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Arizona Management Society: A Leader’s Question on Accountability

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Yesterday, I had the opportunity of delivering the keynote address at the Arizona Management Society, which meets for a luncheon meeting on a monthly basis. I viewed this invitation as somewhat of an honor because September is the “kick-off” month for the new year (AMS takes the three summer months off), and the organization puts forth extra effort to attract membership. The society’s recruiting efforts were successful, resulting in a higher than normal turn-out.

During my remarks I talked about the imperative of placing responsibility for accountability where it rightfully belongs—on the individual employee rather than upon supervisors and managers (see blog of Sep 15). In the Q&A session, one sharp executive posed an excellent discussion point. Essentially, he observed: “As a leader, I have tried to get my people to take more responsibility and be more accountable, but they never seem to step up. The only thing that seems to work is the old “hold their feet to the fire” approach, that involves some form of coercion. I would be over-joyed to have my people hold themselves accountable, but I do not see how that would ever happen. Any suggestions?”

Before I jump into an extensive “all-seeing, all-knowing, Carnac the Magnificent” commentary (part of which I offered to the AMS in response to this leader’s question), I would like to receive some of your comments on this discussion point.

To “prime the pump,” let me say that I believe that part of our dilemma is our fundamental mindset or mental posture when it comes to supervision and management. We do not look at leaders, managers, and supervisors as teachers and educators, we view them as task masters and drill sergeants (all due respect to those of you in military).

Your thoughts about my thoughts…

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  • Tory Adair

    I agree that we look to managers to be task masters. We want to see results now and be able to link them to a recent action so they can be "cost justified". It is hard to value a lot of the best "development opportunities". One of the sicknesses in corporate america today is that we want results now. We have grown to be very impatient. In order to get quick results in managing people we often address the symptoms and not the cause. We often focus on motivating people (holding their feet to the fire) rather than tying into motives that they already have so that the motivation comes from them and lasts. I know these things as a manager but I often manage with a short term mindset. I justify that things change so fast (team members leave, my role as the manager changes regularly) it is hard to believe that I will see the fruits of my labors and I seek a short cut. So as I am writing this I will remind myself that when I take on the larger role of being a developing manager it takes more effort but I also find more energy and satisfaction from my work and come out just as well off, even in the short term.

  • C. Spencer Reynolds

    I believe that fundamentally we are not on the same page when it comes to the manager-employee situation. Communicating what is really important IS what is really important. As an employee, if they don’t have the opportunity to get what they really want from what it is the manager wants them to do, they are not really motivate-able in a sense. Case-in-point, employee at a deep core level really wants to be recognized as valuable and important; manager wants to get the number so the report comes in where goals are set. If the manager REALLY knows what is important to the employee, framing the request inside of the employees deep core importance will give the employee their own motivation to take action.

    Simply stated, if doing this project will get me noticed as someone who brings value and that I am important to the success of the project- I’ll do it, and I’ll do it well. But if you want me to do it because I am the person with that job title and I get a paycheck… check back with me, I need more of your attention before I am going to get that one done.

    We are always tuned into WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), and blaring your station to me is not going to get me to do anything. So as managers what can we do to broadcast on their station, find out what THEY like to hear! The key to finding that is a simple question, "What is important about ______ to you?" (Imagine repeatedly asking that question 6 or 7 times to find the deep core!)

    I think that is the essence of Dr. Deaton’s work… OWNERSHIP. They own something right now, do we know what it is, can we help them identify if it is Ownership or Victim-Based, then allow them the discovery of what is really important to them? If I know what is important to me, nothing will stop me from getting it… I just need to know what that is so I can be the Owner. We have to risk asking the important questions to find deep core beliefs in our employees, managers, friends, family members… Be their champion (or as Dennis stated above their teacher/educator), not their task master!

  • Ram Iyer

    I am somewhat puzzled as to why many executives are still having problems manging people. Blanchard and Hersey developed a " Situational Leadership Model " some thirty years ago. Performance is what we desire from our employees / associates. Performance requires two key comnponets: Knowledge and motivation. Each employee / associate possesses these two ingredients in varying degrees. An astute manager will mange an employee / associate based on the mix of these two ingerdients. For instance a new employee / associate might have very little knowledge of the task and perhaps also lack the necessary motivation to get this done in a timely manner. This individual might have to be directed and monitored closely (micro-managed) to get the job done. At the other extreme we might have individuals who have both the knowledge and motivation to get the job done. In this case delegate the job and leave them alone (don’t micro-mange) and of course hold them accountable for the results. In between the two extremes a manager has to adopt either a coaching or supporting style based on the mix of knowledge and motivation. Unfortunately most managers are not sure of their own abilties that they tend to micro-manage and tend to spend their lives in their offices, but with limited success. As many have mentioned, communication is an essential to the success of any organization. But it is also important to align individual goals with the corporate goals. Ultimately Nature / God has given us the innate ability to take care of ourselves first. We always evaluate the costs and benefits of any action we undertake. Managers would be wise to point out the costs and benefits of the actions undertaken by their employees / associates. United we stand, divided we fall is an old syaing, but worth repeating.

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