Building A High Trust, High Engaged, Accountable Culture: The Power Of Attunement

I grew up listening to transistor radios with dials that changed stations. Rather than pushing buttons, you turned a knob to tune in to a designated station. Before the age of hundreds of satellite/internet radio options, it took a few moments to fiddle with the dial to “tune it” to the exact station you were looking for. You had to keep adjusting the knob until you got connected to the right station. The stations were few, but when you connected, you appreciated what you got.

Just as the output of a radio requires tuning to the right station, the output of trust, engagement, and accountability – three vital leadership pillars – requires tuning in to the right “employee station.” Do you ever get “static” from your staff, in the form of resistance, disengagement, entitlement, or defiance? Start by looking at how attuned you are to the employee experience.

Here are three ways to get attuned to your staff:

  • Care enough to pause and pay attention. When people become quiet in a meeting, don’t assume consent. You have to stop and check out what the silence means. You have to ask. You have to listen. You have pay attention to what is beneath the surface. To get engagement from people you have to make it a habit to “hall walk,” as my friend Vincent Deberry calls it. You have to get out of your office and walk the halls, and every so often stop. You have to make it a point to stop and ask how people how are doing – both at work and away from work. You have to be in touch. Get to know people. Make contact. Listen for concerns. Bring a “servant mindset” to your work as a leader. We say, “people are our greatest asset.” Are these just words, or do you live this in your workplace?
  • See the goodness in people. I believe that people are fundamentally good. Most people are here to do good and to make the world better. I believe in the goodness of people. I believe that humans are, at the core, good, and that there is a positive intention behind every action, regardless of appearances. If you don’t see any goodness in any person on your team or your organization, you haven’t looked hard enough. You haven’t spent the time to know what motivates them or what matters to them. Jack Kornfield has a great story about the story of human goodness in the video http://bit.ly/2tFMN5u
  • Bring a servant mind-set to your work. Servant leadershipis a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world. Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Servant leadership turns the power pyramid upside down; instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people. When leaders shift their mindset and serve first, they unlock purpose and ingenuity in those around them, resulting in higher performance and engaged, fulfilled employees. A servant leader’s purpose should be to inspire and equip the people they influence.[1]

Servant leadership isn’t about pleasing people and making them happy. Servant leadership is, instead, the bone-deep commitment to support, encourage, and challenge people to be all they can be.

People, it has been said, don’t leave organizations. People leave bosses. Do people feel that you care enough to stop and pay attention to them? Do they feel that you see their goodness? Do your people feel that they are served, that you have their back, that you are committed to do all you can to support them in their job and even in their life?

You can’t expect a high trust, high engaged, accountable organization without attunement.

Seven Steps To Holding An Employee Accountable

“Everyone on a team knows who is and who is not performing and they are looking to you as the leader to see what you are going to do about it.” – Collin Powell, former US Secretary of State

Last week, in a two-day culture and leadership development workshop with a group of executives, one of the leaders made a fascinating statement: “I’ve been a positional leader for almost thirty years, and I’ve never learned an actual process for holding people accountable.”

I find this fascinating. We talk about “holding people accountable” all the time. We all know we need to be doing it, and we all think we know what we talking about. But do we? Far too often, tasks are assigned to employees in a haphazard way, hoping that the worker will ‘figure it out’ and deliver an adequate, even superior, performance. If this is your accountability process, you will soon realize that ‘hope’ is a better strategy for frustration than it is for results.

I have observed three reasons why managers don’t hold people accountable:

  • They aren’t clear about how to do it. There isn’t a clear accountability process in place.
  • They don’t want to be the bad guy. A recent Harvard study showed that many managers, hoping to get promoted, refrain from holding their people accountable because they want to get good performance feedback and stay in line for promotion.
  • It’s too hard. Let’s face it. It’s tough holding people accountable. It takes courage. Leaders must be prepared to put in the time and to have the tough conversations.

