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The Power of Extreme Accountability

by | Effective Leadership



I believe that most people have at least a little bit of fear that they won’t be successful.

In this episode, I’m going to show you a powerful way to get your executives to understand that they own all the results for the entire organization—not just their silos—and what to do with that knowledge.

If you feel like you’re still the one who is “nagging” your team to hit deadlines and outcomes, and that others are happy to make you the “bad cop,” you’re going to love this episode. I’m going to show you how your team is going to hold themselves accountable while you get to be the good cop—which is the job you should have.

If you feel that your team consists of A players and you can count on them to deliver, but they still don’t say something when someone is behind or struggling (leaving that to you), then you may want to watch this with your exec team members so they can come to consensus about their roles.

Even if your team is magical, the accountability is flawless, nobody lets anybody off the hook, and they know how to do it in a way that furthers the relationship instead of diminishing it, you’re going to get some good ideas about how to make things even better.

There are some common challenges when bringing extreme accountability into your executive team.

If you have been together a while and are all friends, you may be lacking enough healthy dissidence—the norm of people challenging and pushing each other to think more clearly and execute more flawlessly.

Second, some people play a little game: “I won’t call you out, and I expect the same from you. Leave me alone when I miss a deadline or outcome.” It’s wildly dysfunctional, but it exists in many executive teams.

And third, some people become deflated when they are losing at work. Out of “compassion”, others back off. Unfortunately, more often than not, that “act of kindness” actually ends up costing that person their job… so it’s not very kind at all, is it?

Having talked to thousands of bank CEOs over the last 20+ years, I hear these three over and over again.

I’m now going to give you three steps that will clean up some of the dysfunctional team behaviors that are being normalized.

Step 1: The “rah, rah, happy, happy” “team building” exercises are like Chinese food—you’re hungry an hour later. You need to go into the eye of the needle and create an understanding of the behaviors that are not welcome around the table. From “meetings outside of meetings”—where people don’t say what they think in the meeting but then stir the pot afterwards—to not speaking up, to pretending not to know, you want to be clear about what you don’t ever want to see around that executive team table, so everyone understands what gets you an invitation off the executive team.

Step 2: Unlike so many “in the head” learning approaches about how to be an executive, getting your team to know how to responsibly bring passion for outcomes and do it in a way that advances the situation quickly is rarely taught. As a result, instead of flowing it up, execs go silent and “endure.” You want to make sure your team learns how to bring healthy dissidence and extreme commitment to the outcomes of the organization.

Step 3: Many executive development programs teach execs to “run their divisions,” but healthy and sustainable organizations have a different approach. If you’re on the executive team, you’re responsible for everything. That doesn’t mean you get in and do everything yourself—you run your division first. It means that if something isn’t working in some other division, you say something, you offer solutions and you make sure everyone knows that this can’t continue. You don’t wait for the CEO to do that, or you have just proven you’re “management” material instead of “executive” material.

Again, first make absolutely clear what behaviors you expect and what you won’t tolerate from your team. Then make sure to demonstrate and teach healthy dissidence—if they care enough about the organization, they should push against each other often. And finally, enroll your team in understanding that they each are responsible for everything, and if there is any part of the organization that isn’t working, it’s their fault too, and they need to rise to the occasion.

By getting your executive team to hold each other accountable to deadlines and outcomes, you will know you can sleep at night because the strategic plan will be met or exceeded. It’s an insurance policy that your bank gets to stay in business.

Make sure you tune in next time, when I’ll show you how to deal with any shortcomings in your team’s emotional intelligence so that you can raise your chance of success and do it with more ease.

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