December 10, 2019

5 Steps for Improving Accountability on Your Team

When is John going to get me that report?”

“What is going on with the marketing report? When are they going to finish that thing?”

“I can’t believe Mary is so late in making those phone calls.”

“Okay…who dropped the ball this time?”

“Hey…that’s not MY job.”

Does this sound familiar? If so, your small business team may be faced with a big challenge with accountability, which results in finger pointing, frustration and broken trust…both with your employees and your customers. Personal responsibility and accountability can put an end to the blame game, saving your business thousands if not millions of dollars by increasing productivity and overall job satisfaction, which results in very satisfied customers. These five basic approaches can support you in increasing accountability, which are simple, yet they require actually building a culture of accountability for your business.

1. Communicate the big pictureAccountability stands a better chance of succeeding if everyone in your business embraces a larger responsibility for the success of the entire company. Spend time talking individually with team members about how his or her project affects the vision and mission of the business. With this communication, people can make wiser decisions from the context of the “big picture” rather than from the perspective of what may seem to be a detailed and boring task.

2. State clear expectations- If one person on your team does not meet your expectations, the entire team can fail. It is important from the very beginning of any new project to state the expectations clearly and repeat them over and over again until your team really “gets it.” These expectations need to be crystal clear, including dates, who is responsible for what, the details of the task and how you want the finished product delivered. If your expectations are fuzzy or confusing in any way, your team can break down, and the fine and very important details can fall through the cracks.

3. Accountability work groups-One of the best ways to achieve accountability is to develop shared accountability among team members. Accountability within the team can be accomplished by what Morris R. Shechtman calls “accountability groups,” groups which give team members the permission to speak and listen in a way which is frank and open. This accountability group can include 2-5 people and can then serve as a small unit of people working together to confide in with struggles, weaknesses and insecurities. They can then find creative strategies to work together in the direction of the growth the team intends to achieve.

4. Move to action-In order for accountability to work, people have to know that failure of completion will come with certain consequences, including written warnings, loss of a bonus or extra hours served on a week-end to complete the project on the table. Without consequences, your employees won’t take you seriously. They will think that they can use blame, justification and rationalization as a way to deviate from being responsible, because you have not followed through on what you said you will do if the tasks are not achieved.

5. Reward and recognition program-Employees need to know in a tangible way their efforts are indeed driving the company forward, and it is important for them to share in the fruits of their hard work. The offer of increased pay and benefits (vacations, time off and other perks) can keep accountability and morale high and can motivate employees to continue to strive for high levels of performance.

3 Articles to Assist You in Recruiting and Retaining Knowledge Workers

The 5 Reasons Why I Believe Scott McCreery Won American Idol

The front page of the Raleigh News and Observer for today reads in big, bold letters SCOTTY WINS!  The photo to the right was just below the announcement

It is no secret in my family and public network that I am an Americn Idol fanatic.  I have been glued to the action for the last three months just to watch and see what would unfold.  The show is a coach’s dream…to watch an average performer become a superstar over a 12 week period by learning from mistakes, being open to feedback and then practicing like mad to get better and better every week in hopes of making it to the finals and becoming the next American Idol.  As Randy Jackson said “Scotty’s in it to win it!”  And Randy was right.

I initially though that Casey Abrams would win, but when he was voted off, I began to watch Scotty much more closely.  Here was this 17 year old kid whose low bass or baritone voice sounded like a 35 year old and who had that old country charm we just don’t see in the music industry these days.  About three weeks ago, I knew that McCreery was going to win…the week he and Lady Gaga met.  Two polar opposites trying to work together, and Scotty was so open and funny, considering his strong religious background and Gaga’s edgy approach.  Just watch this video to see the contrast and how this young man handled all:

So…if you are a leader, and if you are struggling…pay attention to Scott McCreery and the characteristics which I saw come out onto the stage in front of millions over the last 12 weeks.

1.  Poise. This kid was unflappable.  You throw Lady Gaga, Elton John, the Beatles, you name it, and he could take the genre, make it his own and then lay it out in spades in front of thousands of people.