Seven Steps To Holding People Accountable

  1. Build Trust – Accountability without trust is compliance. Make the connection. Be trustworthy. Keep your promises. Be accountable. Make the connection.
  2. Discover the Reason – Accountability without a vision – without purpose and passion – is drudgery. If someone lacks accountability in their work, it usually means that haven’t found a reason to be accountable. They don’t have a why. Before you talk about results, if at all possible, help your employees discover a fit – between what they are passionate about what is expected of them. Even if you find out that their primary passion lies outside of work, at least you are supporting them. Fit people; don’t fix people.
  3. Clarify – Ambiguity breeds mediocrity. People need to be clear about what is expected and how success is defined. Clarify expectations, including what kind of attitude is required and what results are promised. People also need a clear line of sight between how their contribution makes a direct impact on the success of the organization.
  4. Get an Agreement – I define accountability as: The ability to be counted on. Accountable people never make a promise they can’t keep. But we need to get better at making promises. A request is not an agreement. If you want to hold someone accountable, you must get their full 100% agreement. Before you make an agreement, be sure the willingness, the resources, and the capabilities are in place. If you don’t get an agreement to a required request, then go to Step 6.
  5. Support Requirements – To be committed, engaged, and ultimately accountable, people need to feel that they can talk openly about the support they require to achieve their accountabilities. What support is needed? Your employee’s negotiated support requirements will be your accountability to them. The support requirements of your employees will be their accountabilities to you.
  6. Consequences – With no consequences there will be no accountabilities. Always start with positive consequences (motivators). Motivators are the internal or external results of delivering on your accountabilities. Motivators are meant to inspire you to achieve your accountabilities. If these don’t get the job done, then go to negative consequences.
  7. Follow up – Follow up means a clear understanding of a plan for follow-through, including how often we need to meet and with whom, to ensure that you hold yourself and each other accountable for honoring the promises you have made to each other. If you end up getting to negative consequences, then follow up means you must now be accountable to follow through on the consequences that were put forward to your employee.

If accountability remains a challenge for you or for your organization, I’d like to hear from you. Perhaps I can be of some assistance. http://www.davidirvine.ca/contact

SHINING A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS: 5 Ways Caring Can Make A Difference

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.     – The Christophers

Yesterday I received a note from a good friend and client of many years. It started a discussion on how, over recent months, we have both been gravely troubled by the violence in the world, the disregard for human life and politicians using fear to appeal to the darkest side of humanity. I don’t know what’s worse: the terrorism, shootings, and how people treat each other, or the fact that we are getting used to it.

While advancing age is undoubtedly a factor in increasing one’s concern about the world, I think it is more than that. There is a call to action needed. We need to be vigilant to create positive messages, thoughts and behaviors wherever and however we can.

Here are five ways you can implement some caring in your workplace and the world around you:

  1. Show you care before you show you’re competent. There is a growing body of research that illustrates when we judge our leaders we are looking for two primary characteristics: 1) How competentthey are, and 2) How much they care. It’s human nature to try to emphasize our strengths, abilities, and credentials to demonstrate our competence. We feel compelled to show others that we are “up to the job,” by striving to present the most innovative ideas in meetings and being the first to tackle a challenge. But this approach ends up backfiring. Trustworthiness is the first thing people look for in others and in leaders. Those who project strength before establishing trust run the risk of eliciting fear, distance and disengagement. And the first step in gaining trust is showing you care. In times of uncertainty, people look to a leader who they believe has their back. Those are the people we trust. Those are the people we listen to. Before people decide what they think of the message, they decide what they think of the messenger.
  2. Don’t wait for the boss to give you recognition and appreciation. Instead, get busy givingrecognition and appreciation to everyone on your team. I am a believer in peer recognition programs. Instead of waiting for the manager to acknowledge good work, each employee is encouraged to recognize positive attributes, stories of overcoming life’s challenges, and contributions at work that make a positive difference. I know of companies where staff are encouraged to give out actual certificates that recognize specific achievements of their peers either privately or at employee recognition functions. Done respectfully and meaningfully, these methods of appreciating and acknowledging each other can go a long way.
  3. Say thank you. Gratitude has transformative power. Gratitude is the antidote to hatred, fear, and entitlement. Next time you see a police officer, take a moment and thank them for their work. Next time you see a tired cashier at the grocery store, take a moment and express your gratitude. Thank a colleague for their contribution on a recent project. It’s easy to be grateful when you get what you want. The real challenge is being grateful when you don’t get what you want. It’s not a good life that makes us grateful; it’s being grateful that makes a good life.
  4. Apologize. To be human is to err. When you make a mistake and everyone knows it was a mistake, admit it, say you’re sorry, and tell the people who are impacted how you are going to remedy the situation. Having the humility to acknowledge when we are wrong and apologize for our errors is an indicator of strength, character, and integrity. Real leadership is impossible without a willingness to apologize and acknowledge when we make a mistake. It’s an act of caring to have the courage to take an honest look at ourselves, to take a truthful appraisal of the impact of our actions on others, and to have the willingness to make necessary changes.
  5. Create a circle of trust with your team. Whether your team is an executive team in a company, a project team in your division, a board of directors in a volunteer organization, or a family, a circle of trust is a helpful tool.  It revolves around kindness and understanding of the other person’s challenges and situation. A circle of trust is a process for taking the time to understand all the relevant and salient issues leading up to any particular decision or action in the team. The circle of trust approach ensures that each person on the team gives their peers the full benefit of the doubt until they fully understand why a decision was made. Complaining or expressing off handed comments concerning any team member has a negative effect on the reputation and wellbeing of all team members. Openness, honesty, and sincere caring for each other restores a sense of dignity and compassion until each person on the team can understand the challenges of the other.

