Accountability Starts with You!

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There is a good chance you have found this article as a leader or trainer trying to figure out how to hold people accountable.

Funny thing, accountability. Ask almost anyone if they hold themselves accountable and you will receive one of several replies: ‘Of course!’, ‘Sure!’, ‘I do, but no one else seems to!’. Notice the emphasis.

Then recently I was reading a book about personal accountability and read this statement:

‘Accountability starts with you!’

I could not stop laughing.

I pictured Abraham Lincoln pointing a finger at me while saying very loud and with feeling, ‘Accountability starts with you!’

Houston, we have a problem.

Abe, buddy, turn that finger around.

I understand what the meaning was supposed to be and I even understand it was well intentioned. But that is not what it says. Let’s be correct and accurate if we are talking about accountability.

Accountability starts with me.

Let’s say what we mean, people. Don’t let Abe or ourselves off the hook here. Let’s hold ourselves accountable for saying what we mean. Which means what I should REALLY be saying is ‘I will hold myself accountable and say what I mean’. See how easy it is to fall into the ‘We’ trap?

Nevertheless, poor Abe is guilty of something we all do at some point. We point fingers. We look to find some outside source to blame for our circumstances. We rage, we yell.

· ‘It was the xyz department.’
· ‘It was the xyz department that forgot to ________.’
· ‘It wasn’t my idea.’
· ‘We could sell more if we had xyz.’
· ‘My manager doesn’t spend enough time with me to train me right.’
· ‘My manager interferes too much.’
· ‘My employees just stand around every chance they get.’
· ‘It’s Not My Fault!, and my personal favorite,
· ‘It’s not my job.’

Sound familiar? As the Founder and CEO of Be Legendary, I do this EVERY day and you probably do too. This is victim thinking. What will any of those statements do to solve the problem? Nothing.

How often do we look inside and ask ourselves, ‘What could I have done to make that situation better?’ When I answer for myself?, Not too often. is what I get and I teach this shit!

Honestly, I find I have to work very hard to not blame. It is so much easier that trying to work out a solution. Venting frustration, yelling & screaming – indulge and give yourself a solid 90 seconds and then get back to the solution because no amount of boucing off the walls is going to fix anything.

I am no pillar of strength. I fall into the same cycle as everyone else. I blame, mostly my wife. She is a handy target. But I will choose anyone so that I don’t feel responsible and accountable who is involved. And I don’t do this on purpose. It is a habit, and not just a habit at home or at work. I carry it back and forth from home to work with me every morning and night.

How do we stop this cycle of non-accountability, even with ourselves? We already know the answer, the difficulty is sticking to it. It requires discipline and willingness to be uncomfortable. You cannot hide inside the safety of your shell and expect accountability to suddenly occur, in yourself or in those around you.

When is the subject of accountability brought up most? When it is CYA time. Very few discussions about accountability are held when things are going well. Why is that? Wouldn’t that be the best time for it? No one is in trouble yet. Everyone is on the same moral high-ground in the beginning. Establish the ground rules for accountability from the start. However, in today’s busy, fast-paced business world, there is simply not time. Or so I am told when a leader is not holding themselves accountable for holding other accountable.

To illustrate personal accountability in it’s best form, I have a short story to tell.

I have recently been working with an employee of a particular company whose department was no longer operating at peak performance. This person was unhappy with their current work environment and was extremely concerned and frustrated.

This person mistakenly signed up for our free organizational assessment (no longer available) thinking that they would get an answer about her culture in five minutes or so with some great advice on some action they might be able to take.

After this person took the survey and asked where the report was, I explained the survey is for an organization. We needed more people for an analysis.

Most people would simply have said, ‘Thanks for nothing’, but this person made the decision to hold herself accountable and make something happen.

Email was very difficult in their organization, so she printed the survey, made copies, distributed them, collected them and them inputted ALL the data from each survey by hand. She finished with 46 out of 52 people completing the survey. Each survey having 51 multiple choice answers and four open-ended questions. 46 surveys, all by hand. She even typed in all of the comments in the open-ended questions. Do you realize the work involved with that?

This person is the epitome of personal accountability and the antithesis of apathy. At some point she made the decision to be ‘part of the solution’ and has put in huge amounts of work on her own time to help improve the work environment for herself, her colleagues and her company. By the way, this company was already in the top 2% of their industry for customer service and known throughout the world as one of the best companies in the world.

As a leader, what are YOU willing to do to achieve these kinds of results?

The aware person will recognize when personal accountability is lacking in his or her own life.

