Leadership is very rarely about doing what’s easy. If the decision ends up on your desk it typically means no one else can or should be making it. As Harry Truman was fond of saying, “the buck stops here.” If you are delegating properly, then your people will feel empowered to step up and make most day to day decisions. If you are picking the right people, then they will be capable of using sound judgment and thinking through just about anything. However, some issues still do come down to leadership prerogative and accountability.
I am regularly flabbergasted by the number of professional people I interact with who think it is okay to just miss meetings and/or deadlines as it suits them. This is especially true when it come to philanthropic or voluntary responsibilities. I do my best to give people the benefit of the doubt and understand that they can be stretched way too thin, but after awhile, why should this be anyone’s problem but their own. Whatever happened to personal responsibility? We are all busy. We are all striving to find work-life balance. Life is about making choices and establishing priorities.
About every week I meet with a client who bemoans the lack of accountability in their work environment. My first response is always, “we are what we tolerate.” However, I then walk them through the four reasons (in my experience) why things don’t get done: There is a lack of clarity about what needs to […]
I don’t know when the shift started to happen in my lifetime, but we have changed from a nation that gets results to one that seems to accept a lack of performance and then bemoans our lack of progress. You see evidence of this everywhere you turn: 1) structural economic issues that never get fully addressed; 2) traffic problems that never get solved; 3) infrastructure needs that are constantly put off until there is a crisis; 4) schools that turn out less than stellar results; 5) a widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else; 6) a health care system that is broken and too costly to maintain; and 7) wars that are started but never end, etc. Each group of leaders claims they are doing their best given the circumstances and/or blames their opponents for not doing their part. They then have the gall to rant on about our “exceptionalism.” It is a vicious non-productive and self-deluding cycle.
The most successful people I know do what they say they are going to do when they say they are going to do it. They are also good at being “present” in the moment and fully engaged in whatever they are doing. They avoid distractions and abhor excuses. High performance isn’t optional but instead a way of life. To them, hyper-performance and multi-tasking is for amateurs.
Leaders have to be careful about becoming too close to their employees. It is easy to get wrapped up in someone else’s personal life especially if you’ve know someone for a long time. There is a big difference between being a friend and being an employer or boss. The nature of the employer-employee realtionship is transactional – people are paid to do a job. Without the exchange of time for money the relationship probably wouldn’t exist. Moreover, it is much more difficult to hold a friend accountable or if necessary fire them.
I’ve been in many organizations in my professional career. In each instance, I’ve always come across a leader or management team who has a grand vision of the future and what’s possible. There are no shortage of ideas of what could be done and what should get fixed. I wholeheartedly believe that most people want to do a good job and make a positive contribution. It’s rare when you meet someone in a leadership position who shows up to work each day expecting to fail yet sadly it happens on a regular basis. There is often a disconnect between what people know should happen and what actually gets accomplished. We’ve grown far too accustomed to performance mediocrity and lowering our expectations.
We need to be able to distinguish between what is truly important and what is not. If we cannot do this, then we end up exhausting our internal resources and ultimately yielding opportunities to others who manage their time and energy better.
The objective of a leader, especially a public figure, should be to bring people together and foster a dialogue that strives to bridge our differences and find areas agreement. The end result should be to tap into the greater good rather than pursuing a Win-Lose agenda.
You are the Chief Accountability Officer. If you are unhappy with the level of performance in your company, look in the mirror first. The culture of an organization almost always assumes the strongest characteristics of its leader (both good and bad).
Once you go public with an organizational deadline, make it happen don’t miss it; actions always speak louder than words.