How people interact, care and recognize one another impacts our lives and our world in unimaginable ways. A little human touch makes a big difference. Each of us may only be able to impact a small piece of the world through positive behaviors and influence. But eventually, with enough of us making some effort, we well might make a difference. This world could use a helping hand from all of us.

Let’s all do our part to make the world around us just a little better. What are you doing to bring some light to this darkened world?

Six Ways To Know If People Trust You

Trust is the most important issue facing the world today and lies at the foundation of every relationship. Trust is the keystone of success in work and in life. It’s the new global currency. It crosses cultures and generations. Building, restoring, and sustaining trust is your number one leadership challenge. Without trust there is no leadership, no relationship, no life as we know it in this interconnected universe. If you stop and think about it, trust lies at the centre of everything we do.

So, if trust is so important, how do you know if you are trusted by others? How do you assess it? How do you measure it? While trust has an emotional component to it, trust is not an emotion. Trust is an action. Trust is demonstrated by the way you behave in response to another person or circumstance.

In your most trusted relationships, trust is generally not even talked about. Instead, it’s demonstrated.

You know you have earned trust when:

  • People seek your advice. You know that you have earned the trust of others when they come to you for your input, your opinion, your perspective. Do others ask you for guidance?
  • People are honest with you. People will have the tough conversations with people they trust. You know you have earned trust when others bring you the bad news, negative feedback as well as celebrations, and when they are vulnerable, direct, candid, and straightforward with you. You can be polite with anyone, but the seed of trust lies within Are people giving you open and honest feedback, bad news as well as good?
  • People challenge you. As a corollary to #2, you know you have established trust, especially when you are in a position of authority, when others respectfully challenge your point of view, your approach, and your decisions. Are you being challenged by the people who report to you?
  • People are competent. While you can foster competence for a time in a non-trusting relationship, it won’t last. Trust breeds competence. Trust builds results. Trust fosters capability. Are you getting the results you need from your team?
  • People are relaxed around you. I recently coached a manager whose boss exploded every couple of weeks. He constantly lived in tension, never knowing what would set the boss off. Being relaxed is not the same as being complacent. It means being calm in the midst of activity. You are more effective when you aren’t wound up and stressed. You are more productive and do better work when enjoying yourself. Tension, stress, anxiety – all indicators of a lack of trust – can destroy a workplace. Are you aware of the level of tension in the people around you?
  • People stick around. It’s been said that people don’t leave organizations; they leave bosses. The number one reason people leave marriages is because they no longer feel good about themselves in the presence of their spouse. People leave bosses for the same reason: they no longer feel good about themselves in their presence. You don’t feel good about yourself when you are around people you don’t trust. How’s the retention rate of your direct reports?

