(Excerpt from upcoming book, “The 3 Awareness’ ”)

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“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
– William Shakespeare

As we kick-off the “New Year,” do you think today’s Employee Engagement, Career Development and Business Climate is different than prior years? As in the past, Leaders today must make critical decisions in how they manage unpredictable business results, market dynamics and external forces that raise the bar on team performance and “Accountability.” Particularly, during times of change, disruption and uncertainty. For Leaders to make a difference, it is about whole-istic choices and possessing a deliberate trait we call, “Conscious Leadership.”
For differentiation purposes, however, let’s describe this agility to lead attribute, as a mindset…and, to really challenge the status quo, as a “Paying-Attention-to-Nuance” mindset.
As you take a few minutes to read the following, consider three of our foundational Conscious Leadership premises: “Self-Awareness, Perspective and Credibility,” as they relate to team engagement and “Accountability.”

Broadly speaking, what might be a reasonable Leadership metric during change and turn-around business conditions? As an example, one measure of a leadership quotient is seen in a follow-up “Accountability” meeting when attempting to identify, e.g., financial results, delays and the root cause behind missed targets, customer relationship issues (negotiations), and revenue short-falls.
On the success-side of your strategic planning updates, some teams celebrate, “Winning Together”™ – Awesome! Your team is in alignment and on the right track regarding strategic growth goals and business objectives. Conceivably, your team delivers and is “Accountable.” Other teams might, unfortunately, experience the opposite. They might lack effective communications, resist collaboration, create silos, feel frustration, begin finger-pointing, or resort to the blame game, to name a few. And, by definition, are not “Accountable.” (Hopefully, temporarily until they re-align). As a Leader, in the second scenario, how do you get your team back on track? How do you get people to collaborate and crack the code to achieving predictable business results, recover from bad market conditions, or practice “Accountability?”

There’s a cultural mythology around “Accountability.” It is a word that ricochets within most organizations and is top of mind during these tough economic times. But, whose “Accountability?”    As a Leader, how do you relate to “Accountability,” and what can you do differently to ensure you diligently match its definition? As a contributor, how do you perceive your role, course of action and resources needed to successfully produce a desired outcome? On the “What if,” side of things, might there be a correlation between Training, Development and “Accountability?” Here’s where “Thinking Around the Corner,” comes in (or, a Conscious Leadership Nuance that is often misunderstood).

“Accountability,” is an abstraction, really. Briefly, let’s deconstruct this cool word that means so many things. “Accountability,” is not only about completion, obligation, deliverables and results. It is certainly not a, “Gotcha,” nor a revolving door pattern that only measures failure. Hopefully, this is not your world. Not to sound parochial, but as stated, “Accountability” is about paying attention. It is a deliberate focus – it is a clinical business process, a competency and influence mindset. (Think: People Development, Succession Planning, Mentoring and Awareness, and, let’s not omit team collaboration and interpersonal relationships – obviously, also tied to Confidence and Delegating).

We define “Accountability” as a communion of minds that see the same picture and agree to move in the same direction with timelines, is quality-centric and deliverables that are aligned with business, values and strategic goals. It’s about professional development, organizational growth and cultural intelligence. It is not so much about irresponsibility, nor incompetence. “Accountability,” is not always about resistance, character deficits, ego, nor personality issues. Consider our concept of “Assume Positive Intent.” (Short Def.: To listen, discernment and exercising perspective, checking biases and assumptions before you conclude).

A Rose is a Rose…

I kinda like this word, “Accountability,” however, see it unlike most. If we define it in an unconventional way, and produce results and “Buy-in,” then, it’s still “Accountability,” right?

“Accountability,” is not punitive, nor does it have to be so serious and judgmental. For the moment, let’s keep this simple and positive…within the realm of accelerated learning, on-boarding, or responding to critical time-lines and deliverables, there should be no blame, nor finger-pointing, agree? Yes, we want results, progress, and “Wins,” but let’s not forget growth, a safe learning environment, and innovation. Before “Accountability” and after competencies, is “Listening” – understanding the business goals, sense of urgency and attaining “Buy-in,” in order to successfully achieve the stated business, market, customer or financial objectives. Creating team trust should be a given. (By the way, you cannot have real sense of urgency if clarity of goals is not established – and, granted – there are different levels of projects, deadlines, strategy and tasks- all relative).
“To achieve ‘Accountability’ a Shift in Perception is needed.”

