Burn Your Boats

This example, although extreme, is a powerful mindset.  Burning your boats is essentially removing all excuses.  If soldiers found themselves outgunned and outmanned they would have to come up with a strategy different then strength in numbers.  When the option of retreat is off the table, ingenuity and innovation become the new battle tactics.

When we commit to an idea, we must burn our boats.  Eliminate excuses.  The ideas are as endless as your potentials.  We shouldn’t spend time contemplating reasons why we cannot do something.  Instead we should create a list entitled: Why it needs doing.  At the top of the list sits three simple words, “because you can.”

If you don’t have enough money, borrow some.  If you don’t have enough time, wake up an hour or two earlier, if you don’t know enough, learn!  Burn your boats.  If you do this, you no longer have an excuse to fall back on.

Thomas Edison often predicted he’d invent something by such a time.  He would purposefully be premature with his publications so that he would have full incentive to get it done.

Jack Foster writes, “Chances are the things you’ll regret the most won’t be the dumb things you did during that time.  They’ll be the things you didn’t do – the chance you didn’t take, the opportunity you didn’t seize, the idea you didn’t stay with.  Take it. Seize it. Stay with it.”

With excuses off the table all that’s left to do it try – and try we must.

I had a conversation with traveler and blogger Lauren Rains about stepping into the unknown.  I think she put it best when she outlined her own thoughts:

“Failure is always a possibility, but what if I don’t try, then I will never know. What if I don’t make a big difference? Well, what if I do? What about making small difference in peoples lives that otherwise wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t act?”

We are never fully aware of the ripple effect of our actions.  So when the opportunity to retreat presents itself, when excuses begin to surface, and a life of ‘should haves’ begins to manifest, burn your boats, commit to action, and take a step into the unknown.


March 22, 2011 at 8:19 am | Better Business | 1 comment

The Fox and the Hedgehog

There is the common misconception that with the influx of information there is an increase in knowledge.

We live in a world of rationalizers. I am going to tell you right here and now that openness is the remedy to a fixed mindset.  Now let me momentarily diverge to give clarity to this idea of filtered conceptualization.

Politics.  The argument can be made that the acquisition of information can be directly related to decrease in partisan bias.  But knowing more about politics doesn’t necessarily accomplish this.  Voters tend to assimilate facts that confirm what they already believe.  They think they’re evaluating candidates, but what they are actually doing is inventing or ignoring facts so they can rationalize decisions already made.

It is as if voters twirl a cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want.

This filter effect, which is so prominent in politics, extends into every aspect of our life.  We tend to look for information that already confirms what we already believe.  We edit the world to fit our ideology.  Imperative as focus is, we must make the distinction between a focused mind and a disregard for certain possibilities.

Historian Isaiah Berlin used animalistic mentalities to exemplify this very point.  While a fox knows many diverse things, a hedgehog knows one big thing.

When attacked, a hedgehog rolls itself into a ball so that its spines point outward.  A fox, on the other hand, does not rely on a single strategy.  A fox adjusts its strategy to a particular situation.  Accepting a situation as ambiguous, the fox relies on tailor-made approaches when conceptualizing possibilities.

The difference between the fox and the hedgehog is that the fox evades the seduction of certainty, while a hedgehog reassures itself with a foregone conclusion.

The fox’s abilities to think further than its preconceptions about a situation, make it a cunning and sly predator.  Foxes live in the unknown, constantly adapting to and evaluating different possibilities.

We take comfort in certainty.  Building blocks and cornerstones exist on this very premise.  The weakness of certainty is when you know you are right, you stop listening to perspectives that say you may be wrong.

Cognition is a powerful human asset. Like any muscle of the body we need to practice to strengthen it.  Foxes are notoriously cunning because they think about thinking.  They study their own decision-making process and gather information from a wide variety of sources.

It seems that the acquisition of knowledge lies in the openness of perspective.  We must be willing to entertain new thinking.  As effective as that spike defense may be, we do not want to remain complacent in certainty, satisfied with status quo.

Like the fox, we must be willing to accept ambiguity and charter the unknown.  That is where the true comprehension of knowledge spawns from, and the willingness to navigate ambivalence carries with it the potential for extraordinary possibilities.