2. Authenticity. Scotty made it clear from the very beginning that he was just an “aw schucks” 17 year old kid from Garner, NC who loved the old country classics, was going to stick to his genre and was not shy about letting people know about his Christian background.    Not one time did he try to veer out of his old time country lane, and I found this so refreshing.  He knows who he is, and he stuck to his guns come hell or high water.  He is going to be so successful in Nashville.  I am looking forward to watching him soar to the top.

3. Coachability. Each week, Scotty received feedback.  The majority was great feedback, but when the bad times came, he just stood there with that grin of his, shaking his head, saying “Yes Sir” or “Yes Maam”.  One of the reasons I think Haley Reinhart left early had a LOT to do with her attitude.  Her defensiveness with the judges and her eye rolling when she was voted off proved that she is just not coachable.  You cannot make it in business, sports or in the music industry if you cannot take feedback when it’s dished out.

4. Connection. McCreery was a connector.  He made the audience and the viewers at home feel like we are all the same.  Again…let me remind you, he is 17, a country classics singer who went to school in Garner, NC and worked part time at Lowes Grocery Store.  He just kept his cool, connected with the audience and had a blast on stage.  His likability factor was HUGE, which is so important in leadership.  I will also say that Scotty’s commitment to the old country classics probably made him not so likable in the hard rock, metal, hip hop pockets of the world.  But, all you had to do was to look at him and listen to him to get that he was a good kid.

5. A Strong Sense of the Importance of Family and Community. If you noticed, last night, as Scotty was crowned the new American Idol, who did he go to first…his family and friends who got him there.  That was so much more important to him than standing on the stage as the glitter and confetti fell on him.  I don’t recall this ever happening.  If you are a leader, it is critical to understand that your employees have family, friends and communities they care about.  To bring that into the workforce is going to be a critical component of success for our future workers.  So, just bear this in mind the next time you ask your workers to give 60 hours a week.  You are taking them away from their families and communities, and these people need your top talent.

I am from North Carolina, so I am proud of Scott McCreery.  But his North Carolina roots had very little to do with why I think he won.  If you did not watch the show, I would encourage you to go back and watch a few of Scotty’s performances and study them from a position of leadership and the skills he has taught us all over the last 3 months.  Big congrats to Scotty McCreery!

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Leadership Coaching Demonstration: How to Address Interruptions

I had the opportunity to coach Eric Cook (right)  today on the topic of Time Management. One belief I hold is that you really cannot manage time. You can only manage the behaviors which get in the way of ultimate productivity.  We address these behaviors during the coaching demo.

Listen to the coaching call here.

This demo was sponsored by Free Webinar Wednesdays.  Thank-you to Jeff Simpkins and Eric Cook for their great efforts with this venture!

Dressing for Leadership: A Video/Audio Interview with Dolores Hagen of Sixty and Sensational

I had the pleasure today of interviewing Dolores Hagen of Sixty and Sensational on the topic of dress, style, hair and make-up for women who are in leadership roles.  As you all know, your credibility can be either helped or harmed by the way you look on the outside.

I encourage all women of all ages to watch this video.  Dolores did a wonderful job pointing out what works and what often doesn’t by critiquing some of our world’s most famous women leaders.  Included in the video presentation are comments on First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, the new Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

For more information on Dolores Hagen, and her new Sensational You Program, visit

Just click the play button and you will be taken to Fuze Meeting to watch and listen the interview.  Great stuff!

dress for leadership

9 Leadership Lessons To Learn From The Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden is deadThere is not a day that goes by that for some reason I don’t think of September 11, 2001.  I don’t know why, but I will see something, read an article or just be driving down the road, and suddenly the visions come rushing back to my memory.  While these memories are only from watching the news and reading what the journalists had to say, I just cannot shake the vision of:

