As part of my consulting work with companies such as HP, Nike, Gap Inc., IBM, Mercedes-Benz, and others, one of the things my team does is examine how to improve the performance of teams — how they make decisions, how they innovate, how they take ideas from inspiration to money-makers. A lot of our work with teams is getting them to understand how to work together better. Trained in the theory of organizational behavior, I’ve always been a big believer that improving group dynamics is the key to getting organizations to perform better.
Recently, faced by new challenges in my own company, I hired a consultant to help me personally become a better leader. I chuckled a bit at the time: It’s a classic cobbler’s children syndrome…my team and I are so busy helping our clients, we fail to help ourselves. So I decided to hire someone to help us help ourselves.
My coach Ken Davidson has spent virtually all his time talking about 100% accountability — the notion that if you truly want to be powerful in your ability to get results, you have to be 100% accountable for everything in your life. On the surface it seems like a somewhat counter-intuitive concept in a world where we’re supposed to delegate tasks to others, lead change, and blah, blah, blah (you know the mantras). But when you dig deeper, the implications are profound: To be great at what you do, you have to be 100% accountable.
- You say something, your team doesn’t understand. Who is accountable?
- Your team isn’t getting results. Who is accountable?
- A new leader you’ve hired doesn’t perform as well as you thought she would, based on the strength of her resume. Who is accountable?
- A competitor makes a bold move in the market and it throws off the effectiveness of your plan. Who is accountable?
In most of these cases, when you pose these questions, leaders (including myself!) divide the accountability between two parties — you and your team, your new leader and yourself, the team that created the strategy and yourself. Ken retorts: All the accountability resides 100% with you.
When you start looking at the world through that lens, it profoundly changes your actions. You start to see the world as a place where you can have deep and lasting impact on many more fronts.
As you go through your day today, put on that lens, tell me what you see differently.