“To be, or Not to Be”

Clearly, we’re not trying to oversimplify, nor sound unrealistic. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but let’s rewind our perception of Leadership. Do we mean Leadership as, “Authority and Power,” or as “Leading and Inspiring others?” Conscious Leadership, is about leading and empowering others through authenticity, support and inspiration, and reflects a neutral and discerning perspective around the 3 C’s – Challenges. Changes. Choices.™ How do great and inspired Leaders respond to these C’s? Remember our foundational premise around, “Self-Awareness, Perspective and Credibility?” Specific to this article, this is where the connections to paying attention are made. The Conscious Leadership mindset navigates through chaos and success, embraces all the above business challenges and shifts their Perception of the “Problem,” to opportunity, and teamwork. Consider the following Nuance – It is one of the most powerful and the secret, as it were…to seeing possibilities. It is a shift to, “Believing is Seeing.” A Conscious leader achieves “Accountability” by seeing success first in their minds eye, then elevating those around them, while looking for evidence and small wins to validate strategic direction.

Therefore, is it Engagement that drives “Accountability,” or people whose energy is aligned and focused on the organizational vision – or both? Conscious Leadership is about “Believing is Seeing.” This quintessential mindset is a discipline and structured. It shares a compelling vision and success story – before it happens, while looking for milestones of accomplishment as it empowers and engages other minds to see the “same picture.” Simultaneously, it welcomes fresh ideas and creativity. This, is one dimension of achieving peak “Accountability.” Yes, and by nature a Nuance is profound.


Conscious Leadership asks Fundamental Questions:

 “How equipped are my leaders to manage the following: people, change & uncertainty, performance results (financial), capacity, customer service-responsiveness, supply-chain issues, market          competition, systems implementations, disruption, digital culture, inter-personal relationships, problem solving, exposure, succession planning, and retention – all at the same time?”
 How about morale? Do we “really” want to improve morale and retention? What do organizational actions reflect? What’s your morale improvement plan?
 How do we solve performance deficits and address resistance to change?
 Are our Leaders able to Mentor, grow the team, and can they conduct difficult conversations (manage conflict?).
 Who holds the Mirror to “Accountability”? Conscious Leaders do…How do you know? Excitement, belief and knowingness that their vision is only a mindset away.

By asking the right questions, Conscious Leaders drive “Accountability,” collaboration and results, with passion, clarity of direction and by creating trust. As a natural consequence, they develop people and “deliberately” create positive momentum.

So, let’s review one of our core tenets to successful Conscious Leadership. We mention that it is paying attention to what most overlook – the “Nuance,” or, more clearly, subtle people connections within performance and communication that most people don’t notice. That is, looking for evidence of success, progress and “Small Wins.” It is here where great leaders align with that other over-used term, momentum. Conscious Leaders look for clues, milestones and connections to successful outcomes and keep the energy moving in a positive direction. Then, they celebrate and acknowledge these, which, amplifies the energy (excitement). If there is a correction, a wall, or an obstacle…they know when to pivot toward Plan-B (and, take the team with them). Keep in mind – the opposite is also true. Creating negative momentum keeps teams stuck, by continually focusing on the problem and keeping it alive. (We don’t want to always be addicted to crisis and problem mode, right? Topic for another day…)

As a pulse-check, during your project meetings & updates, are your “Accountability” discussions around performance and results positive, or negative? Remember, too, the tone of the “Accountability,” check-in meeting. Is it “psychologically safe,” or intimidating when reporting-in, thus, truncating learning, new ideas and innovation? (Hint: this is a Nuance).
In summary, Conscious leaders have a fervent understanding of people, systems and awareness. This is how they produce results, incremental (baby) steps and attract their vision for the future. Does it sound Lofty? Historical and world-class change agents always are.