March 19, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Awareness | No comment

Sole Purpose

This past Thursday we brought our legendary intent to 900 very extraordinary SFL employees in Quebec City with the launching of our Sole Purpose event.  Partnering with Soles4Souls, we are taking a joint effort to get shoes to the 300 million inhabitants of developing countries who have no such luxury.  But instead of just shipping out a bunch of shoes, our goal was to empower people to make a difference.  To be the change creating a lasting impact.

What a day! This past Thursday we brought our legendary intent to 900 very extraordinary SFL employees in Quebec City with the launching of our Sole Purpose event.  Partnering with Soles4Souls, we are taking a joint effort to get shoes to the 300 million inhabitants of developing countries who have no such luxury.  But instead of just shipping out a bunch of shoes, our goal was to empower people to make a difference.  To be the change and create a lasting impact.

So we quite literally put the creation of impact in the hands of each SFL employee.  Walking into a room of tables and chairs, they gazed upon hundreds of transparent bags containing ambiguous pieces and parts.  Armed with their ingenuity and guided by a sheet of instructions, this group of people were going to construct sandals that were then going to be shipped off to children in third world countries.

Wow! Talk about impact.  These legendary people were assembling sandals with their own two hands, which, in a couple of weeks, were going to be on a child’s feet. Those very pair of sandals were going to vastly improve the life of another human being. The sandals that they made! Impact rarely comes more direct then that.

CEO of Repario and creator of Sole Purpose, James Carter, spoke to these truly special people before constructing the sandals.  Imagine a world filled with legendary people and legendary actions, that would surely be a world I would love to see.  But as impossible as it seems to you or me, this is the journey of James Carter, and the theme of what he talked about.  Control your awareness, command your beliefs, and harness your courage.  The three components of Be Legendary.  The beauty of it is, and what James spoke so passionately about, is you do not have to go out and find these ingredients, we already have them.  We just have to relearn how to make use of them!

If someone was to tell me I could be legendary I would definitely say, “no way, me legendary? Na-uh.”  But now if someone was to tell me I already am legendary, that would be a whole new perspective that I automatically look at with disbelief.  But James challenged these SFL employees to think of themselves in legendary ways.  Legendary was simply not reality to them, lets face it, it really isn’t to any of us, but our beliefs shape our reality. So it then comes down to – what do you choose to believe in?

Clearly this group of people believed in making a difference.  They assembled pieces, attached laces, helped others, and in the end, built a pair of sandals.  As the event dwindled down, something quite amazing happened.  We saw people walking around the tables gathering unassembled sandals.  They would come up to us and say, “Can I take these sandals that no one has used and build them to be sent out?” James and I just looked at each other, both knowing the same thing – this, was legendary.

And so our kick off Sole Purpose event went wonderfully.  To see people break from their limits simply by realizing that they can, is an astounding and inspiring site to see.  Every time it happens, it helps me break through a few of my own limits.

“Think of a list of legendary people in your life. Do they consider themselves legendary? Probably not. Regardless, they are legendary because you think they are. Oh, and by the way, you’re on someones legendary list too.” – James Carter.

February 12, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Meetings & Conferences | No comment

Are Your Investments Worthwhile

How many times have we uttered the phrase, “That was a waste of time.”   As good as our intentions may be, the outcome clearly did not pan out the way we wished it to.

Hours upon hours of time invested into something, and the result goes unnoticed.  Perhaps it’s trying to figure out how to use a new piece of seemingly cryptic technology. Maybe it’s an attempt at learning a new language.  It could be time spent exercising, consoling others, studying, reading, helping, conversing, or just showing some support, and yet nobody really seems to notice.

We tend to measure our investments based off the worth other people see in them.  But any experience you engage in runs deeper than the perception others create.

Walt Disney World is a wonderful example of this.  Described as a magical place, Disney has an atmosphere of sheer wonder and awe.  How did Disney come to be what it is?  Investments.  Many of which go unknown, but no doubt play a pivotal roll into creating this living fantasy.

There is an incredulous attention to detail at Disney.

Sign posts are repainted every night after closing so as not to appear worn or chipped.