  • Two planes crashing into the world trade center
  • Smoke filling the New York City sky
  • Men and women, performing the the Sign of The Cross, holding hands and jumping from 80 floors to their death…not because they wanted to die, but they had to make a choice.  Do I die from being burned to death or the quicker, more painless way of the fall either killing me instantly or injuring me to the point that I may never walk again?
  • The screams and tears as people in New York City watched this in horrid and ran from the smoke and white ash that filled the streets as if a nuclear bomb had exploded.
  • The thousands of family members who stood in shock and grief, knowing they would never see their loved ones again

I also cannot help but wonder about the people who were killed who were passengers on the planes that crashed into the building or in an open grassy field and the people who were inside the World Trade Center, simply starting their day when they went their grave either by being crushed by an airplane or flying debris or having to burn to death in flames, described by many as one of the most painful ways to die.

This sounds so dramatic, because it was and still is.  This is the reality of September 11, and the man we have to blame for it was finally put to death yesterday.  I do believe that someone like this needs to be severely punished, and it was just a matter of time.  You can run from the CIA, but you just can’t hide (although he did it pretty well for ten years).

Today, people are celebrating, and the peacemakers are as usual being critical that Osama Bin Laden’s murder was a kill mission and that violence only leads to more violence.  While this is somewhat true, all I have to say is this:  If you are an American citizen and you are criticizing our president for making this decision to go after a brutal murderer, then it is time for you to move to another country.  While I cannot stand violence, we are not talking about a person who stole a piece of candy.   We are talking about a brutal murderer and a “leader…if you can even call him that” who has given the Islamic religion a very bad reputation and a place to live called fear. I want to make clear that the people who are Islamic are not all members of this  Al Qaeda regime whose only mission seems to be to kill innocent people so that they can fly on some type of power trip, because they have been told by a higher power that the innocent must die in order to teach a lesson (or some such nonsense).  But, now, because Bin Laden did the unthinkable “in the name of Islam” the people of Bin Laden’s land have to face criticism, racism and are shunned in airports and in the public.  In my opinion, if this man were captured, it would not have been enough.  We would have captured him and then would have to drag out a trial that would last for years.  This mission was carried out in a way that all leaders should be studying today.  Here are the leadership skills I immediately see were at play during this operation…the skills which helped the mission to be achieved, and as a leader, I strongly encourage you to study this mission and learn from the skills applied:

1.  A clear mission: To kill Bin Laden.  Yes…this was a kill mission.  While there may have been a discussion around capture, this mission was to rid the earth of one of our greatest threats to humanity.  The mission was clear…not fuzzy and long written and long winded.

2. Laser focus on the mission: As the report goes, this mission to get Bin Laden has been in the planning stages for two years, and the focus has been razor sharp.

3. Responsibility. President Bush made it clear that he wanted Bin Laden “dead or alive”, and he did not accomplish that.  Unfortunately, President Obama inherited this duty, and not once has he criticized the former leadership for not capturing or killing Bin Laden.  He made this “mission critical” and obviously said “If no one else is going to do it, we are going after him, and we are going to succeed.”

4. Strategic Agility: This mission is not something that was talked about in a bar over a week-end retreat and then implemented.  I can guarantee you that every step of the process was calculated out to the very minute, the very second.  The President and the CIA met numerous times to plan out what would be one of the most historical events in our history.

5. Discretion: This mission nor the strategy were leaked.  We’ve been through that before, and the secret nature of this mission was airtight.  In leadership, there are times when you are going to need to practice the deepest level of discretion, especially when the stakes are so very high.

6. Delegation: Obama did not go into Bin Laden’s mansion and kill him.  He gave the order to the CIA and the military to do the job, and he empowered them to get the job done well.

7. Top talent placement: The mission was accomplished by a team of Navy Seals.  As you probably well know, the Navy Seals are are the U.S. Navy‘s principal special operations force and is a part of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC).  They are the best of the best, and while I am sure their knuckles were white, they have been trained for years for a mission such as this one.  They knew exactly what to do.