The wise person will listen to feedback openly.

And the courageous person who will say “Okay, I’ll do what it takes to change and improve my own life.”

Let’s challenge ourselves and try to be all three — aware, wise and brave. Accountability starts with me!

A team with no accountability is no team.

As a leader, answer these questions with 100% honesty:

How am I showing accountability to my team?
Do I hold my team accountability or am I afraid of hurting their feelings / the conflict that will result?
Do I just want to be the ‘good guy’ and have everyone like me?

If you want a system for accountability, check out Awesome Boss. Fair warning, Awesome Boss is not for information gatherers, it is all about action and NOT an instant fix.

P.S. In a recent update from the employee above who remained anonymous to her company out of fear of retribution, the company (large, multi-billion dollar international service organization) has made a number of company-wide changes recently that were directly related to many of the comments and results from the organizational assessment. Who ever said that one person does not make a difference?

Contact us to bring a specialist in personal accountability into your organization. Contact us at 800-513-8759.

Authenticity and its Place in Teams

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Recently I ran across a very interesting question:

Authenticity — what does it mean to you? Do you believe it exists as a central core characteristic? Is it a construct of the modern management environment? Does it have a relevance or should we be more concerned about commercial metrics, performance and the like?

Authenticity is completely neutral. It is neither good nor bad and being an authentic jerk doesn’t make you better because are being authentic.However, being ‘authentic’ is a positive character trait, although we may not like the authentic behavior we see in others or ourselves.What does that mean? Too often in management and leadership today we see the thin veneer that people have created around themselves to protect themselves from weakness, perceived or real.

Authenticity DOES have a place in modern management, but falls under the difficult to measure arena like directly measuring trust. Very difficult to do.

Additionally, it is difficult to ascertain if someone is being ‘authentic’ or simply showing you that same veneer.

Forgive me for being a little bit self-promoting, but an example may work well here. We have several workshops and retreats that are designed to bring out that authentic behavior. They are all experiential in nature because we get to see, not what we think we do, but we REALLY do.For some groups we take them sailing. Before we go out we ask them to remove anything valuable and put them into a zip lock bag – watches, IPhones, Blackberrys (yes there are some devoted fans out there), basically anything that could get damaged by saltwater.We staple the zip lock bags shut and then put them into a red dry bag and take them with us onto the boat.After learning man overboard drills the group gets a little cocky and is feeling pretty good.

I tell them I am now simply here for safety’s sake, to prevent them from harming themselves or someone else and then say,

”Remember all the stuff you put into the dry bag” and hold the bag in the air and continue, “I hope you were paying attention to the man overboard drills because your stuff is now overboard,” and throw the bag into the water.

Here is an opportunity for authentic behavior. What do we REALLY do in crisis or stress? Versus how we THINK we respond.

That veneer doesn’t crack, it shatters.

It does not matter what happens in response to the crisis, it is the process we are interested in:
* How do you treat each other?
* How well do you communicate?
* What did the leadership look like?
* Did the group take time to plan?
* The list goes on…

Once you get used to being authentic, versus shining that veneer, the more you want to BE authentic.

Your ‘FIMAGE’, or fear of image, goes down and you are happy to have people take you as you really are.

Back to modern management.

I think you will find that teams at all levels are more successful if they are authentic with each other. There is a high degree of trust – makes sense – and very little pre-tense. Ego is more easily removed in crisis and the situation is handled.

Now, how relevant or important it is depends upon your focus.

But is it important? I think so. And not because it is part of some pyramid model of management or because someone has said it is.

Authenticity is important because it makes MY life better.

And in the end, end, end, what else really matters?


Awareness or Solution, Which Is Better?

There are a lot of people who have already brought awareness to the cause that they have just discovered. Last time, I encountered a conversation with a person that called me up and declared that the main purpose why he was forming a group is for awareness purposes. When I shared this story to a friend, she also said that it’s getting absurd how people are trying to bring awareness to other individuals who are already aware about the things that are happening around us or to the problems that are uprooted in our society. The truth is not all about bringing awareness but gaining understanding from your fellowmen, bringing in the funds which plays a big part in the process and of course, just making an alibi to become an underdog instead of getting associated with former organized groups.

If you have observed, there are numerous organized support groups for various types of each diseases, calamities, viruses or disabilities. This support groups are not only focused with the human welfare but also for the whole living entities in the world like animals, trees, the earth’s present situation and a bunch of lineup that needs attention with. It is so great to know that people are becoming aware and take every issue of humankind seriously like getting the issue viral in different methods. It is important that people know the difficulties that are being encountered by their fellowmen in the present time.