Pictures and murals contain such detailed ambiguity that each time you look at one you’re bound to find something new.

Carousels are painted with gold paint.  No, not gold-colored paint, but 23-karat gold-leafed paint.

But why invest in things that 95% of the guests won’t even notice?  I seriously doubt kids can tell the difference between gold-leaf and gold colored paint.

It is Disney’s commitment to their guests, letting them know that they go all out in everything they do.  And even if the guests don’t notice the employees certainly do.  Passion is contagious and so the commitment to excellence certainly catches on.

And so a good amount of the efforts that contribute to Disney’s greatness go unnoticed.  But unnoticed does not mean unworthy.  All those hidden details contribute to Disney’s unmatched reputation.

The same idea can be applied to each and every one of us.  We may not see direct results and our actions may go unnoticed, but like the freshly painted signs and ambiguous illustrations of Disney World, everything culminates into the essence of the whole.

Every action you take shapes who you are.  And so even if you have spent countless hours investing your time without being recognized for it, its okay, it is all part of the fantastical character of you.  And that is what get’s noticed.

Some people would view a golden painted carousel as idiotic and a waste of money. But those horses and chariots were painted gold because of the belief of Disney’s passion for excellence and commitment to it’s guests.  To Disney, their guest are gold, they are the reason for it’s existence.

If everything you do creates the essence of who you are, then is there really any time wasted?  Unmeasurable and unnoticed does not mean misused.

So what are your gold painted carousels?  Do you think your actions develop character? What is something you thought to be a waste of time? Was it?

February 12, 2011 at 8:08 am | Better Business | No comment

We See What We Look For

Consider this.  Two people watch a speech.  Both hear the exact same words, and yet both come up with drastically different conclusions.

How does this happen?

Well let’s say this were a speech about politics, and one person was a democrat while the other a republican.  Each person would see facts reaffirming their preexisting views.

The brain and the eye may have a contractual relationship in which the brain has agreed to believe what the eye sees, but in return the eye has agreed to look for what the brain wants.

Awareness is more of a choice rather than a general knowledge.

It’s like a word search and we are looking for the 10 words listed on the side of the puzzle.  Even if there are other words filled in, we tend to only see the ones we look for.  We use tactics that hone in on the first letter of our targets or chunk a couple of the letters together as our eyes scan the page.

It’s not that other words aren’t there, it’s that we aren’t looking for them, so in our world, they aren’t there.

Say I took that word search and gave five words to one person and five words to another.  Like the politicians who listened to the same speech, both would look at the same thing and come back with two completely different lists.  We see what we look for.

Go for a walk around your neighborhood and look at all the different styles of doors and roofing patterns.  You probably never would have realized all the different colors, styles, patterns, sizes, and textures.  And yet you have lived in this neighborhood for years, you must of looked at them.  But there is a difference between looking and seeing.

Looking is like breathing, natural and innate, seeing is whole separate level that requires effort and commitment.

What are we really seeing and what are we just looking at?

If life is a chaotic sequence of ambiguous letters, then our frame of reference would be the word bank sitting at the bottom of the page.  But how do we grow that word bank?  How do we look for new inputs in life?

Step outside your preexisting scope of life.  People often drive the same way to work everyday. You see the same things you saw yesterday.  Why not take a new way to work everyday? The latter constantly sees new things while the former constantly sees the same old things.

What if you…

Listened to a radio station you’ve never heard before.

Order something at a restaurant without knowing exactly what it is.

Read a magazine you have never heard of.

Learn to tie nots, read music, throw a boomerang.

Escape in nature, and look for plants you have never seen before.

Take up painting. Jackson Pollock throws paint on a canvas so can you!

Go to a place you have never visited.

Rent a movie you have never heard of.

Read a book on a topic you think you’ll dislike.

Have a wider variety of experiences. Who knows what new words you’ll add to your bank when you start doing different things.

When you diversify the elements of your life, your awareness grows and you begin to see a world of many viewpoints, and a puzzle that doesn’t just hold words, but sentences, stories, experiences, journeys, and adventures.  You’ll see a life that holds the most legendary potentials.

January 2, 2011 at 7:46 am | Awareness | No comment

Myers Briggs (MBTI) as a Team Building Tool

We talk a lot about tools for use in team building.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of tools available and used in ‘team building’ situations.

