Most job descriptions I see are a list of tasks. Often “and anything else as directed” appears in the fine print. Very rarely is there anything concrete about relationships which are key to accountability. We don’t let down people we have great relationships with.

Get rid of all job descriptions that don’t properly articulate relationships, particularly the people role/s serve and what value must be delivered to them.

Create role clarity statements with people not for them. Here is a template.

What I have done a number of times with my clients is to create an operating structure based on a supplier-customer chain as a big picture, then put roles for people into the structure, and then matched people to roles. Do this exercise yourself. You will find a lot of roles should be made redundant, a lot of people would be better in a different role, and that you are nowhere near as effective and efficient as you think you are.

Involve your people in this exercise and you will revolutionise your business and likely the lives of many of your people. You will also see a great rise in people being engaged and accountable.

3) Invest time, energy, and money, every day in ensuring you have a shared-view with your employees and/or performance partners about

where you are (reality)
where you're going (possibility)
why you're going there (purpose)
how you will get there (strategy)
who will do what and when (execution)
how you will know you are on track (milestones and lead measures)
how you will behave along the way (values)

4) Stop appraising people instead have appreciation and accountability conversations with them

In the Australian Financial Review of 5th March 2014 I was drawn to the headline “Performance reviews get a bad rap from business” In the article Jon Williams of PwC Australia is quoted “It doesn’t improve performance. It’s just a bureaucratic system that everyone thinks they have to go through.” I couldn’t agree more.
I have been reading articles like this for decades. We are not learning. If you have an appraisal or performance review system get rid of it.

Instead have what’s worth celebrating and what could be better conversations with people informally as a part of every day work. At least every 90 days formalise the conversations and help people to create a performance plan for themselves for the next 90 days around how they will keep doing what’s worth celebrating and correct what could be better. 

People do not want to be appraised or reviewed, they want to be appreciated and helped to be accountable. When your people have performance plans as overviewed above, have conversations like those below with them. When conversations about performance are happening properly and are integral to every day work, performance reviews and appraisals become redundant and you will finally be able to bury them.

The Double A Technique (page 165 of my Changing What’s Normal book)

Ask: “How are things going?” 

When you get a positive response:  
Ask: “How does that make you feel?” 
(be quiet and pay attention) 

Then say, Great, Brilliant or whatever is appropriate. 

Then ask: “Any other areas I can help you with?” 
(be quiet and pay attention) 

When you get a negative response 

Ask: “What happened?” (be quiet and pay attention) 

Then Ask: “What do you need to do to get back on track?” 
(be quiet and pay attention) 

Then Ask: “Is there anything I can do to help you?” 
(be quiet and pay attention) 

Finally, Ask: “Anything else?” 
(be quiet and pay attention)

The above conversation is a basic starting place. To inspire accountability leaders need to excel at all kinds of communication and conversation.

A key is overcoming a reluctance to have conversations about performance particularly when there is conflict, disagreement and/or difficulty. 

“Managers Lack Courage to Have Difficult Performance Discussions” so said 63% of 750 respondents WorldatWork/Sibson 2010 Study on The State of Performance Management.

The same study says “58% of organizations rated their performance management systems as “C Grade or below.” 

“Is there any organizational practice more broken than performance management?  Asks Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith in an article for Forbes 16/12/12.  She goes on to say:

“everyone hates it – employees and managers alike 
nobody does it well – it’s a skill that seemingly fails to be acquired despite exhaustive training efforts, and it fails the test of construct validity – it doesn’t do what it was designed to do, i.e. increase performance.

Traditional performance management programs have become organization wallpaper. They exist in the background with little or no expectations for impact. Yet despite its poor popularity, the concept of performance (at an individual and organizational level) is critical to business success. It can’t just be ignored.”

If you are struggling to have authentic, candid conversations with your employees, you are not alone. Don’t be embarrassed. Admit your shortcomings and get help today.

5) Stop trying to manage people. Instead lead people and manage systems and processes

People management is a hangover from the long dead industrial revolution, the great dehumanizer, where we saw people as cogs in a giant machine. We all have a headache as result of this crap. People can’t be managed. We are, each one of us, a unique human being who needs to be treated as such. Lead people. Manage systems and processes. It won’t be long before you will have a clear head and a warmer heart. Productivity you have dreamed about will follow.

6) Ensure there is not a mismatch between what science knows and your business does

In a beautiful book “Drive - the surprising truth about what motivates us’, Daniel Pink says we are motivated by 3 things

He also says “There is a mismatch between what science knows and business does.”

What have you read lately in the fields of positive psychology, neuroscience, and biology, just to name three sciences. A lot of how we see and treat people in business is way out of step with what science is telling us. The evidence is overwhelming. Are you out of touch? or Are you in step?

7) Understand your real reason for being in business and be accountable to that

Profit is not a reason for being in business, profit is a result of being good at business.

What’s your real reason for being in business. If you don’t know, watch this Start With Why video from Simon Sinek.  If you still can’t work it out, please contact me and I will help you. Don’t be embarrassed if answering this question is eluding you. It is a tough one to answer.


My belief is that if we are honest we must admit that the way we’re working in most organisations isn’t working. We need maverick thinking followed by a radical transformation of the way we work.

I hope this article has got you going.

The cost of a lack of accountability in terms of time, energy, and money is significant for most businesses. Change what’s normal by adapting the insights above in your way and watch accountability levels go up as well as your business results.

I may be able to help you. 

Are you feeling a deep desire for and/or are you confronted with the necessity for personal, relationship, or organisational change?

Would you love to be able to guarantee you will succeed in your change/s and thrive on the associated challenges?

I can help you.

I believe that our personal peace, harmony between our personal and business lives, and the prosperity of our businesses largely depends on our willingness to be change champions. Helping  business leaders to be change champions is my business.

You probably know the stats, only 1 in 3 change initiatives succeed. My work with you is about saving you time, energy and money that you are currently unintentionally wasting, and so that you can guarantee you will succeed in the change/e you lead. Please contact me on +61 418 807 898 for a no obligation chat.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

More insights to help you.

I hate the term human capital with a passion however there is some great insights here from Deloitte’s latest report about engaging the 21st century workforce.

This blog by Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi may also help you to find your why.

Understanding that we are all in the change business may help you too. Check out my blog about this here. 

The Fulfilling Lives worldwide online summit will help you too.

I am thrilled and honoured to be one of the people interviewed for this summit which will be hosted by Alicia Curtis 6 - 10 May 2014.

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