If you’ve ever worked in organizations where people were working in silos, you know how counterproductive it can be. In organizations like this, rather than working together to create synergy, team members work against each other with the aim of optimizing their own interest, at the cost of significantly sub-optimizing the interests of the organization as a whole. And since even those working toward their own ends are part of that whole, by pursuing their own interests they are also paradoxically working against them at the same time.
Over the weekend, I got an unscheduled call from one of the employees at a company that I’m currently doing some consulting with. There was nothing unusual about that in itself, as I had made it clear that I was available to pretty much anyone within the organization whenever they felt the need to reach out. This particular employee was calling specifically to ask for my help in getting out of “the stands” and getting back “on the court.” He had just found out that he had been turned down for a promotion that he felt he deserved. He had been doing all the right things and he just knew the formal announcement was coming, only to find out that someone else had gotten the position. Needless to say, the news had left him seriously demoralized and disappointed in himself, and he made the wise decision to seek a little outside support.
An important aspect of leadership development is to recognize the extent of one’s own power and influence, as well as its enormous potential to affect others and the world around us. This is important not only so our power can be properly utilized to effectively serve people and influence the rate of progress, but also to ensure that our exercise of it does not inadvertently create unintended consequences opposite to our stated intentions. No one who wishes to become an effective leader can do so without recognizing that, to quote a well-known mentor, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
How would you rate the level of accountability in your organization? How about your own personal accountability?
Many organizations that suffer from poor results and low morale attribute their inability to make sustainable improvements to lack of accountability in the organization. When I ask teams to rate the level of accountability in their organization on a scale of 0-10—10 being a state where every individual feels and acts completely in an accountable manner—I generally get a rating between 4 and 6. When asked to rate their own personal accountability, individuals on the same team generally respond with a rating of 7-9. In other words, the thinking goes, “If everybody else were as accountable as I am, the world would be a great place.” This, of course, is normal. As I have mentioned before, our natural tendency is to judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior. But where do we go from here? How can we shift the level of accountability in the organization to 9-10?