Whether it is a true ‘team building’ or not is not relevant here as Myers Briggs is actually an individual tool first.

However, a short discussion of tools are necessary before we can talk specifically about Myers Briggs.

You can give individuals the best tool in the world and they will still not use it or use it correctly.

Think of a shovel — you bring in a shovel and train the participants to use it. Then ask them to dig a hole. Shovel ready

Some will take the shovel and begin to dig.

Some will actually turn the shovel upside down and dig with the wrong end.

And yet some people will throw the shovel aside and begin digging with their hands.

It does not matter how great the tool is, many people will simply not use it. It may too difficult to learn yet another new tool. It is much easier to just do things the way I have always done it.

Team building tools, like Myers Briggs, are shovels.  They are simply tools to help you accelerate your learning, your productivity, improve yourself and your relationships.  But no one can make you use it if you don’t want, no matter how great the tool is.

Now, specifically about the Myers Briggs.

I like the Myers Briggs. However, I have found several common themes:

1. In a ‘team’ setting, I have found it is simply too much information. Myers Briggs is incredibly in depth. However, to it’s detriment. I cannot tell you how many times have come into a group setting after they have just taken the MBTI and all they can remember is the first of four letters, “I am an ‘E’…. something”.

While some of that can be attributed to the ‘shovel’ problem, it also is an indicator that the tool is not simple enough to be digested in an 8-hour ‘team building’ session. And unfortunately, that is how it is used much of the time.

2. There are problems with face validity of the tool. People don’t like to think they are so simple that they fit into one of sixteen types. So there is resistance that must be overcome and that takes away from valuable time.

3. You must really know the MBTI on an individual basis before you can use it as a ‘team’ tool. Since the learning is difficult as mentioned above, using it in any kind of team setting is difficult to impossible.

So, overall, using the shovel and digging a hole metaphor, the MBTI is not the right tool. It is more like a roto-tiller — high-powered and very useful, but not in a shallow ‘team building’ session that only lasts a single day. It churns up too much with no time to ‘smooth’ out the service.

A confused mind says ‘no’, and so, the tool is simply not used.

Where we find it useful is in smaller executive teams that we work with frequently both as a team and individual coach. The nuances can be fleshed out and the potential learning is much deeper than many other tools available.

Use this great tool, but make sure it is the right tool.  After all, you might be needing a rake instead of a shovel!

June 10, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Team Building, Team Building Tools | No comment

Make Sure Every Aspect of Your Meeting Serves Two Purposes

The old days of silly ‘team building’ is over.

There is a time and place for bonding, but with meeting time precious, make sure any time you spend is serving at least two purposes.


Years ago I was First Mate on an 80-foot sailing vessel and there were a couple of simple rules:

  1. Every item on the boat MUST serve at least two purposes.
  2. If an item did not serve more than two purposes, it must be absolutely critical to safety or well-being of the crew.

Every single item was examined and many were discarded. This was done intentionally to create a better quality of life aboard. Previously, we spent 70% of our time in beautiful tropical locations just fixing stuff.

After we examined everything, we found that we were able to cut a huge number of items from the boat, creating more space (very limited even on a big boat).  Also, we found we were very creative and invented a few items that have become hugely popular among sailors.

Most importantly, the amount of time spent on the deck, spent diving, spent enjoying the great locations went up dramatically.

This same idea, in some form, must be translated to meetings.

Spending time building towers, building boats, racing go-carts, <insert any ‘teambuilding>, while occasionally fun, is a waste of money and more importantly, time.

Make sure every aspect of your meeting is serving another at least two purposes.  And if it isn’t, chuck it.  Or find a way to make it serve another purpose.

I have used ‘team building’ as an example because it is abused so badly in meetings.  However, this idea can and should be applied to every aspect of your meeting.

Just like our quality of life on that boat, the quality of your meetings will go up dramatically.  Your clients, and the attendees, will LOVE your meetings.

April 8, 2009 at 2:37 pm | Meetings & Conferences | 3 comments

10-Step Survival Guide for Tough Times

Times are tough.