8.  Vigilance: This mission has been planned and coordinated over a two year period.  The focus, importance and desire did not wane or waver.  To wait two years for a mission to be accomplished will send many leaders into a state of frustration, and the mission then gets dropped.  Learn from this vigilance.  Well thought out missions take time, patience and commitment.

9.  Persistence: The mission to get Bin Laden did not stop until it was accomplished.  I am sure multiple road blocks were thrown into the path, but our leaders found ways around and over those obstacles to make this mission come to fruition.

I know that this day will not bring back the thousands of men and women who were lost in 9/11 and the thousands of men and women who have been murdered by this man.  But I hope in some way that the family members of the victims of the brutality of Bin Laden will find just a bit more peace and closure knowing a man who obviously found joy in killing innocent people is no longer roaming this earth just to do it again.

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The Top 3 Most Common Employee Complaints

What would your employees write on the wall next to your suggestion box?

This cartoon always makes me laugh.  In looking at this cartoon, simply ask yourself this question “If uncensored, what would your employees write on a wall next to a suggestion box about you and your executive team?”

In the leadership coaching work I have provided executive level leaders and their teams over the last ten years, I have discovered that there are 3 main complaints employees seem to voice regarding upper management and the leadership team.  These complaints or concerns are not isolated.  They are common across all geographical boundaries, so take note of these and rather than take my word for it, go ask your employees how they feel about these concerns.

1.   Micromanagement: We all know what it feels like to be micromanaged.  Your boss, parent or authority figure is constantly checking up on you, breathing down your neck or looking over your shoulder to make sure the job you are doing is absolutely textbook perfect.   Micro-managers are usually obsessed with controlling the project and pushes everyone around them to succeed, beat the clock and “do it the way we have always done it”.  If you are a micro-manager, you are taking a big risk of disempowering your employees,  actually hurting their work performance and destroying their confidence.  In this case, it is not uncommon for a top employee to eventually become so frustrated they will leave and go to work your biggest competitor.

Solution: Prior to the start of a project, fully train your team on the plan, strategy, processes, expectations, where to go for resources and when to ask questions, and then…let your employees go and implement the job you have empowered them to do.  Give them the freedom to take on the project, and if you do observe an employee going way off track, invite them into your office, explain your observations and retrain on that one aspect of the project.   During a new project, you may also notice an employee taking on a task that may not be what you asked, but it is actually getting better results, so take note of that.   Ask someone you trust to observe you during the project and to call you on the carpet when you start back down the micromanagement track.

2.   Lack of Accessibility. It is not uncommon for the executive level leaders and senior managers to become isolated from the employees of the company.  Their offices are located in the executive tower at the top of the building and they literally stay on that one floor for the entire day.  This creates a feeling of a hierarchy at play, and as an employee, if you are  below the top of the totem pole,  you will feel so far removed from the decision makers that you may either:

  • Do a really lousy job, because you think no one is looking or cares
  • Start down a path that is illegal (stealing, harassment)
  • Begin wondering what secrets the company is trying to hide from you
  • Quit your job

In my opinion, there is no excuse for this.  This approach is the “good old boys network” approach, and is really outdated and no longer an advantage for success.

Solution: Lead and manage by walking around the company on an every other day basis.   Simply pop in and out of different departments to say hello and to find out what is going on.  Take a notepad or your digital device with you to jot down complaints and suggestions and notice if you see repeating patterns in concerns, worries or doubts.

Another approach to improving accessibility is to hold town hall meetings two times per month, and give your employees the opportunity to gain access to you and your team and to talk to you openly and candidly.  During the town hall meeting format, as a leader, your job is to listen and to thank your employees for their suggestions…not to justify or make excuses for why something may not be going so great.  It is perfectly fine to explain why a certain decision was made to clear up any confusion, but it is not okay to argue or make excuses during dialogue with your employees.  At the end of the day, your employees need a voice, and if there is a negative perception floating around your company,  it is your job to change the perception from negative to positive.

3.   Wrong Fit. In this scenario, an employee is hired to fill one job and the first day he shows up, he ends up in a completely different role.  In my mind, this is basically a form of lying to an employee.  If an employee is hired to do one job and placed in another, he will forever be miserable.

