Here is a brief excerpt from an article co-authored by Adrian Gostick and Chester Felton in which they share their thoughts about one of management’s greatest challenges: Instilling a sense of personal accountability within those who comprise a workforce. To read the complete article and check other resources, please click here.
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When we are asked to name one thing that can safeguard a team’s long-term performance, the answer is: become more accountable. To grow a great culture, you need to cultivate a place where people have to do more than show up and fog a mirror; they have to fulfill promises—not only collectively but individually.
A lack of accountability is one of the most corrosive elements of poor work cultures. It shows up in many ways: people failing to take responsibility, missed deadlines, errors in judgment, misunderstandings, over-promising, personal failures, petty disagreements, unfair expectations, and a marshmallow mound of “should have’s.”
But accountability is widely misunderstood as being all about the punitive. To be “held accountable” generally implies that a punishment is coming. How often do employees get the message that the boss wants to see them and feel a tightening in their stomachs—Yeah, just give me a minute while I go throw up.
An employee in the hospitality industry made the point to us so simply that we will never forget it: “When I make a mistake,” she said, “I’m recognized one hundred percent of the time; when I do something great, I’m not recognized ninety-nine percent of the time.” What would happen to her workplace if that 1 percent positive accountability could be turned into 2, 5, 10, or 20 percent?
Heavy-handed leadership such as this is not true accountability; it’s criticizing them. Accountability at its highest level is about assigning responsibility with realistic goals, evaluating progress and making positive course corrections at milestones, removing obstacles, and then closing the loop by celebrating successes or honestly and openly evaluating misses.
Some managers back off on individual accountability because they are somehow afraid of the confrontational side of the issue. But the truth is, a lack of accountability actually frustrates employees just as much as it does you. Employees really do want to do a good job, and holding them accountable is an important way we help them do just that. When accountability is instituted in positive ways, it helps people feel the satisfaction of achieving a goal and performing up to (or even surpassing) expectations. But it also allows them to clearly understand when they’re falling short and where they need to improve. Accountability helps people grow.
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Internationally recognized workplace experts Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton are partners in the consulting firm The Culture Works. Adrian is the author of several best-selling books on corporate culture, including the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestsellers The Carrot Principle and All In. His research has been called a “must read for modern-day managers” by Larry King of CNN, “fascinating,” by Fortune magazine and “admirable and startling” by the Wall Street Journal. As a leadership expert, he has appeared on numerous television programs including NBC’s Today Show and has been quoted in dozens of business publications and magazines.
Chet has been called the “apostle of appreciation” by the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper, and “creative and refreshing” by the New York Times. The co-author of All In, The Carrot Principle and The Orange Revolution, his books have sold more than a million copies worldwide. Chester has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Fast Company magazine, and New York Times, and he appears in a weekly segment on CBS News Radio.
Internationally recognized workplace experts Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton are partners in the consulting firm The Culture Works.
Adrian Gostick is the author of several best-selling books on corporate culture, including the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestsellers The Carrot Principle and All In. His research has been called a “must read for modern-day managers” by Larry King of CNN, “fascinating,” by Fortune magazine and “admirable and startling” by the Wall Street Journal. As a leadership expert, he has appeared on numerous television programs including NBC’s Today Show and has been quoted in dozens of business publications and magazines.
Chester Elton has been called the “apostle of appreciation,” by the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper, and “creative and refreshing” by the New York Times. The co-author of All In, The Carrot Principle and The Orange Revolution, his books have sold more than a million copies worldwide. Chester has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Fast Company magazine, and New York Times, and he appears in a weekly segment on CBS News Radio.
Here is a brief excerpt from my interview of Adrian and Chester.
To read the complete interview, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing All In, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal and professional growth? How so?
Gostick: We’ve talked about this often. Our parents were our first bosses—they gave us our moral compass, goals, and our first recognition. My dad worked 25 years for Rolls Royce in England. He taught me the value of working someplace where you can make a difference—not chasing money but doing work that you found purposeful.
Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.