2 million jobs lost in 2008, 533,000 in November alone, the most in 34 years.  Manufacturing is down.  Now the automotive industry is requiring a bailout.

The economy is moving into a very difficult and tumultuous time.  We are all feeling nervous about what is coming.  Even companies in strong positions are running scared.

But, in the meantime, we must accomplish more in less time! Why? Because of the 2 million lost jobs.

We MUST be more productive and it is quite possible our job depends upon it.

What can you do?

Surprisingly, more than you might think.  Below are some ideas that may help you and/or the people you work with.  Follow our made-up 10-step recovery system and you will at least feel better:

  1. Stop reading the news. Or at least read less.  The dire headlines will continue with every nuance discussed about how the economy will never recover.  It makes for good, continuous coverage for journalists but is bad for our psyche. When the economy is recovering, the news will trumpet that too. Absolutely stop watching the news, for the same reasons as above.
  2. Do something selfless. Go do something positive and self-less for someone else.  You will feel good, they will feel good and perhaps someone is watching your random act of kindness.
  3. Create a ‘Thankful’ List. Sit down as a group and create your ‘Most Thankful’ list.  Each person shares one item on the list. We really do have a great deal to be thankful for. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter if you don’t feel thankful. Trust me, you will after that.
  4. Think positive thoughts – you will, in fact, get through this.  Say it to yourself.  Say it to each other. This may seem silly, but thinking positively is a habit. Create a good habit.
  5. Find Motivational Quotes. Assign a task for everyone to go out and find their favorite motivational quote, then share it with each other about why you picked that particular quote.  What personal meaning does it have.
  6. Fund an Entrepreneur. Have everyone pitch in $5.00 and create a pool. Goto www.Kiva.org and invest in an entrepreneur in a third world country. There are dozens to choose from and through the process, you get to decided, as a group, the kind of person and industry you want to support. This can lead to a great discussion of values.
  7. Spend Time As A Group. Set focused time aside to problem solve as a group.  We have tremendous experience that we could share.  When times are good and the money is rolling in, no one needs to worry about best practices or share ideas.  Right now is the time.  Now.
  8. Communicate Clearly. Communicate VERY clearly about the above tasks and any other tasks, situtation or challenge facing your group.  Don’t make it sound more that it is – be honest and clear, yet positive. Tell people times are tough and you will all need to get through it together.  Difficult times and challenges faced are what bring out character, both individually and as a group.
  9. Buy One of Our Group Activities. Carve out 60 minutes and run it.  It will bring the group together and potentially discussion about how you can all be more productive as a group or possibly communicate better or any number of potential outcomes depending upon which activity you choose.  And worst-case scenario, you purchasing our product will help us and make us feel better!
  10. What is your idea for #10? Send us your best idea for what we should add to this list and you will receive your choice of a digital product — $24.95 value – simply for sharing your knowledge.

Email James Carter at jcarter @ buildingteams.com and tell him your idea and which digital product you would like to have and she will respond to you. Pick them here.

We will accumulate the responses and ideas and put them in a future blog post.

Let’s talk seriously for a moment — during these difficult times many organizations struggle with decisions to reduce expenses and even lay off employees.

But now more than ever, it is imperative that companies optimize their employee’s potential and strive to develop a high performance teams.  When companies work with minimal resources, it is more crucial to improve interpersonal relationships in the workplace.  Teams with the right combination of knowledge, skills and motivation to excel can give the organization a competitive advantage.

Whether conducted by company trainers or outside consultants, team initiatives can promote greater cooperation, better communication and minimize dysfunctional conflict.  Experiential learning techniques such as interpersonal trust exercise, collaborative initiatives or interactive games can be very beneficial.

Remember, it is the Holiday season. Give Thanks. Reach out. Help a Stranger. Smile.

December 7, 2008 at 8:30 am | Better Business, Team Building | No comment

The Five C’s Of Managing Virtual Teams

Written with Jennifer Rasmussen

Your face to face kickoff meeting has just been deemed nonessential travel by the powers that be. The project, however, is just as essential as ever. The team members are scattered in offices all over the country. They’ve never met, seen, or heard each other, but they need to work as a unit. Getting them to gel together is your challenge.