Solution: Perform a Strengths Finder Profile on each employee and place them in roles where they can thrive.  You can purchase the book Strengths Finder 2.0, and inside the book will be a code to go online and take the assessment.   If you discover at the last minute that the job  OR the job description is going to change, and it is not a good fit for your new employee based on her skill set and strengths, it is critical for you to communicate to her that the job role has changed and give her the option to stay or move on to find a better fit.

The Top 3 Reasons Motivation Does Not Work

In the world of coaching, we talk a great deal about “motivation“.  I have even had colleagues introduce me as a “motivational speaker”.  This grinds on my last nerve, and here’s why.

Motivation does not work!

Take a look at this dog to the right.  There are several things that could be “motivating” the dog to not snatch the hot dog and lap it up:

  • Great job using Photoshop
  • The dog has been very well trained
  • The photographer tried 10 times and made sure he snapped the photograph in two seconds
  • The dog is not a dog
  • And a few other reasons

My point is this:  Dogs will be dogs, and dogs LOVE to eat meat in any shape or form.  So, my hunch is that if left alone, this dog would scarf down that hot dog in ten seconds flat.

There are 3 basic reasons that I believe motivation does not work, and here they go:

1.  Motivation is a “pushing” mechanism. Have you ever attended a motivational seminar or worked with a health coach who was “pushing” you to achieve a goal against the greatest of your will and might?  It feels yucky.  Now then, they may spin their words and sprinkle their magic pixie dust to get you to “change your life forever”, but the old motivational seminar or “in your face” health coach is like a shot of a cortisone.  The inflammation goes away temporarily out of being in a trance or scared to death, but the true injury did not really heal.  The cortisone was just a short term fix.  Motivation is just like that shot of cortisone…it is a short term fix, and if you are feeling “pushed” to do something that you really don’t want to do, your success will be very short term, but instead if you really want to keep yourself healthy, you’ll do it for yourself, you’ll feel like exercising and getting supplements as kratom extract to feel the best you can.

On the other hand, anabolic steroids does work…something in life that you are really attracted to and drawn to, and it has nothing to do with a health coach screaming in your face or a motivational speaker using his NLP to put you into a trance.

2.  The “motivation” is not tied to changing the environment. We all have the ability to pull will power up, but if our environment is not redesigned in a way to help us reach our goal, we will do what anyone does who is trying to break a habit…we slip or relapse.  If you are trying to lose weight, and your pantry is stocked with Famous Amos cookies, Reese Cups, Lays Potato Chips (you can’t eat just 1) and all of your favorite “fatty foods”, there is a very good chance on a bad, tired, stressed day that you will go to the pantry and go on an eating frenzy.  The same holds true with the people in your environment…if they are not joining you in this goal and if they are eating your favorite foods, the mimic in you will follow them right to the pantry.  To truly succeed with a goal, you really do have to change everything around you if you want to succeed.

3.  Motivation is a form of pretending that you want to do something. If you are pretending you want to do something, just stop!  On the other hand, if you have a goal that truly inspires you and stirs passion inside your soul, there is a great chance you will succeed with your goal.  If you have been shamed or sent on a guilt trip to “get some motivation”,  in about two weeks, you will find yourself right back in that trap.  Standing in front of the mirror and pumping yourself up gets old, but when you are working on something so exciting that you dance out of the bed and out the door every morning, you are going to succeed…because you WANT to and you LOVE what you are doing.

So, I would love to hear some comments on this post.  Just drop them below, and let me hear what you think.

Businesss Comic Books Hit Bookstores Today

If you are looking for a new, quick and exciting approach to reading a business book, Roundtable  Companies has just launched its first wave of business comic books in bookstores across America today.

I picked up a copy of The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, and I cannot wait to see how RTC has portrayed one of my favorite business books of all times.

So head over to Amazon and check out the suite of books now available

If you go to this page, and scroll down, you will see the business comic books on sale.  Just pop open the screencast link to see a glimpse of this first selection of business comics.  Have Fun!

