You Know Better

Really, you couldn't have eaten one more bite?


I am not sad that this morsel is all that remains of the french lemon yogurt cake.  I am bewildered.

That last, little chunk wasn’t left because someone was too full. It was left so they could legitimize not washing the cake plate or knife.

In Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, by The Arbinger Institute, when we do something contrary to what we know we should do, it’s an act of self-betrayal.  Betray oneself enough and pretty soon we start seeing the world in a way that justifies our action. As you can imagine this is a slippery slope that leads to all sorts of bad feelings (like resentment) and dinged relationships.  Unknowingly, living a web of self-deception ultimately provokes those around you to also “live in the box”. While the plot of the book is a bit contrived, it does provide a structure for this thought-provoking work.

Yet another reason I adore my dog, Dougal. Given the access, he would have gobbled the whole cake with complete integrity.

Living in total alignment, baby!


The Other “A” Word

(No, I’m not talking about that again.)

“A” as in Accountability:

  1. Doing what you say you’re going to do, by when you say you’re going to do it.
  2. Constructively following up with a colleague who didn’t do what they said they were going to do, by when they said they were going to do it.

Some organizations seamlessly weave accountability into the fabric of their culture.  Others fear and avoid it.  They don’t want to make a colleague look bad, spark a conflict, or invite embarrassing accountability turnaround.   If individual accountability is high for all involved, then good things still get done on time.   A couple of weak links, though, can lead to missed deadlines, grumbling behind people’s backs, and lost opportunities.   You know what I’m talking about.

One team of really smart, committed software as service professionals would get very quiet any time our conversation steered toward accountability.  Lots of big eyes looking all over to escape eye contact with me.  I think one person even stopped breathing for a bit.

Naturally, their determined avoidance meant we were going there!

The team wasn’t sure how to create more accountability, or be brave enough to hold each other accountable.  They were, however, very astute in describing their current relationship with accountability:

  •  It’s squishy, hard to interpret and inconsistent.
  • Thinking about holding others accountable is stressful.
  • Without it, we’re a bunch of individuals without cohesiveness.  It’s easy to stay in our own little area.
  • We don’t tend to assign work to people who don’t meet goals, but we don’t tell them that.
  • We’re great at pulling things together at the last minute and enjoy the buzz and collegiality of that pressure.

This last comment jiggled them out of their stuck place.  In the early days, it was exhilarating for a bunch of single twenty-somethings to crank through an all-nighter and just barely meet a client deadline.  Now, years (and spouses and babies) later, it’s not so much fun.  Regular sleep has also become more delicious than 2am pizza.

Through this lens, accountability wasn’t such a bad guy after all.  It could be the key to:

  • Freeing up time to do things outside of work.
  • Getting behind objectives that point toward success.  (Without accountability, objectives are just something we’re supposed to do, but no one really pays attention to them.)
  • Securing timely access to resources and information.
  • Providing genuine recognition; accountability flags it when people do what they were supposed to do.
  • Having more fun by getting into a flow of accomplishment and knowing others are too.
  • Being acknowledged for something of which we’re proud, versus our capacity for martyrdom (i.e. lack of sleep).

I wish I could say “Ah ha!  Problem solved!” but big change takes practice.  What I can say is that their bravery in naming That Which Shall Not Be Discussed has broken a barrier, opening the way to practice.

What’s your team’s relationship with accountability?