 Even managers who excel at team building in a live environment can find themselves frustrated when faced with a virtual team; yet fostering a strong team dynamic among people who never meet face to face is fast becoming a necessary skill. These five essential best practices will help you do it.

Communicate.
Communication is the most basic of management tools, and you probably think you have this one down. You know you need to include your team in project planning. You know you need to give timely feedback and immediate updates. But whatever your normal level of communication is, double it with your virtual team.

 Clarity, frequency, and responsiveness are the keys. Experts will tell you that anywhere from 65-95 percent of communication is nonverbal. Yet for virtual team members, your words are often most or all of what they have to go on; they don’t necessarily have the opportunity to pick up on the nonverbal cues that make up so much of your message. So make sure your words are clear, and deliver them often. Because their isolation prevents them from coming across information in less formal ways, regular meetings via conference call or other technology are essential for virtual teams. Have them weekly, and keep the appointment, even if you don’t have any big news to report. Keep the agenda posted electronically in an area the whole team can access, and encourage them to add to it. Finally, make answering your virtual team members’ emails and phone calls a priority to make up for the fact that they can’t drop by your desk or catch you in the hall with a quick question.

Chat.
This is not the same as communication. Communication is professional. Chatting is personal. If you don’t think personal communication is part of your business life, ask yourself if you’ve ever had lunch with a colleague, or stopped to ask how somebody was doing at the water cooler, or looked at the pictures on somebody’s desk. Although your team members hardly need to be kindred spirits to work well together, some level of personal interaction is crucial for team bonding. Virtual teams don’t have lunches together. They don’t share water coolers. They can’t see each other’s desks. Chat cannot easily happen organically, so you need to provide a mechanism for it. Have a virtual pizza party: send a pizza to each location at the same time, and get together in an internet chat session or conference call to gab. Call your team members once in a while just to catch up. There are countless creative ways to introduce chat into your team dynamics; but you must make a conscious effort to do so.

Change it up.
It’s the wealth of technology that we have at our fingertips that makes virtual teaming possible. Telephone and email are far from the only tools at your disposal. Instant messaging systems, collaboration software, group bulletin boards or discussion areas, and chat rooms are all useful for working and meeting together. Many of these tools can be obtained inexpensively or free. Learn what’s out there, and use it all. Vary your methods of communicating, and learn which methods work best for which team members. Some people love email; others prefer the phone. Finally, make sure you are using each type of technology appropriately for the purpose it’s best suited to. If one email has been forwarded and replied to several times among several people, you’d be better off moving the issue to a conference call or online discussion.

Cut out.
One of the most often neglected pieces to building a virtual team is providing a safe place for interaction and discussion without the manager. Whether it’s a regular conference call, a bulletin board, or a chat session, your team needs a “staff room” that isn’t accessible to you. Your live teams can take advantage of their proximity to have discussions about issues without you there, and in doing so they often develop ideas they might not feel comfortable bringing up and working through in your presence. Your virtual team needs the same opportunity. Some managers are uncomfortable creating a space that they can’t get into, but if you ignore this need you not only eliminate a chance for a more free change of ideas, you risk ending up with a team that’s bonded well with you, but not with one another.

Celebrate.
Just because you aren’t there to take your team members out to lunch or just stop by to thank them for a job well done, doesn’t mean that everything you know about rewards and recognition doesn’t apply. Accomplishments must be acknowledged and celebrated, as a group when possible and appropriate. There are literally hundreds of ways to achieve this. Take the time to create a periodic newsletter and email or post it; be sure to have a section in it for accolades. Institute a peer-to-peer award system. Send virtual greeting cards or gift certificates from any of the dozens of websites dedicated to these purposes. Send them each a jar of jam when you reach a milestone. However you do it, just make sure you do.

The principles of managing virtual teams well are not much different from the principles of managing anybody or anything well. Apply two more C’s to these five: consistent and conscious. Practice them that way, and it can be virtually painless.

July 1, 2008 at 9:20 pm | Executive Teams, Team Building | No comment

Accountability Starts with You! Excuse Me?

Accountability is a funny thing. Ask almost anyone if they hold themselves accountable and you will receive one of several replies: ‘Of course!’, ‘Sure!’, ‘I do, but no one else seems to!’.