Trust is not built in a day. It is built daily. It’s built with consistent action. It’s built with care and compassion. It’s built with honesty and stability and strong character. Trust is built through paying unwavering attention to the small things and knowing what’s important to people. Trust is built with integrity and a can-do attitude. It’s built with a disciplined, focused approach of investing in the lives of people who matter to you.

BRIDGES OF TRUST – 12 Ways To Become An Accountable Person

From our research and work of building trusting cultures we know that personal accountability is the keystone on the bridge of trust. In today’s world, you won’t get power from your title. You get your power from your ability to build trust. And you build trust first and foremost, by being accountable. It’s that simple, and it is also that difficult.

Below are 12 ways to earn trust, inspire others, and amplify your impact on the world by becoming an accountable person.

1)     Earn the right to be on people’s Accountability List. Accountability is the ability to be counted on. It’s always easier to see a lack of accountability in other people. Make a list of people in your life that you can count on, and don’t ever take these people for granted. They may save your life one day. Now imagine those you serve making a similar list. Ask yourself if you have honestly earned the right to be on their Accountability List and get to work to earn a place there.

2)     Bring a flashlight to work, not a stick. You don’t foster an accountable culture with threats, intimidation, or fear. You build accountability by catching people being accountable, by acknowledging, recognizing, and rewarding accountable action, by shining a light on what you want to build. What you focus on is what grows.

3)     Be an Anti-Entitlement Person™. Being anti-entitlement means that you believe you need to bring value to others before you deserve any compensation. You earn the right to have work/life balance before you expect it. You earn a raise before you presume one. Being anti-entitlement means you chose service over self-interest, gratitude over privilege, and obligations over rights.

4)     Be a contributor, not a consumer. There appears to be two kinds of people in the world: Those who help, and those who hinder; those who give and those who take; those who lift, and those who lean; those who contribute, and those who consume. In the dictionary you’ll learn that to consume is to “destroy, squander, use up…” while to contribute is to “build, serve, make better…” In a consumer society, you’ll stand above the crowd of mediocrity when you decide to be a contributor.

5)     Be an entrepreneur, not a bureaucrat. In the bureaucratic world, people get paid for putting in time and effort. In the entrepreneurial world, people get paid only for the value they bring to others. Whether you are an entrepreneur or a bureaucrat has nothing to do with where you work. It has everything to do with the decision you make when you come to work.

6)     Bring a No-Blame Attitude™ to you everything you do. Your life will change forever the day you decide that all blame is a waste of time.  Accept responsibility, even when you aren’t responsible. Saying, “I’m responsible for that,” will never diminish you. Take ownership for your side of the street. Become part of the solution to every problem that’s in front of you.  

7)     Reach for your passion and purpose. Why do you get out of bed in the morning? What gets you up early? What keeps you up late? What inspires you to go the extra mile? Accountability without passion is drudgery.

8)     Start your day with a private victory. If you want a respectful workplace or relationship, start by earning self-respect. When you respect yourself, others will respect you. I learned from the late Dr. Stephen Covey to start every day with a personal victory. Get the hard tasks out of the way first thing in the morning. Feel good about yourself by conquering a difficult task early in the day. No one ever took pride or developed self-respect by procrastinating or doing something easy.

9)  Read more books, and less emails. Accountable people are life-long learners. They bring curiosity to everything they do. They have a disciplined approach to daily reflection, study, and learning. Accountable people learn from their mistakes as well as their successes. Read more books. Read less emails.

10)  Stay connected. “The eye can’t see itself.” We all need others to confide in, help us learn from our mistakes and increase our self-awareness. Find a confidant. They are a hedge against self-deception. It’s a myth that it’s lonely at the top. It’s lonely only if you isolate yourself. Make relationships a priority. Get away from your computer and out of your office. Be in touch. Listen. Acknowledge people. Accountability without connection is compliance.

11)  Show up on time. Actually, show up early. Make it a habit of deciding that meetings start ten minutes before others say they start. Arriving ten minutes early will create space in your day for creative energy, help you be more relaxed, and will show respect to yourself and to those attending the meeting.

12) Grow where you are planted. Don’t expect that a better job or a better relationship or a better place to live will make you happier. Do what’s in front of you now. Serve where you are. The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is greener where you water it.

