Ways to Increase Accountability

Accountability is an all-or-nothing proposition. Either you are or you aren't. Your job as an open-door leader is to create an environment where everyone, including you, is held accountable. Here are some tips for increasing accountability.

• Write down explicit expectations about the activities, deliverables, and deadlines that have to be achieved; no vagaries allowed.

• List all the excuses you can think of for why the work won't get done; then list actions to remedy those excuses upfront.

• Clarify the rewards for success and the consequences for failure.

• Post the expectations in a place where they can continuously be seen and referred to.

• Make sure everyone is aware of each other's specific assignments—create social pressure to succeed.

• Establish a schedule for frequent progress reviews, and increase the frequency if progress slips.

• After all the activities, deliverables, and deadlines have been met (or not), conduct a lessons-learned meeting to capture improvement ideas for future assignments.

By not letting up and by always being on point, Steve slowly reclaimed his confidence. As of right now, he is successfully leading the large joint venture. And, with Steve's help, Wayne is working on landing an even bigger project in the same area.

Could You Be a Velvet Hammer?

One of the most effective ways to increase the likelihood of a personal transformation in others is to give straightforward feedback. Open-door leader give us the kind of feedback that takes courage to deliver and even more courage to hear, and personal transformation is almost impossible without it. Consider, for example, this story of a middle manager whose boss, one of the most respected people in the company, gave him some hard-hitting feedback that most people wouldn't have the courage to give. One of the reasons everyone admired and respected the boss was his way of being a velvet hammer—he could deliver feedback in a way that would make you pay attention without putting up your defenses. During the middle manager's performance review, after talking about all the things that he was doing well, his boss said, “There is one more thing that I have to tell you before you go. There's something that I'm just starting to notice, and I'm concerned that others will start to notice too. It can become a real drag on your career unless you deal with it now. You're becoming a brown noser.”

Ouch! Humiliated, the manager did what any brown noser would do: he tried to laugh it off. “What do you mean, boss? By the way, I meant to tell you that I really like your new tie!” But his boss didn't laugh. He wouldn't let this conversation drift into the shallow waters. What he said next made all the difference: “Listen, you don't have
to laugh at my jokes harder than they are funny. That's not only dishonest; it's manipulative. If you just agree with everything I say you'll be of no real value to me. You're a smart guy with a strong imagination. Rely on your own creativity and ideas to get ahead, not on kissing up to people like me.”

Ten years after receiving that hard-to-hear feedback, the middle manager considers it the single most important conversation he had in his entire career. His boss essentially gave him permission to care less about what others thought about him. He had been a people pleaser since he was a kid, not because he genuinely cared about others, but because he liked being liked. By schmoosing you, he could get you to like him, and if he could get you to like him, he might be able to get you to do what he wanted— for his benefit, not yours. His boss's tough feedback helped shift him from unconfident inauthenticity to confident authenticity. It helped him become more of a truth teller, which is supremely important to career advancement. He learned to assert his opinions and ideas in a more muscular way, which transformed the development and advancement of his career.

Some people pride themselves on being brutally honest. But brutality almost always puts up people's defenses. The open-door leader provides feedback in a way that gets through to people so they can put the feedback to work and transform their behavior. The balance is one of assertiveness and diplomacy. Before delivering tough feedback,
be thoughtful about what you want to say. Make sure it is absorbable and digestible so that your words will be met with reception and not defensiveness. Being a velvet hammer is not about making them feel ashamed of themselves or afraid of you. The point is to communicate assertively and respectably so that the other person benefits from the feedback. Deliver your honesty without brutality.

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