We have continuously been reminded that “there is no I in TEAM”. Understood. Got it. Team play. Collaboration. Everyone together. Teamwork on 3!!.
Yet, each time a team wins, the force that takes that unit to new frontiers is driven by the individuals who have overcome exhaustion and kept going when minds and muscles are beat. It is fueled by the courage to get up after every fall and the endurance to resist opposition and hardship. It is kept alive by the obstinate perseverance to keep going and continue believing against the headwind of sarcasm and disbelief. It is nurtured and emboldened by the courage to face the world and say “the buck stops here”. And victory is always underpinned by the chilling hour of self-appraisal, by the ability of a leader to look in the mirror and accept accountability.
Jim Collins (of “Good to Great” and “Built to Last” fame) promotes a concept which he calls “the window and the mirror”. Based on his research, the best leaders (Level 5 leaders, as he calls them) look out of the window to credit others for success and look in the mirror to apportion responsibility when things didn’t go to plan.
Along similar lines, one of the best laid out models I have been exposed to in order to understand and enhance accountability is encompassed in a book called “The Oz Principle” by Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman. The Oz Principle shows how to overcome The Blame Game that is so prevalent in organizations today. This Blame Game is all about who didn’t help me, or why the Company is so bad, or who isn’t doing all they can. By taking the Steps To Accountability and helping people See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It® the authors help people take accountability and move Above The Line® (more on this below) to take ownership for overcoming obstacles and getting results. The book spells out how to capture the power of positive accountability by helping people at every level of the organization ask the question, “What else can I do?” to achieve the desired result.
In short, the model asks us to make a transition from deflection (they call it below the line), to accountability and ownership (they call it above the line).
Below the line looks like this:
- Finger pointing (They don’t do it, s/he also does it, s/he doesn’t want to help me, they make horrible decisions)
- It’s not my job (My manager should make the relationship better, it’s not MY product design, I’m not the boss)
- Confusion/Tell me what to do (Here’s a problem. What do you want me to do about it?)
- Wait and see (I hope someone fixes these issues because I am tired of them)
- Cover your tail (Let me check with someone else, So&So said to do it, I can’t really commit, let’s get a team together to decide)
- Ignore/Deny (I have no issues; I never said there were issues; It’ll never change)
When we assume accountability and tear the victim goggles off is when we decide to take improvement and success in our own hands, then we:
- · See it
- o A safety risk, a product design gap, a training issue, an opportunity with a consumer, a chance to coach someone, a bridge to build with someone you work with or for.
- · Own it
- o Make yourself the project owner; decide YOU will drive the fix! If this were my business, how would I own this? If I wanted to make this MY operation, how would I pursue this?
- · Solve it
- o Brainstorm with your peers, suppliers, clients, managers, reach out and find support in corporate; BUILD the idea, get to root cause, develop a STRONG countermeasure
- · Do it
- o As in running shoe marketing. Leave the excuses outside, conquer the obstacles, use the time and energy you have to make things better; don’t go below the line, JUST DO IT!
So, to continue the Oz analogy, don’t get stuck on the yellow brick road. Don’t expect a Grand Wizard is going to sweep in and solve all ills and win the game for you.
I look in the mirror and see a leader that can learn more, listen more, care more, teach more. I look in the mirror and I see a disciple who can trust more, support more, own more. I look in the mirror and I see vast and humbling room for improvement. And that’s what inspires me to get out of bed each morning and take another swing at the world.
Go ahead, take a sincere look in the mirror. At the end of the day, “I” is at the heart of WIN.