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Accountability = Consequence Management

One of the issues I hear most consistently from senior leaders, managers, and supervisors is their daily struggle to hold staff members and teams accountable for performance or for values. One senior leader recently told me, “It’s so hard to hold people accountable when you’ve known them for years and years. I just wish they’d do what they said they’d do!”

I spent 15 years in non-profit management and, honestly, I experienced the same struggles. I believed that:

  • My staff members should know what they are supposed to do.
  • They should be committed to doing it, and
  • What the heck is going on now? They’re not delivering and I’m frustrated.

(That’s a lot of “shoulds” in one belief, isn’t it?)

The reality is that, without consequence management, you are not leading, you are creating chaos. Your credibility is maintained, day by day, when you do what you say you will do. For example, if you announce that, from this point forward, every team member will be expected to demonstrate our team’s valued behaviors, you have set a standard. Educating team members about desired valued behaviors is important, but, without accountability, those valued behaviors are just one more set of expectations that your employees can ignore.

In this scenario, unless you proactively praise those who demonstrate desired valued behaviors (positive consequences) and coach/redirect those who do not demonstrate desired valued behaviors (negative consequences), the standard you set is not real. If the standards you set are not real, then your team members cannot trust your word, your feedback, your coaching, or your direction. The result? Chaos.

One of my best bosses, Jerry Nutter, helped me learn that accountability is really not that complicated. Jerry taught me that holding people accountable involves three steps, all of which are the leader’s responsibility.

Three Steps

  1. Clear Expectations: Begin by formalizing your expectations. Ken Blanchard says that all good performance starts with clear goals. Describe the outcome in specific terms: “Your goal is to reduce waste on your team’s shift by 10% by the end of the month.” Formalize the expectation in writing (hard copy or electronic, whichever works for you and your team member).
    This step isn’t finished until you gain agreement by the responsible player to meet or exceed the expectation.
  2. Proactive Observation: Seek information about your team member’s performance on that expectation. Take time to watch your team member working on the goal or task. Create feedback channels so that the team member’s key internal and/or external customers can provide you with their perceptions about goal or task delivery (or progress). Gather and review these data points so you will be confident of the team member’s performance on that expectation.
  3. Consequence Management: Apply the appropriate consequences. If they are doing what they committed to do, praise, encourage, and reward the team member. If they are not doing what they committed to to, engage them in a conversation to understand why progress has not been made. If you learn that it is an ability problem (i.e. circumstances have gotten in the way of their performance on this goal or task or they do not have the skills to complete the task), you may have to renegotiate the deadline, provide training, etc. If you learn it is a motivation problem, coaching, redirection, or even a reprimand will help them learn that you’re watching and you require they deliver on their commitment.

One thought – in most organizations, leaders and employees alike believe they are not praised or encouraged regularly. There are a lot of good things that employees do every day – be sure to praise and encourage legitimate progress towards goal accomplishment. If you are seen as a leader that praises and encourages regularly – as well as coaches and redirects when that’s needed – you will go a long ways towards creating mutual trust and respect.

If you struggle with holding staff members accountable, try this approach. Give it time and stay committed to this accountability strategy. Over time, your staff will learn that when you say something, you mean it, and you will hold them accountable for their agreements. Your employees will be more satisfied, your customers will receive higher quality products and services from your team, and you will not “should” yourself to an early grave!

How well are consequences managed (proactively) in your organization? Do people keep their promises and honor their commitments without consequence management in your company? Share your experiences in the comments section below.


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Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


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The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Making Your Company Values Measurable

One of the most important elements of the high performance, values-aligned culture is a set of company values that are measurable, tangible, and observable. If values are not measurable, it is impossible to consistently hold leaders and staff accountable for those values.

In most organizations, values are defined in lofty terms that are difficult to translate into practical, day-to-day application. Without clearly defined behavioral guidelines – describing exactly how a “great corporate citizen” behaves – each leader and staff member can define those values as it suits their personality, role, and activities. If you don’t behave according to how I uniquely define “honesty,” for example, my trust of you is eroded. The result over time? Loss of respect, increased stress and anxiety, and inconsistent treatment of employees and customers.

Let’s take this example from a company that has been in the news recently. This firm has fourteen business principles that “guide how we do business and conduct ourselves on a daily basis.” One of those principles reads, “Integrity and honesty are at the heart of our business. We expect our people to maintain high ethical standards in everything they do, both in their work for the firm and in their personal lives.” On their website we see no further definition, no specific behaviors, that would describe how staff should demonstrate this value. The firm? Goldman Sachs. Their newsworthy behavior? Mortgage fraud.

To make your company values actionable, follow these steps to define your values in behavioral terms.

1. For each value, brainstorm potential behaviors that you’d be PROUD to see all staff demonstrate when they’re modeling this value. Note that we say “demonstrate” because we cannot measure nor hold people accountable for what they “think,” what their “attitude” is, or what they “believe.” We CAN, however, measure AND hold people accountable for demonstrating (acting on) clearly defined behaviors.