And then reading a book recently about personal accountability and read this statement:

‘Accountability starts with you!’

I could not stop laughing. Perhaps is struck me funny because it was late in bed. My wife thought there was something very wrong with me. Well, perhaps there is, but my response was normal.

I pictured Abraham Lincoln pointing a finger at me while saying very loud and with feeling, ‘Accountability starts with you!’

Houston, we have a problem.

Abe, buddy, turn that finger around.

I understand what the meaning was supposed to be and I even understand it was well intentioned. But that is not what it says. Let’s be correct and accurate if we are talking about accountability. Accountability starts with me. Let’s say what we mean, people. Don’t let Abe or ourselves off the hook here. Let’s hold ourselves accountable for saying what we mean.

Nevertheless, poor Abe is guilty of something we all do at some point. We point fingers. We look to find some outside source to blame for our circumstances. We rage, we yell.

· ‘It was the xyz department.’
· ‘It was the xyz department that forgot to ________.’
· ‘It wasn’t my idea.’
· ‘We could sell more if we had xyz.’
· ‘My manager doesn’t spend enough time with me to train me right.’
· ‘My manager interferes too much.’
· ‘My employees just stand around every chance they get.’
· ‘It’s Not My Fault!, and my personal favorite,
· ‘It’s not my job.’

Sound familiar? I do this EVERY day. This is victim thinking. What will any of those statements do to solve the problem? Nothing.

How often do we look inside and ask ourselves, ‘What could I have done to make that situation better?’ The answer to myself is, ‘Not too often.’

Honestly, I find I have to work very hard to not blame. It is so much easier that trying to work out a solution.

I am no pillar of strength. I fall into the same cycle of victimization as everyone else. I blame, mostly my wife. She is a handy target. But I will choose anyone so that I don’t feel responsible and accountable. Accountable to myself. And I don’t do this on purpose. It is a habit, and not just a habit at home. I carry it to work with me every morning.

How do we stop this cycle of non-accountability, even with ourselves? We already know the answer, the difficulty is sticking to it.

When is the subject of accountability brought up most? When it is CYA time. Very few discussions about accountability are held when things are going well. Why is that? Wouldn’t that be the best time for it? No one is in trouble yet. Everyone is on the same moral high-ground in the beginning. Establish the ground rules for accountability from the start. However, in today’s busy, fast-paced business world, there is simply not time. That is what I am told.

To illustrate personal accountability in it’s best form, I have a short story to tell.

We have recently been working with an employee of a particular company. This person was unhappy with their current work environment and was extremely concerned and frustrated.

This person mistakenly signed up for our free organizational assessment thinking that they would get an answer about her culture in five minutes or so with some great advice on some action they might be able to take.

After this person took the survey and asked where the report was, I explained the survey is for an organization. We needed more people for an analysis.

Most people would simply have said, ‘Thanks for nothing’, but this person made the decision to hold themselves accountable and make something happen.

Email was very difficult in their organization, so they printed the survey, made copies, distributed them, collected them and them inputted ALL the data from each survey by hand. At last count they were up to 46 surveys with each survey having 51 multiple choice answers and four open-ended questions. 46 surveys, all by hand. She even typed in all of the comments in the open-ended questions. Do you realize the work involved with that?

This person is the epitome of personal accountability and the antithesis of apathy. At some point they made the decision to be ‘part of the solution’ and has put in huge amounts of work on their own time to help improve the work environment for themselves, their colleagues and their company. You know who you are and I hope you are as proud of yourself as we are.

It is the aware person who will recognize when personal accountability is lacking in his or her own life. The wise person who will listen to feedback openly. And the brave person who will say “Okay, I’ll do what it takes to change and improve my own life.”

Let’s challenge ourselves and try to be all three — aware, wise and brave. Accountability starts with me!

P.S. In a recent update from the employee above who remained anonymous to her company out of fear of retribution, the company (large, multi-billion dollar international service organization) has made a number of company-wide changes recently that were directly related to many of the comments and results from the organizational assessment. Who ever said that one person does not make a difference?

 

June 2, 2008 at 2:22 pm | Team Building | No comment

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