Elton: About 15 years ago now I was working as a consultant with some large organizations in the Northeast. We were working at the time on employee recognition ideas and we were doing some really innovative things. I realized no one had ever written the definitive work on recognition. There were these 101 ways books. Most managers had one on their shelf, but no one ever read them. Just then my firm hired Adrian as its head of communication. We collaborated on our first book in the Carrot line and it really took off. Finally Simon & Schuster contacted us to do a big research book on the subject and that became The Carrot Principle. That book has now been translated in 25 languages and is sold around the world.
Gostick: Over the years since that release our work has taken us to the characteristics of the world’s best teams and now on to culture—something that we are hearing more and more from our clients. They want to know how to build not only a great corporate culture, but effective cultures in each of their smaller teams.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Gostick: I was able to study 50 years of leadership theory and practicum in my master’s program at Seton Hall, and it has provided the backbone of the knowledge we use every day. My undergraduate work was in journalism, and my early work as a newspaper reporter taught me how to research, write, and rewrite.
Morris: To what extent (if any) does All In in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?
Elton: We originally handed in the manuscript for All In to Simon & Schuster in the late summer of 2011. Four months later it went to press. Those four months were some of the hardest in our lives as our editor threw out half the book and demanded entire new chapters. While we had explained our findings well, we think, she pushed us to make the takeaways relevant for real business leaders. We spent so much time on explaining what a great culture looks like, we had neglected to tell readers “how” to do it. So many business books fall into that trap, and we are so grateful to Emily Loose, our editor, for pushing us to answer that paramount question: “I do what?”
Morris: Recent research studies by highly reputable firms such as Gallup and Towers Watson indicate that in a U.S. workforce, on average, fewer than 30% of the employees are actively and positively engaged; as for the others, they are either passively engaged (“mailing it in”) or actively disengaged. How specifically can business leaders increase the percentage of actively and positively engaged employees within their organizations?
Gostick: First, managers should understand there are some simple things they can do tomorrow that will make a big difference in their culture, but so few managers do them. For instance, the great leaders in our study treated their people like partners in the organization. That meant they created for their people a sense of connection by teaching them how their jobs impact the larger organization. And they showed them growth opportunities, how they can grow and develop with the company.
Next, these leaders also created a culture of rooting for each other with much greater levels of recognition and rewards. And finally, managers learned to create a share everything culture, where they honest and openly discussed issues.
Elton: Simple things really, but powerful. It comes down to opportunity, recognition and communication. Three things you can do right way to see results.
Morris: Given your response to the previous question, to what extent will those initiatives also help to retain valued employees who might otherwise leave?
Elton: The number one and number two reasons key performers leave an organization: one—I don’t feel in on things, and two—I don’t feel appreciated. It’s not money, it’s not job growth, people most often leave for things that are absolutely in our control as managers.
Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you began your first full-time job? Please explain.
Gostick: When I first became a manager, I didn’t realize that there were people who did a good job but who were toxic to the culture. I waited much too long to get rid of those people.
Morris: Here’s a hypothetical question. If there were a monument honoring business leaders comparable with the one honoring U.S. Presidents on Mount Rushmore, sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum, which four would you select? Please explain each choice.
Elton: I’ll give you one. One of our favorite leaders is someone most people have never heard of: Scott O’Neal. He’s president of Madison Square Garden Sports, and he’s the best leader we have ever met. One thing Scott does with every new hire: He asks them where they want to be in five years, and then he commits to help them get there if they promise to give 100 percent to him every day. And people do it, and in turn he’s helped business leaders all over the sports world achieve their dreams. He lives up to his promise.
Gostick: Here’s another one: Doria Camaraza. We feature her in chapter three of All In. Doria is the general manager of American Express’ 3,000-person call center in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She is simply amazing. She seems to know every one of her employees, and spends her days making people included and recognized and wonderful. Her call center has employee turnover that is one fifth the national average and has the best efficiency and productivity numbers in the call center industry. My favorite thing she does is called Tribute, where she gathers all her employees together once a month and the leaders come out dancing to Lady Gaga or Aerosmith and then she recognizes a dozen people for living the core values of American Express. It’s really powerful and there are a lot of tears.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
Adrian and Chester cordially invite you to check out the resources at these websites:
How and why “it’s culture that will differentiate your organization and drive real business results”…for better or worse
Those who have read any of Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton’s previously published books (notably The Carrot Principle and The Orange Revolution) and share my high regard for them are no doubt as eager now as I was to read their latest, All In. Based on what they learned from a research study that involved more than 300,000 respondents, it is – in my opinion – their most important book…thus far. Why? Because I think the information, insights, and (especially) the wisdom they share in it will have much wider and much deeper impact than any previous provisions.