The negative thing comes out when everyone wants to save the whole world from problems and requires people to bring awareness to their cause. When all you want is to get in charge in solving the problem while the others will just listen and donate money to their newly organized group. Why not just join secured support groups like AHA or American Heart Association and the like, compared to starting on your own from nothing?

They say, “Misery loves company” and yes, people wants to be heard with the awareness that their bring to their cause. It does not mean that newly built support groups are not reliable but can we just trust the old, big groups that has been doing their thing for decades already than making it on our own. It will become a possibility that the problem should get fixed but instead, it won’t be because the attention is already divided to different small groups which we can just prefer to focus on the large group.

It is good to bring awareness but it is much better if we focus our attention to those support groups that has been doing this for a long time and offer our services to them rather than spending too much energy in forming new ones. Sometimes, people get this notion that when they bring awareness to other people – who are already aware, they become cocky with the idea that they had just formed out a new support group as if it’s the first time. Is it about helping needy people or do you just need the attention that you get when you help people? Which is which? Are you sure that you are truly aware with the problems of this world?

I am not becoming a hypocrite here but let us acknowledge the truth that we are not in need of NEW support groups since there are already a bunch out there that we can trust and is trusted for doing their jobs so well. So, think about it? Awareness or solution? Which do you prefer?

James Carter is the Founder and CEO of Be Legendary, a socially inspired team and personal development company. James has created emotional learning experiences for thousands of participants through executive retreats and large meetings. James’ passion lies in helping each person feel valuable as an individual and as part of the whole.

Just contact James Carter HERE.

How to Identify Worthwhile Actions


How do you know which actions are worthwhile and which are not?  Anyone who has an appetite for the taste of success thrives to take meaningful steps towards it, but what do those steps look like?

The most pivotal and overlooked component for success is its starting point.  Teddy Gross, founder of Penny Harvest, has helped raise over $7 million by collecting the tiniest denomination of currency in the US fiscal system.

But where did Teddy begin?  It started with one single penny.  Something so common and tiny most of us don’t even bother to pick one up as we pass it in the street.  And yet the collection of pennies has culminated into something truly extraordinary as millions of dollars have been raised for people in need.

None of this would have not been possible without that starting point, without that initial penny. And so one component to what makes actions so valuable is to not underestimate the value of our actions. What at first may seem as trivial and inessential could very well be the building blocks to an extraordinary breakthrough.

When we look at our actions, the only part of it that is truly factual is the action itself.  You take a job, you sell your house, you travel to a different country, you make a sales pitch.  Those are all facts. What comes after the action is our interpretations and perspectives.

The reasons you take a job could run the gamut.  Money, benefits, boredom, satisfaction, travel, fulfillment.  As well as whether or not you actually like this new occupation.  Variables such as co-workers, location, workload, tasks, interaction, and administration all have their respective roles to play.

The reality we create on how good or bad our job is – is formed by the perception we create. And so all our interpretations of our actions feed into whether or not something is worthwhile.

But after actions occur what do you think we tend to focus on?  Look at the front page of todays newspaper, turn on the news, or simply listen in on a conversation at work.  The general scope of perspective is pointed in a negative view.

Out of the 30 most common emotion words in the English language only 6 of them were positive.  This focus on the adverse has put on blinders to countless positive possibilities.

When trying to identify choices and actions that have the most value, focus in on the bright spots of those actions.  In the beginning stages of Penny Harvest when a few hundred dollars of pennies had been raised, Teddy Gross could have thought, “this is barely anything, this certainly won’t make a difference.”

But instead, he looked at the same few hundred dollars and saw peoples desire to help and built off these bright spots.

Identifying the worthwhile actions isn’t about a full proof plan designed to give you the right choices. It is about finding value in the reality we create.

Shakespeare said, “There is no good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Realize that behind every decision we make and every action we take there are positive potentials and bright spots to be found. These actions may not seem valuable alone, but together, can create an outcome that is truly worthwhile.

The Fox and the Hedgehog

There is the common misconception that with the influx of information there is an increase in knowledge.

We live in a world of rationalizers. I am going to tell you right here and now that openness is the remedy to a fixed mindset.  Now let me momentarily diverge to give clarity to this idea of filtered conceptualization.