2. Cull through the behaviors to reduce the list to three to five behaviors per value. Answer these questions to help with the selection process:

  • Is this an observable behavior? Can I assess someone’s demonstration of this behavior by watching and/or listening their interactions with customers, peers, and stakeholders? If NOT, toss it.
  • Is this behavior measurable? Can I reliably “score” this behavior from low to moderate to high at any point in time? If NOT, toss it.
  • Is this behavior unique to a particular function or unit? The behaviors for these “organization-wide” values must be global (relevant to all staff). If the behavior isn’t one that is appropriate for all staff members (no matter what function or unit they serve in), toss it.

If you have not identified 3-5 behaviors for each value that meet the criteria above, go back to brainstorming (step 1). Cull through those until you have selected the best, most descriptive 3-5 behaviors for each value.

3. For each behavior, define three key measures: “exceeds standard,” “meets standard,” and “needs improvement.” This step helps develop the assessment tool that your organization will use regularly to gather data on how well staff members (at all levels) are modeling these valued behaviors. Let’s use an example from an actual client to map out how this works.

Value:  Integrity

Definition:  We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot or will not do something, then we won’t do it.

Behaviors:

  • I clearly define the commitments I make, ensuring my promises are well-understood by the person I’m making that promise to.
  • I do not lie, stretch the truth, or withhold information from a peer, customer, or stakeholder.
  • If I am unable to keep a commitment, I inform all people who will be impacted immediately.

Exceeds Standard:

“I willingly make promises and commitments. I proactively keep people informed of my progress. I let others know if, despite my best efforts, a deadline will be missed. I rarely miss promised delivery.”

Meets Standard:

“I make promises and commitments in the present, keenly aware that I’m guaranteeing my performance on that promise. I consistently deliver what I promise.”

Needs Improvement:

“I am hesitant to make promises or commitments. I don’t always keep people informed about my progress. My ‘word’ isn’t highly trusted among my peers. Delivery of expected results are inconsistent.”

Note that each valued behavior requires a separate set of measures. Ensure that each measure truly gauges only one behavior (not multiple behaviors).

4. Test these measurements with key players throughout the organization. The best approach is to create a draft “community values” questionnaire/assessment/survey and pilot it with a few teams. Refine it to the point where you are confident it effectively measures these valued behaviors. NOTE: Survey development is a unique skill. Use a Blanchard process coach to ensure the validity of assessment items.

5. Survey the entire organization using your custom values assessment, twice each year. Publish results throughout the organization in as many ways as necessary to ensure all staff know how the organization is doing with the goal of “modeling our values.” Reward those folks who are seen as demonstrating desired valued behaviors and coach and redirect those who have values gaps. When you find staff who are unable to consistently demonstrate desired valued behaviors, lovingly set them free – help them out of the organization.

Are your company values defined in observable, tangible, measurable terms? If so, how well are the those behavioralized values lived day to day? If not, what values are lived in your organization? Share your experiences in the comments section below.


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Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

It is what it is! The Concept of Perfection

In early 2000 I was one of the first employees of Scott Blanchard‘s Coaching.com enterprise. Executive coach experts Madeleine Homan and Linda Miller helped our team craft a fabulous process and web platform which enables Blanchard coaches to help clients learn, grow, and prosper. I learned a great deal in my two years with that business! This blog’s topic has made a tremendous impact on my effectiveness as a consultant and executive coach.

In coaching, the concept of perfection aims at getting the leader to understand that their behavior, decisions, and actions are logical, rational outcomes of their beliefs and thoughts. The situation they find themselves in, right this minute, is driven by their behavior, decisions, and actions over time. This is a cause > effect circumstance; the cause (the leader’s beliefs and thoughts) lead directly to the effect (the leader’s behavior, decisions, and actions). As a coach, you can easily see how the resulting effect is entirely driven by the underlying cause. The results are “perfect.” You wouldn’t expect to see any different behaviors, decisions, or actions, given that leader’s core beliefs and thoughts.

In my consulting work with senior leaders and executive teams across a variety of industries, the concept of perfection is a powerful tool to help leaders assess their organization’s culture. A company’s culture evolves over time based upon the beliefs and thoughts of it’s leaders (cause) which logically leads to consistent behavior, decisions, and actions demonstrated by members that live in that culture (effect).

Look around the organizational culture you live in. If you experience caring leaders who demonstrate respect and trust for their staff and who celebrate successes and wins along the way, then the underlying beliefs and thoughts are being played out in that culture. It is perfect!

On the other hand, if you experience leaders who take credit for your work, who pit employees against each other, and who rejoice in “catching people doing things wrong,” then the underlying beliefs and thoughts are being played out in that culture. It, too, is perfect!

If you experience “less than positive” behaviors, decisions, and actions in your organization’s culture, understand that people are acting exactly as you would expect. If you want more positive behaviors, decisions, and actions, you have an opportunity to begin work to change the underlying beliefs and thoughts of leaders in your organization. That, however, is a topic for another day!

How does the concept of perfection play out in YOUR organization (or community or family)? Share your thoughts on this powerful idea in the comments section below.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Executive “Team” or just a “Group”?

