SUMMARY: (5 min read) Our team has created three strategic objectives for 2021 to support your workplace. The following article is about a leadership practice for how to set goals based on our observations.
I am going to say something hard…so get ready.
If we want to talk about productivity on our teams and about excelling and even exceeding what we have done in the past…then we have to talk, first and foremost, about…you.
It is tempting and can even be addicting to talk about our teams or people as the loci for the challenges and setbacks we have. But, as Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky put it, “when you belong to the organization or community that you are trying to lead, you are part of the problem.” Leadership on the Line, (p. 90).
OUCH. And, this is deeply good news—because if you are part of the problem then you are also part of the answer.
As leaders we would love to keep people accountable until all problems melt away and there is ease at work. But all too often we are reluctant to see ourselves on the playing field and acknowledge that we are not only members of the team but also contributors to the problem. If you want accountable teams the bucks starts, and stops, with you.
We must first get accountable with ourselves, secondly, model it, and finally encourage/enact it.
In Dr. Cloud’s work he makes a pretty radical and profound statement about leaders, “You are ridiculously in charge.” Boundaries for Leaders, (p. 15).
So, think about what your greatest concern or challenge is in your department…and then ask this hard but important question:
How am I contributing to this?
If you are willing to ask this question of yourself, and then of members of your team, you will begin where all leaders need to, with yourself.
Try saying something like this:
“I noticed that our communication could be stronger, can you tell me ways that I communicate that team members may think is weak and what you would do differently to make it stronger?
Then, just listen.
Don’t argue or make excuses.
And then, as quickly as possible, put that feedback into practice.
Once you have taken the step to practice “Getting Accountable,” you have developed a real strength in your leadership. Model it well.
One simple but effective way to do this well is to narrate it. This is a powerful tool for helping people hear the new story you are telling, or new culture you are creating, with your team and your business. Don’t assume they are just picking it up. Narrate it. It could like this:
Let’s break this down. Notice these 7 elements to Narrating Accountable Change:
(Find a helpful worksheet here)
Are people refusing to communicate? What are you/have you done to fix the miscommunication? You must address it promptly and hold them to the change. How do you communicate effectively with your people? Are you modeling good behavior? If so, then you can ask the team to rise to this occasion. Are you stopping poor behavior? If a team member continues to communicate ineffectively you must take action for their sake and for the sake of the team.
Cloud points out that, as the leader, you create the memory from which your team operates.
Looking at this example around communication, think about it this way:
If you communicate well, you tell them:
It then becomes simple/memory for your team to see your actions and follow your lead. It also becomes simple/memory for you to illustrate that you live out the same expectations you have for them—so you expect nothing more and you will not tolerate anything less.
We look forward to having more coaching conversations with leaders this year that lead to accountability and productivity.
This year, our chaplaincy team has three strategic objectives birthed from what we observe in the workplace during the pandemic:
These objectives came out of a time of observing and listening to the losses and longings employees and leaders have shared with us. They will function as a means to see transformation in lives as well as the workplace. We want to impact both the person and their performance at work, believing that the personal and professional are somehow tied together.
Under each objective, we’ve outlined some actionable items and themes we’d like to focus on with leaders…again based on what we observe and hear from the worker and and the workplace system.
We believe the workplace deserves purpose, meaning, and joy by nurturing a humanizing environment through care, coaching, and counseling.
First, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the strength, wisdom, and commitment you’ve got to lead your co-workers, especially in a company that leads your industry! Second, let’s acknowledge the frequent changes that you have to face and adapt to, while maintaining the course towards your company’s vision and goals. It’s not easy and can be exhausting. Stay the course!
In this month’s article, you’ll learn from a business leader on how to strengthen lines of communication between executives and managers, and what accountability and mico-management “sounds like”.
Last Fall, I had the privilege of spending a weekend with extended family and connect with Mike Druce. Over the past 50 years, Mike had various leadership and executive positions in some major industries:
Waiting for dinner to be served, I realized that Mike was a “goldmine” of business knowledge! So I sat with him and asked him about leadership in the workplace:
Q. What is the most important piece of advice you could give from your experience to a leader or executive?
A. “The biggest obstacles to a successful organization/company is mismanagement of the people and miscommunication.”
Out of all the things he could’ve said that are big obstacles (money, competitive industry, economic downturn, regulations, a pandemic!), he saw “mismanagement” and “miscommunication” as the biggest factors in seeing the success and failure of companies he worked for/with.
There’s a saying, “the problem is also the solution.” In leadership life, it’s very easy to see people as the problem in a company, but Mike sees the people we lead and work with as the key solution to problems in our company. Rarely is a product or service the answer.
Mike briefly shared about leaders that shut down morale, dignity, or team feedback and caused long-term harm, even if short-term results appeared successful. Employee training & performance naturally rise when competent leaders are in place.
This led me to the next question. I was looking for a simple but reliable practice that any leader could do….
Q. What is the top need for Executives/Directors on a weekly basis?
A. Mike said the #1 thing that made a difference for his success was: “One-One meetings (30 min-1hr) with 2 levels of leaders – managers and supervisors they oversee.”
Q. What happens in those one-one meetings?
One time Mike had one of those weekly meetings. When he was done giving updates and discussing business, it was the team leader’s turn to share anything important. The team leader said no, but he did want to announce that his baby was born recently! It was a time of strengthening connections. Those weekly meetings with managers and supervisors strengthened the relationships and common bonds he had in the company.
One important thing leaders can remember to do is to ask for feedback from people they oversee. Naturally, giving constructive feedback to a leader or executive can be intimidating, so it’s up to a leader to keep communication lines open.
Mike also pointed out a key company expectation from all employees that made a huge difference in focus, organization, and productivity: All new employees on day 1 were taught, encouraged, and reminded that they have freedom to ask questions about why a task/procedure was done a particular way. If a supervisor/manager in the next 2 levels above the employee couldn’t answer it, then the director/executive must fully re-evaluate the task or process.
It was PAINFUL, but it was worth it.
This standard practice prevented a lot of wasted time, energy, and money.
Another piece of advice Mike mentioned was, “the job of a manager / executive is obstacle removal and accountability of the work- not micromanagement.”
But what do those words really mean? What do they sound like in a workplace? This graphic describes what it may sound like…
You’ll notice that if more people speak the language of accountability and obstacle removal, not micro-management, there would be an increase in trust in one another. A company with strong ties of trust can do great things.
Mismanagement and miscommunication are obstacles to company success. Here are 3 important ways to reduce them:
1) Have weekly one-one meetings with managers and supervisors, preferably two levels of leadership.
2) Set a company expectation: Asking why a task is important or necessary is welcome. It may be painful for leadership, but it will yield great results.
3) What does your workday sound like? Micromanagement undermines trust in your leaders and teams; Accountability and obstacle removal are important practices that build trust.