Politics.  The argument can be made that the acquisition of information can be directly related to decrease in partisan bias.  But knowing more about politics doesn’t necessarily accomplish this.  Voters tend to assimilate facts that confirm what they already believe.  They think they’re evaluating candidates, but what they are actually doing is inventing or ignoring facts so they can rationalize decisions already made.

It is as if voters twirl a cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want.

This filter effect, which is so prominent in politics, extends into every aspect of our life.  We tend to look for information that already confirms what we already believe.  We edit the world to fit our ideology.  Imperative as focus is, we must make the distinction between a focused mind and a disregard for certain possibilities.

Historian Isaiah Berlin used animalistic mentalities to exemplify this very point.  While a fox knows many diverse things, a hedgehog knows one big thing.

When attacked, a hedgehog rolls itself into a ball so that its spines point outward.  A fox, on the other hand, does not rely on a single strategy.  A fox adjusts its strategy to a particular situation.  Accepting a situation as ambiguous, the fox relies on tailor-made approaches when conceptualizing possibilities.

The difference between the fox and the hedgehog is that the fox evades the seduction of certainty, while a hedgehog reassures itself with a foregone conclusion.

The fox’s abilities to think further than its preconceptions about a situation, make it a cunning and sly predator.  Foxes live in the unknown, constantly adapting to and evaluating different possibilities.

We take comfort in certainty.  Building blocks and cornerstones exist on this very premise.  The weakness of certainty is when you know you are right, you stop listening to perspectives that say you may be wrong.

Cognition is a powerful human asset. Like any muscle of the body we need to practice to strengthen it.  Foxes are notoriously cunning because they think about thinking.  They study their own decision-making process and gather information from a wide variety of sources.

It seems that the acquisition of knowledge lies in the openness of perspective.  We must be willing to entertain new thinking.  As effective as that spike defense may be, we do not want to remain complacent in certainty, satisfied with status quo.

Like the fox, we must be willing to accept ambiguity and charter the unknown.  That is where the true comprehension of knowledge spawns from, and the willingness to navigate ambivalence carries with it the potential for extraordinary possibilities.

We See What We Look For

Consider this.  Two people watch a speech.  Both hear the exact same words, and yet both come up with drastically different conclusions.

How does this happen?

Well let’s say this were a speech about politics, and one person was a democrat while the other a republican.  Each person would see facts reaffirming their preexisting views.

The brain and the eye may have a contractual relationship in which the brain has agreed to believe what the eye sees, but in return the eye has agreed to look for what the brain wants.

Awareness is more of a choice rather than a general knowledge.

It’s like a word search and we are looking for the 10 words listed on the side of the puzzle.  Even if there are other words filled in, we tend to only see the ones we look for.  We use tactics that hone in on the first letter of our targets or chunk a couple of the letters together as our eyes scan the page.

It’s not that other words aren’t there, it’s that we aren’t looking for them, so in our world, they aren’t there.

Say I took that word search and gave five words to one person and five words to another.  Like the politicians who listened to the same speech, both would look at the same thing and come back with two completely different lists.  We see what we look for.

Go for a walk around your neighborhood and look at all the different styles of doors and roofing patterns.  You probably never would have realized all the different colors, styles, patterns, sizes, and textures.  And yet you have lived in this neighborhood for years, you must of looked at them.  But there is a difference between looking and seeing.

Looking is like breathing, natural and innate, seeing is whole separate level that requires effort and commitment.

What are we really seeing and what are we just looking at?

If life is a chaotic sequence of ambiguous letters, then our frame of reference would be the word bank sitting at the bottom of the page.  But how do we grow that word bank?  How do we look for new inputs in life?

Step outside your preexisting scope of life.  People often drive the same way to work everyday. You see the same things you saw yesterday.  Why not take a new way to work everyday? The latter constantly sees new things while the former constantly sees the same old things.

What if you…

Listened to a radio station you’ve never heard before.

Order something at a restaurant without knowing exactly what it is.

Read a magazine you have never heard of.

Learn to tie nots, read music, throw a boomerang.

Escape in nature, and look for plants you have never seen before.

Take up painting. Jackson Pollock throws paint on a canvas so can you!

Go to a place you have never visited.

Rent a movie you have never heard of.

Read a book on a topic you think you’ll dislike.

Have a wider variety of experiences. Who knows what new words you’ll add to your bank when you start doing different things.

When you diversify the elements of your life, your awareness grows and you begin to see a world of many viewpoints, and a puzzle that doesn’t just hold words, but sentences, stories, experiences, journeys, and adventures.  You’ll see a life that holds the most legendary potentials.