Personal Leadership – A Culture of One

Operational accountabilities are about what has to be done in an organization. Leadership accountabilities, on the other hand, are about how the work gets done. You have to take both into consideration if you want to build a great culture. Culture defines the how.

It is important to regularly assess how your people are achieving operational results, and it is just as important to regularly assess your culture with a Culture Inventory:

  • Are people clear about the values that are espoused – the way we do the work?
  • Are there clearly defined behaviors attached to each of the values so that the expectations of the how are explicit?
  • Are there clearly defined promises between the manager and the employee about what both are agreeing to?
  • Are there clearly defined support agreements, so everyone feels supported?
  • Are there clearly defined consequences – both positive and negative?
  • Is the follow-through clear, so that the agreements remain current and remain useful?

Just as it is good for a regular Culture Inventory, is it important to take a Character Inventory – an assessment of our own personal way we are at work and in the world. Similar to how an organization has a culture – a way of doing things, individuals also have a way.

Much emphasis in organizations is put on the what, and this is true with individuals as well. How many people do you know emphasize the achievements in their life but don’t pay attention to the kind of person they are becoming in the pursuit of these achievements? A Character Inventory assesses the kind of person you are – how you are living your life.

If you want to attract others, you must be attractive. Strong character demands that you shift from being the best in the world to being the best for the world, to strive not for what you can get, but what you can give, to endeavor not for what you can have or what you can do, but for who you can be. A job title, the letters behind your name, the size of your office, or your income are not measures of human worth. No success by the world’s standards will ever be enough to compensate for a lack of strong character.

It’s an act of caring to pause every so often and take an inventory of your character.

  • How are you doing in areas such as compassion, reliability, honesty, courage, prudence, contribution, and maturity?
  • Are you one person in public and another in private?
  • Do you focus as much on what kind of a person you are in the world as much as on what you want to achieve in the world?

Like a business that takes regular stock of its inventory, this is a fact-finding process. There can be blind spots to seeing yourself, so get feedback from the most important people in your life. Being a good person precedes being a good leader in any capacity.

Here’s a list of actions that demonstrate strength of character. See how you measure up with this list, or take the time to write your own list:

Let go of what you want.

Prudence is the common sense – that unfortunately is not so common any more – to live with what you can do without, and the ability to find joy in what is here. Every so often it’s good to surrender something we want, but don’t need. In a world that confuses wants with needs, debt continues to rise as character continues to erode. Practice living below your means, not getting everything you want, and finding freedom in enjoying what you have.

Do something difficult every day.

“Do the hard stuff first,” my mother used to say. The earlier in the day you get the difficult work done, the better you’ll feel about yourself and the rest of your day will improve. Whether it’s having a difficult conversation, getting some exercise, or taking a risk, character is built on the foundation of overcoming the natural tendency to take the course of least resistance.

Clean up after yourself.

Something eats away at your character when you sit in your mess or leave your messes for someone else to look after. And if you really want to experience character, walk through a park close to where you live and clean up garbage left behind by someone else.

Look beyond yourself.

Character means choosing service over self-interest. Character grows in the soil of concern for others and the commitment to act on that concern. We can all find ways to make life better for someone less fortunate than ourselves.

Spend less than you earn.

This is truly one of the best character habits you can develop. Spending less than you earn, whether it’s reflected in your home, your car, or the stuff you buy, is another version of prudence. The space you create in your life by doing so will give you freedom, renewed worth, and contentment that money will never buy.

Practice gratitude.

Gratitude is integral to strong character. It’s the antidote to the entitlement that contaminates character. Be an appreciator, rather than a depreciator, of everything that shows up in your life, including opportunities disguised as problems. What you appreciate, appreciates.

Before you criticize the culture you work in or the leaders of the culture, take a good look in the mirror. Leadership is about PRESENCE, not position. What kind of presence do you bring to your work? What kind of person are you? What is your “way” of being in the world? As a personal leader, you are a culture of one. Make it a daily practice to review your character in relation to your daily life, your friends, your acquaintances, and your work. Keep striving to be a better leader by being a better person. This is the real satisfaction and ultimate goal in life.