The Problem With Accountability

In truth, January 1 is no different than any other day of the year. And yet, it holds a remarkable power for fresh starts and cleansing. Many of us dare to dream, seeing the New Year as a blank slate upon which we can write the story of our life. Whether we believe it’s possible or not, it’s a beginning — a beginning that, for a glimmer of time we tell ourselves we have the power to control; the power to create; the power to bend to our will. Then comes January 17th: “Ditch The New Year’s Resolution Day.” The date believed to be the point in this new beginning the highest number of people will realize it’s just another version of each year before, nothing really changes, there are too many factors beyond our control, and to hell with those damn resolutions. “I didn’t really mean it anyway.”And yet, the secret to success is remarkably simple, though consistently misunderstood and misused. Accountability. You want your resolutions in business and in life to succeed? Be held accountable. But why are people so resistant to accountability? It’s supposed to be a good thing, right? Well, one thing I’ve noticed: Accountability is often used as a weapon, when it should be used as a tool. It’s a bit like having an expensive piece of cutlery — perfect for gourmet meals, but it can also be used to mortally wound someone. Yikes. And accountability is often used for the injury rather than the nourishment, both in the workplace and at home. Too often, accountability is saved for too late in the game, when we’re beyond the point of no return....

Change Is Easy

Change is easy, right? Ok, you go first! I love that line because, as we all know, we always feel like it’s the other person who needs to change first. You don’t trust that they will change, too, if you go first, so you want them to go first so you can j̶u̶d̶g̶e̶ I mean, trust them. That’s part of what makes it really hard being a manager. When there’s a problem, your name comes up! It’s easy for employees to lay blame on you for any problems happening in the office. And sure, relationships are a two-way street. It can feel unfair when that team judgement lands on you. But guess what? If anything is going to change, it’s your role to move first, to build that trust, to take that risk. That’s part of being a leader. Being a leader is a huge amount of work. No question. You are required to be different. You are required to be more patient, ask better questions & positively engage with people, even if they can’t — or won’t. If someone’s going to change a negative situation, it’s you. You can hope that someone else will step up, but you can’t bank on it. Employees may not think they have the authority or influence, and they may not. They may not be aware of the boundaries or might be worried about losing their job. When something needs to change, it’s our opportunity as leaders, in the words of Gandhi, to be the change. You are just as human as the rest of the team, just as nervous or afraid of making a mistake, perhaps. And...

Adding a Child Won’t Fix It

Have you ever heard one of those heartbreaking stories where a couple struggling with their relationship suddenly decides to have children — thinking it will bring them closer together? How often does that work out well? Yeah — it’s a terrible strategy that virtually never works. And yet millions of couples have done it! Kids can’t automatically make your marriage better. In fact, kids often reveal the weaknesses in your relationship, and almost inevitably make things harder. After all, the Army has nothing on parenting being the toughest job you’ll ever love. We do the same thing in our careers. When frustrated, unhappy, or disrespected in their job, I have watched many decide to “have a baby” — in other words, take on a huge responsibility in order to prove to themselves or their superiors that they’re committed. Sometimes this strategy works; but very rarely is a great new work experience or a wonderful marriage forged in the flames of this “new child.” Far more often, a stressed system exposed to an even greater stress breaks under the pressure, and there are almost always innocent bystanders harmed in the process. Employees or clients will suffer if you are unable to meet your new or old commitments, just like a broken marriage hurts children, family, and friends. If your job is causing you stress or self-doubt, adding to your pile of responsibilities is not the solution. Instead, work to connect with the job and responsibilities you have now.  Name the problem accurately, identify where, when or how you are feeling disrespected or invisible or devalued — whatever the real issue is. Seek help.Perhaps...

Would You Be Crazy To Say ‘No?’

A client of mine has been offered a position with a company that would nearly triple his already six figure income. And on the surface, who wouldn’t want that?  It’s a LOT of money. The problem is, he’d have to move to a city he doesn’t want to live in, doing work that he doesn’t truly love, for a company he has very little respect for.  It forced us to evaluate a career opportunity in a slightly different way. What would you do? A lot of people seem to say ‘yes’ to any and every promotion, no matter what it means and without serious consideration. And when it’s accompanied by a significant raise it’s near impossible to say no. But is that really the best thing for you? What if you’re thriving right now because of your current environment? What if the greener grass you see is plastic, and while your current job may be a bit old or rote, are you willing to give up what would be necessary to give up in order to take the new opportunity?  Will the change in environment really help you succeed — or will it pull you back? Will it get you where you want to go long term? Will you like who you will become in that new role and/or company? If you were to write the script for a perfect job that defined every aspect; work environment, purpose, personal impact, impact on the world, co-workers, flexibility, pay, benefits, personal life, stress levels, challenge, respect, opportunity for growth, and so forth, how does this new position really measure up?  If it only checks the...

Tools Don’t Build Masterpieces, People Do… With Tools

I seem to be on a CVI kick,  so let’s go back to my comment a couple weeks ago about the CVI being a tool. I recently asked a group what they thought of the CVI. The first person to respond said, “I think it’s crap, a waste of our time.” “Wholesale & completely?” I asked. “Maybe not wholesale and completely, but yeah, pretty much.” Suddenly, heads started nodding. Some people thought it was absolutely amazing — but the general consensus among much of the room was that it was OK at best. “Oh, thank God,” I said. “Thanks for getting that out of the way so early. I almost completely agree with you. I’ve resisted assessments my entire career because my general thought of assessments is that they’re boxes. Once someone knows your ‘color,’ your ‘letters’ it’s too easy to put you a box and say ‘now I know you’, but they don’t. They only know an idea of you. One tiny thing among countless other things. “I use the CVI as a tool, not an answer,” I told them. “A tool to help us ask the bigger, better question. And then, when we have conflict, we’ll pull out the CVI and see if that tool helps us again. If it does, cool.  If not, put it away.” It’s a tool. The beautiful part about a tool is, the tool’s not the product. The tool’s what you use to build the product. We get a chop saw in order to create bookshelves and homes. But it’s just a tool; it’s not the shelves or the house itself. For me, that’s an empowering reality...

A Core Values Leadership Case Study

Let’s dive into the CVI a little bit more. Here’s a case study in the CVI: Take a leader who’s a Merchant/Builder, which simply means their highest value is relationship and making deep, honest connections with people; and their secondary value is the confidence that they know how and what to do to have the greatest positive impact on a situation. In this case, the leader really wanted to show up as his Merchant self in the workplace; he wants to respect relationships, make real connection, respect the values of others, operate from that place of love/truth… all that. That’s who he wants to be. Problem is, in this particular situation, he keeps showing up like a Builder; confident, knowing what to do, and willing to take action. That realization — that he was showing up as a Builder — depressed him; he saw it as a negative. He wants to be a Merchant, but was naturally leaning into a Builder, and he judges himself negatively for that. The real growth happened when he was able to to flip the judgment into genuine power — the real value of the Builder: to accept that he is showing up in a positive, powerful way, that he really does know what to do and his confidence was empowering to the team to step up and THAT’S OKAY. Builders get a bad rap, because their negative conflict strategy —  intimidation — is so feared. He doesn’t want to be aggressive and intimidating! But once he realized that he was being a Builder, guess what? He could access the POSITIVE side, too! Which leads us to a better...