Gostick and Elton assert, and I emphatically agree, that it is culture that will differentiate a team or organization and drive initiatives that produce high-impact results. Moreover, they believe – and again I agree – that a “culture” can be any shared community in which there are direct contact and frequent interaction. The Pixar campus in Emeryville (CA), for example, but it could also be the animators within the Walt Disney Company who created classic films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio. In fact, it could be a team of only two or three persons who also have direct contact and frequent interaction while at work. Here’s the key point: In a healthy culture (whatever its size and nature may be), those who share it are nourished by mutual respect and trust. It is no coincidence that most of the companies that are annually ranked among those that are the most admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their respective industries.
“For worse?” In Leading Change, James O’Toole suggests that most change initiatives fail or fall far short of expectations because of cultural resistance, the result of what he so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Who wants to be part of a culture with command and control leadership, departments that resemble silos and bunkers, and a workplace in which incivility is ignored and incompetence is tolerated? Such a culture will definitely drive real results….all bad and increasingly worse
The material in the book is divided within three Parts. First, Gostick and Elton create a context, a frame of reference, for “The Seven Step Road Map,” explaining why the belief factor is “the secret sauce that makes a culture contagious.” They assert that 100% all-in employee engagement is not enough. That caught my eye. Hence the importance of the E + E + E formula: Employees must be engaged, enabled, and energized. Gostick and Elton then devote a separate chapter to each of the steps in Part II. I especially appreciate the “Step Summary” section at the conclusion of these chapters, 4-10. This brief but substantial material facilitates, indeed expedites frequent review of key points later. Then in Part III, they provide what could be characterized as an “All-in Toolbox,” accompanied by a detailed “operations manual” that includes an explanation of 52 different ways to get people all-in and productive. Also carefully check out the Appendix in which Gostick and Elton examine the “Culture Works Process” by which to build and sustain a high-performance culture.
With rare exception, the most valuable business books are research-driven and concentrate on explaining what works, what doesn’t, and why. This book succeeds brilliantly on both counts. I consider it “must reading” for C-level executives and for those who aspire to become one; but it is also, in my opinion, “must reading” for business school instructors and their students because the material that Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton provide is relevant to all organizations (whatever their size and nature may be) and to all of those who comprise the workforce in those organizations (whatever the level and area of operations may be). If that doesn’t convince you to buy it, read it, re-read it, and then refer to it frequently, I have no idea what will.
Many of you will enjoy the new insights and data about teamwork that I will present on Friday at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas from The Orange Revolution: How One Great Team Can Transform an Entire Organization by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton (Free Press, 2010). If you miss the synopsis or live outside of our area, you can find it soon on our companion site, 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.
As always, I am impressed by the research methodology employed in books like this. The findings and recommendations from this book come from a 350,000 person survey conducted by the Best Companies Group (BCG), which has been instrumental in establishing “Best Places to Work” programs.
One item that is missing from this book, as is true of most that I have read on teamwork, is the fundamental question of how teams “work” when they “work as teams.” I am asked all the time what a group needs to do in order to work as a team. And my answer is they must do their work as a team!
What I mean is that the work that everyone does must be interdependent, not independent. You cannot have teams if the work that participants do is not designed so that they work together. Therefore, teamwork depends upon the fact that at minimum, there is an extra set of eyes, or an extra set of input to everything the participants do and contribute.
Throwing independent contributions together into a package is not teamwork. Assembling interdependent contributions together into a package is teamwork. This is because the result comes from the blended aggregation of each person’s input. And, when you have teamwork, you have great difficulty identifying “who did what,” because the product belongs to the team, not any individual. That is why MVP (most valuable player) of a team has never made any sense to me – you can have one for a league, but you should not have one for a team!
So, if you want teamwork, you must design the work where you accomplish it in teams. The work must be interdependent, not independent. If you fail to do this, you will only have a group, and not a team
How do you see this issue? Let’s talk about it soon!