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Executive Coaching: 10 Critical Points to Drive Behavioral Change

When coaching an executive client, many coaches believe that in 3-6 months, magic is going to happen.  Some coaches believe that simply because a coach is involved in the process, a client is going to change for a lifetime.  Maybe…but not so often does this really happen.  While this MAY be true, there are so many factors to consider:  the team members, board members, culture of the company, home life, physical health and the list just goes on and on.

I have written out 10 key components that I believe are critical to helping your client create behavioral change…not just for 3 months but for a lifetime.

1.  When coaching a business owner or executive level leader, you must get involvement and commitment from all stakeholders around the person you are coaching. This means the boss, employees, team members, colleagues and family members.  They have to be supportive of the change and not throwing sarcasm and jokes into the topic of coaching.

2. It is critical to get feedback from other people about this behavior by performing a full review (360 degree review) with the key stakeholders who truly know the client. The client cannot see himself or herself, but the people around the client are making assumptions and drawing conclusions based on their observations.

3.  Determine in writing the key behaviors to change and what they look like now and what the client and stakeholders agree the behavior should look like to help the team improve. With intangibles like coaching, it is difficult to measure if coaching works, so it is important for everyone to agree that “When we see x happen, we will know that change has occurred.”  Be very careful about tying success to a dollar outcome.  The behavior may improve and the bottom line may fall, so this has to be discussed upfront.

4.   Write out a week by week plan of action with the client. Having a plan is crucial, otherwise, both you and the client will have no idea where you are going.  This plan certainly needs to be flexible, but without a plan on paper and checking in each week with that plan, you will end up going nowhere fast.

5.  Check in on a monthly basis with the client and 1-2 key stakeholders (everyone needs to be in the room) to determine where you feel the client is in the change process. If you just talk with the client, the boss, CEO, Board of Directors and employees will want to know what is going on.  Ask your client for permission to meet with 2-3 people who know the client and who he trusts to discuss the progress and any shifts which need to take place in the coaching.

6.  Find out upfront what types of approaches have worked for your client in the past, but do not dwell on the past. Simply discuss what has worked and approaches that just don’t work for your client.  Those old approaches MAY have worked in the past and they may not work today, so ask your client “In your honest opinion, how effective do you believe that strategy for change will work today, given that our world has changed by leaps and bounds in the last five years?”

7.  At the end of the coaching, sit down and map out an exit strategy for next steps. This is where the stakeholders are going to be asked to really step in.  If you are working with a key team member for 6 months, and you are then suddenly gone, who is going to be checking in with your client?

8.  Remember…you cannot work miracles. The behavior the client keeps slipping back into has probably been a part of your client’s life for 20-30 years.  If you think you can change your client in six months, it is time for you to hire a coach to get a grip on reality.  Once you have provided the coaching, tools and resources to your client, with a solid exit strategy, it is no longer your fault or failure if the client “slips”.

9.  Your goal of coaching a leader is not to win a popularity contest. The goal is to get the client to succeed in changing the behavior that is causing anxiety for your client, the team and all stakeholders.  This is serious business, and you have to be willing to be tough enough to even get fired over it.  You have to be willing to go the distance by holding the client accountable, assigning tough exercises and supporting them every step of the way.

10.  If a client is slipping back into old behaviors, avoid using the word “Why?” This can create a great deal of defensiveness.  Simply say “Seems like we are now back to square 1.  Tell me what has gone on in the last few months/years that has pulled you back to where we started.”  Using a child-like approach can also be helpful, simply by saying..”Hmmm….how come?  What happened?”

Please add your ideas on this subject.  We all want our clients to succeed, and all suggestions are so welcome and wanted!

And…don’t forget.  The TOUGH COACHING program begins today, April 6 as 12:00 p.m. Eastern with a live, real time coaching on the topic of “How to coach a client who has been coached and has slipped back into the old behavior.”  To sign up, head over to this page.