In my 20 plus years as a consultant, I have worked with dozens of executive teams. One interesting thing I discovered: many of those “teams” aren’t teams at all.

Most executive “teams” are a group of individual senior leaders who meet on a regular basis to battle each other for limited resources: funds, people, time, praise (that’s a topic for another blog), etc. They leave their meeting and evaluate how they did in the game: did I “win” today? Did I secure the resources I wanted and beat out my senior leader colleagues today? Each individual senior leader tracks his/her score and the game begins anew the next meeting (more accurately, the next day).

When companies using our proven culture change process are successful at creating their desired high performance, values-aligned organization, this single consistent best practice stands out: the executive team must be actively committed to the culture change and to each other. If the executive team does not act with “one voice, one heart, and one mind,” the culture effort is doomed from the start.

To unlock the potential of your organization’s executive team, consider these four best practices:

  1. Clear Purpose: The executive team must define it’s reason for being – beyond their relationship as direct reports of the president/CEO. The purpose statement clarifies why the team exists, who their primary customers are, and what they’re trying to accomplish as a team (provider of choice, employer of choice, etc.).
  2. Team Goals: What strategic goals is the executive team trying to accomplish? Clarifying executive team goals helps define what a good job looks like at the end of their fiscal year. Performance goals might include employee work passion targets, customer service excellence, financial success, etc.
  3. Values & Norms: Values defined in behavioral terms describe HOW team members should behave as they pursue their team goals. All effective teams create agreements around what a good citizen of the team looks/acts/sounds like. Values are typically too vague and lofty to guide day-to-day actions, so behavioral definitions solve that issue. Team norms emerge from the valued behaviors – norms are practical guidelines that ensure values are lived in team member interactions.
  4. Accountability: With the team’s purpose, goals, and values formalized, the most important practice comes into play: holding team members accountable for these agreements. Accountability is not the sole responsibility of the executive team’s leader (typically the president/CEO) – it is every team member’s responsibility. Accountability conversations are not drawn out conflicts – they are conversations that inquire about a valued behavior or norm, asking for insights about demonstrated behavior that seems to be outside those agreements. They are sincere efforts to understand behavior and guide members to embracing their agreements.

When these four agreements are in place, decision-making is easy. Executive team members easily understand their role in furthering the team’s purpose by cooperating, communicating, and focusing on the greater good.

Change your executive “group” to an aligned executive team and you’ll reap the benefits: less drama, less conflict, more aligned action, better productivity, and more fun!

Rank your executive group on it’s “degree of teaming” using a 1-5 scale. Share your experiences & scores in the comments section below.


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Undercover Boss? I’d prefer a Side-by-Side Boss.

I’m pleased that the recent CBS television show, Undercover Boss, has garnered some attention. Though the approach is a bit dramatic and underhanded – kind of a senior level “secret shopper” but more of a “secret employee” – I appreciate that senior leaders in these companies are learning about the work lives that their employees experience.

In the high performance, values-aligned organizations we study, senior leaders don’t see the “live in your employee’s shoes” opportunity as once-in-a-career but as a regular occurrence. Rather than throw stones at the Undercover Boss concept, let’s look at tweaking it a bit.

How can senior leaders truly appreciate which policies and procedures help or hurt or hinder employee performance and work passion in their organizations? Don’t go undercover – go side-by-side!

Employees know a great deal about what systems and norms enable effective performance and great customer experiences . . . and which policies and procedures inhibit them doing the right thing the right way the first time. Senior leaders need to honor their employee’s knowledge and savvy-ness by learning from from their staff members, side-by-side.

Senior leaders: get out of your offices, out of those endless meetings, and away from your spreadsheets!

Seek out a few employees who would be willing to have you shadow them for two hours on a given workday. Schedule appointments with them. Let’s say Bill is your first appointment; stand by Bill and observe him doing his job. At the end of that two hours, take Bill out for coffee or soda, and ask what gets in his way on a day-to-day basis. Inquire about how you can improve his work environment so he can perform better and serve customers perfectly. Act on his suggestions as soon as you can, and schedule your next “side-by-side” appointment with a different employee, in a different department.

Do this two times a week. Over the course of a year, you’ll meet over 100 employees and learn a bunch about their work environment. And, by acting on their suggestions, you’ll make significant workplace improvements that will inspire better performance, higher service delivery, and increased employee work passion.

How cool is that?


Subscribe to Chris’ mobile updates, texted right to your smartphone! Text VALUES to 72000 or head here.


Chris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to Chris’ YouTube channel.


vimeo_logoChris’ new “Culture Leadership Charge” series and the rest of his video clips are also available on Vimeo. Subscribe to Chris’ Vimeo channel.


podcast_subscribeSubscribe to Chris’ posts via RSS.


itunes_subscribeListen to or subscribe to over 300 of Chris’ Culture Leadership Podcasts on iTunes.


The music heard on Chris’ podcasts is from one of his songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2017 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). He played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Chris will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, Chris only recommend products or services he uses personally and believes will add value to his readers. Chris is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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