Consider Roles & Responsibilities…as you delegate and allocate resources in response to projects, customer, or market dynamics – what’s the goal? Growing your business? Market Share, Technology/Systems implementation, M/A integration, People Development? Naturally, there are many business growth objectives and variables to keep in mind. That said, how do you influence your team toward performance ownership, i.e., “Accountability?”

Taking personal ownership is a natural consequence to agreements and commitments. Where it pops up, as you know, is when leadership teams interpret financial data, market share, customer considerations, like product lines, campaigns, quantities, pricing and contracts. And, don’t forget those external factors mentioned around inflationary pressures that impact decision-making and results that may potentially reflect anemic deliverables. Think about it…what are best practices to inspire performance integrity, and course-correct team check-ins (“Accountability”), and updates moving forward, when exposing performance vulnerabilities?

What is the Conscious Leadership Mirror?

The Conscious Leadership mirror is Awareness – “Buy-in,” and Excitement. Yes, Excitement. To be Accountable, is to be on fire! Excited about possibilities. Why not? Who excites them into performance “Accountability?” A Conscious Leader does. They know that to create an exciting team environment, they must first be “Excited” about the future. Conscious Leaders know that to achieve business, financial, market and organizational goals – add culture and innovation goals, too – you need people to believe what you believe. Conscious Leaders know that people don’t buy and follow you because of what you sell and say, they buy, follow and are loyally committed to you because they believe what you believe. (Hint #2: another Nuance).

As we begin to conclude, lack of “Accountability” is about a missed agreement and commitment within the communication and follow-up cycle. If you’re struggling with “Accountability” challenges, might the “root-cause” be lack of empowerment, effective delegating and “Belief” in the outcome? Could it be the Leader? Could it be a Training (Coaching) issue? This is another example of “Nuance,” and “Paying Attention.” Smart people often overlook simplicity. Here lies the great test around “Paying Attention.” Careful not to intellectualize what I’m saying, or you’ll miss the point.
Once again, Conscious Leaders understand the big picture, obstacles and resources needed to succeed, and/or triumph – and, they work with the end in mind – while always focusing on people, systems and business targets. They will inspire, challenge and creatively partner toward solutions that invoke collaboration, action and a fire-fighting focus (when needed), while not becoming addicted to crisis mode.

Lastly, “Accountability,” is a decision to reinforce positive momentum by acknowledging the small wins that provide evidence of incremental success. And, finally, there is one more fundamental way in which to achieve performance “Accountability.” It is in my biased opinion, by “Creating a Culture of Excellence,”™ and the 3 Awareness’™ – “Precision. Agility. Resilience.”™ If you believe in the Law of Constraints, you might also believe in the Law of Attraction. As a Leader, “You get what you think about, and you don’t get what you want, you get who you are.”
As a leader, or collective organization…who are you?

To Create a Culture of Excellence, and to enhance Engagement, Development and “Buy-in,” (a parallel subset to deliberate “Accountability”), focus on Inspiration first – then Training. What is inspiration? It is “To be in the Spirit Of…” your commitment to focus, to moving with confidence and excitement. Conscious Leadership does not deflate, nor make their audiences feel “less important.”  What happens when people are not “Accountable” to their agreements and commitments? It’s a long answer with many layers and considerations. But, here is where Empathy enters, once again. A few inquiry questions Conscious Leaders ask may be, “How are you doing?” Tell me about what you think is missing in your plan/approach? Do you have all the support and resources you need?” How can I be a part of our success?” “Let’s track it together…” And, one last, last thing…you’re accountable to what you know, and you cannot be accountable to something you don’t know, nor understand. Train, develop and coach your team to understand your business and organizational goals. Model proactive Excellence, and move with focused urgency, while feeling and creating brand legacy.

In conclusion, our point of view is only irreverent if you’re not meeting your financial, business and market objectives.

Need Accountability Coaching assistance? Seek support from HR, the Training and Development folks, or other internal mentors/SMEs. Where relevant, engage external resources you trust for Executive & Management Coaching.

“It’s not about doing different things; it’s about doing things differently.”
– Rick J. Hernandez

Tracy Sutton