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Practical tips for productivity and accountability

Masterclass in Creating a Culture of Accountability shares framework for cultivating a results based mindset

MGV21 - event overview image

Mark Green, leadership coach and author, shared tips on accountability at Growth Faculty's masterclass. Image: Mark Green


One of the people at our masterclass Creating a Culture of Accountability, led by leadership coach, author, and global speaker Mark Green (pictured above) was law executive Kim Shaw.

Kim leads 200 people as head of the Personal Legal Services division at law firm Maurice Blackburn. Working from home in Melbourne, she spoke to me about flexible work, accountability, and her commitment to learning.

Kim says says a good culture of accountability exists in Maurice Blackburn, so productivity at the firm has held during the pandemic, and even improved in some areas. However, she’s always keen to learn more about accountability.

“There’s always room for me to learn and improve no matter how many years I’ve been in it,” she says. 

Challenge area is this

One challenge area she shares with many leaders both inside the firm and out is at the single point of accountability. That is, calling out sub-standard behaviour or results from an individual.

“For me it’s not so much being liked as being respected,” she says. “The harsh reality is that there will be instances where something is challenging to face. There might be your own set of factors that cause you to walk past something. You might have had a series of things that are difficult that week and you can’t face another one….”

Pandemic reduces spontanaeity

Kim says she likes to lead in a collaborative way, and virtual meetings, while positive in many ways, are transactional and reduce her ability to have “infill conversations.”

“I think there are some meetings which are good online and others not so good,” Kim says. “It’s efficient being online, but there are fewer spontaneous discussions.”

Flexible workplace is positive

For the foreseeable future, Kim will do a mixture of 2 and 3 days in the office and encourage her staff to be similarly flexible if they so desire. She says she’s happy to let people work full time in the office, hybrid, or remote (“that’s fine within reason, might want to see them once a month”).

She says people appreciate the opportunity for flexible work so the firm will benefit from it in a very positive way.

kim-shaw

Maurice Blackburn division head Kim Shaw says she is reflecting on her own practices on accountability after today's masterclass. Image: Kim Shaw

Accountability boils down to one question

Mark Green says accountability boils down to one question:

·    What are the results you are paid to deliver through your role?

The author of Activators – a CEO’s Guide to Clearer Thinking and Getting Things Done and Creating a Culture of Accountability is a strategic advisor and business & leadership growth coach to CEOs and executive teams worldwide.

He says anyone can talk about the tasks they do, but accountability is not about doing. It’s about OWNERSHIP OF AN OUTCOME. Asking this question about results forces results-based versus activity-based mindsets.

Definition of accountable

Mark points to the dictionary definition of Accountable: (Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online)

1.     Subject to giving an account: answerable

2.     Capable of being explained: explainable.

They show accountability is not about doing. It is about ownership. A good leader knows this, and gives the employee 3 building blocks of accountability:

The 3 building blocks of accountability

·       Expectations – I believe in you

·       Context – Why this matters (to me, to our organisation)

·       Attention – Hey I’m watching you

Of course, nobody is perfect. But even a 20% improvement can make a massive difference over time to the results of a company. Mark Green recommends leaders work on slow and steady, incremental improvements on a few main points.

Behaviours that improve or ruin accountability

Do one and not the other to improve the results of your team.

·       High expectations vs tolerating mediocrity: Expect more and people will rise to the occasion.

·       Transparent vs close to the vest: Not divulging enough detail doesn’t help accountability.

·       Repetition vs infrequent communication: Until your team literally rolls their eyes and finishes your sentences for you then you’re not repeating yourself enough.

·       Course correcting vs slow response to change. It’s about being proactive, make constant changes and staying on an approximate line.

·       Clarity driven vs finger pointing. Being driven to find root causes and not blaming others.

·       Disciplined planning vs actions before plans. We know it makes sense to plan before action.

But what about the nitty gritty of accountability? How do we make sure employees understand what is expected of them, and of their role? This is where we look at 3 types of accountability.

3 types of accountability:

1.     Role accountability

2.     Process Accountability

3.     Leading by example

Role accountability

What is expected of me in my role? This should be asked by every member of your team. Here’s a simple trick to help.

Write on a small card: Job title, KPI (ie. Gross Margin as measured in $$) and three most significant outcomes for this role: (ie. gross margin, customer satisfaction, number of A players on operations team). 

·       Focus on results, not activities.

·       Create by role, not by person.

·       What is your role funded to deliver?

·       Prioritise, then identify the #1 KPI.

·       Share and discuss as a team.

The executive team must be aligned. Only one card per role (some staff may hold three cards).

Process accountability

Build accountability elements into your leadership, planning, and execution processes. Don’t let people feel like they’ve been thrown in the deep end. Incessant repetition of your belief in them is powerful.

5 rules to implement:

1.     Single point accountability – If more than one is accountable then no-one is. Clarify who is accountable for the result.

2.     Plans before action – Who, what, why, when before you start. Use the question “As measured by what?” – ie. What does good look like? 

3.     Transparency – Does everyone know what’s going on?

4.     Communication rhythms – Major projects and processes should have their own rhythms, as should your key metrics.

5.     Continuous Course Correction – Help people learn to think more steps ahead. And 2nd and 3rd order consequences.

Leading by example

All eyes are on you all the time. What behaviours do you tolerate in others that are inconsistent in what you say you want?

Take this personal quiz:

·       I live my own values (If observed for two days, what would others observe)

·       I honor my own priorities (Importance of family, exercise etc)

·       I am coached/mentored for my own growth (Am I leading by example as to how I am growing myself?)

·       I am accountable for my decisions and outcomes (Are you always accountable for your outcomes or do you blame or externalise?).

Challenge: If I was to ask your executive team to rate you on these four things, how would your executive rate you?

Summary

Accountability is about taking ownership of what you're personally responsible for in your role. It is not about the busyness or the time spent at your desk. It's about understanding what outcomes are yours, and yours alone. Once an employee or an executive understands this thoroughly, and works steadily to improve their results, they become a more productive and valuable part of your company. Therefore, it is on leaders to make sure every employee has this mindset - a results mindset, knows what their role is, and what the expected outcomes of that role are. Leaders need to continue to grow and learn, and encourage their teams to do the same.

With our thoughts we make our world – Mark’s fortune cookie 


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