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What are you resigned about?

Have you become apathetic about something you care about? This may seem like a strange question. After all, it assumes that you are resigned about something that is important to you.

However, I believe most of us are resigned about something that is important to us a good chunk of the time. If we have strong self-awareness, commitment and discipline we may be able to pull ourselves out of apathy every time we fall into it. But, I think resignation is unavoidable for human beings. I am not suggesting that all of us are apathetic all the time. But, it is the nature of people to dream and aspire, but when things don’t go as planned, we often become resigned and apathetic.

This happens all too often. We see a possibility for ourselves in an area that is important to us, perhaps it’s about being more successful, making more money, being healthier, having a relationship or simply being happier. We believe it can really come true for us. We open our heart to it, and this makes us very excited and hopeful. We feel that “everything is possible,” and “we can have it all.” Call it falling in love, with our life.

We then step out into the world and things don’t quite pan out the way we anticipated; it’s harder to stay with the program or drive progress or results than we expected, others aren’t as receptive, collaborative or supportive as we hoped, and results don’t happen as fast and big as we planned.

At first, we get a little discouraged but when reality continues to be challenging, a nagging doubt begins to emerge. After a while, we start second guessing our dreams or our abilities. Finally, deeper discouragement descends that often leads to resignation, apathy and giving up.

Our internal conversations change throughout this progression too. As stated above, at first we feel like “everything is possible” and “life is grand.” Then, we slide into personal invalidation: “What was I thinking?” and “I wasn’t cut out for this level of success or happiness.” Then, we avalanche into undermining overgeneralizations like: “life isn’t a fairytale,” and “I need to lower my expectations.”

Resignation manifests in different forms and at different levels. Sometimes we are clear that we are resigned. We feel generally apathetic and upset, discouraged or depressed about what we feel we can’t do, achieve or obtain. Sometimes, the fact that it’s hard to get out of bed is a clear indication that we are resigned.

But, often apathy doesn’t feels to us like apathy. We go about our normal life lacking motivation, energy and inspiration, but it seems like what we are experiencing is normal, just the way life is.

We often don’t realize that the negative feelings and thinking are rooted in apathy and resignation about something that is important to us.

Have you noticed that when people are resigned about the possibility of achieving or getting what they want, they tend rationalize things, justify themselves and generally have more of a cynical or even sarcastic attitude about their struggles?

For example, people who are overweight often tend to downplay the importance of healthy eating and exercising. People who are not in a relationship tend to have negative perspectives on the importance of relationships or marriage. And people who can’t get promoted tend to blame others or the corporate environment.

The logic of this reaction is clear – it is too painful to take 100% ownership of our current situation. Most of us can’t stay in bed and give up altogether, so we resort to adopting a victim mentality, becoming cynical or numb and apathetic about our unfulfilled aspirations. We find ways to avoid feeling the pain every day.

The good news is that resignation and apathy are actually very normal and natural for people. You are not alone and resignation is not insurmountable. The key is how to catch it quickly and transform it.

To transform your apathy, you need to first own your reality. You have to be honest about the fact that you are in fact resigned about an area of your life. When you are honest and own your predicament, you become more authentic and stop pretending like you have your act together and everything is going well. By being more authentic, you can start exploring new ways to achieve what you really want.

After all, we all know that there is always more than one way to get things done. In fact, many times the new ways we derive after we get unstuck turn out to be even more effective and inspiring than our original plans.

Owning your resignation and apathy also allows you to return to your original sense of possibility and commitment. Once you are back on the saddle, you probably don’t need any help!

Five practical things any leader can do daily in order to create and sustain an environment of authentic and effective Accountability

In my last blog, Accountability; a privilege or burden? I discussed what accountability truly is or should be.  As promised, I want to share five practical things leaders and managers can do to create and sustain an environment of authentic and effective Accountability.

1.)Make sure people are engaged in setting the goals early on. This practice would most likely be applied differently depending on the size and how disperse the team is. In a small team, it is easy to engage people in the strategy or goal-setting exercise. In a large organization, this principle will have to be implemented in steps. Step one would be to get the entire senior team engaged and aligned. Step two; bring the middle managers on board. And step three; update and include the rest of the team. The application may be different, but the principle of engaging people in the goals early on is always relevant. This is because the more people feel engaged in setting the goals the more they will feel a sense of personal ownership and accountability toward them.

2.) Promote a culture of open, honest, authentic and courageous communication. Where people feel they can speak their mind, ssssespecially addressing what is not working they tend to naturally gravitate toward feeling and behaving like loyal owners of the business. Regardless of what senior leaders may say, people will only speak up if they believe their leaders genuinely want them to. To do that leaders have to start with themselves. They need to show that they are open to honest dialogue, including feedback and criticism about themselves.

3.)Instill the language of accountability as the norm. The language of accountability sounds and feels very different than the typical language of compliance that permeates throughout most organizations. In an environment of compliance people have plenty of tolerance for, and indulgence in excuses, justifications, blame and reasons why things can’t be done or why they didn’t get done. In contrast, the language of accountability is all about clarity of action. People make clear requests and promises. And these get responded to with clear and authentic acceptances, declines or counter-offers. People always know where things stand and they value integrity and honesty over appearances and political gain.

4.) Deal with failures, mistakes and shortfalls in an empowering way. In most organizations when a team under performs or fails people tend to look for someone or something to blame. The problem is that when people feel there is a hunt going on to find a scape-goat they react by hiding, protecting their behinds, even lying. As a result, teams often don’t get to the source and root-cause of the failure in the first place, so they find themselves repeating the same failures. If you want to create an environment of authentic accountability deal with all failures, mistakes and shortfalls only in an empowering way – don’t entertain the ‘blame game’. In fact, don’t be concerned with ‘whose fault it is’. Instead, be obsessed with learning from past failures and correcting the issues. Ask your team questions like: “What was missing?” “What was in the way?” and “What can we change, correct and improve?”. You’ll see that people will be excited to contribute to the investigation and as a result you’ll come up with breakthroughs AND you’ll strengthen people’s sense of ownership and accountability to your vision.

5.) Highlight, recognize and celebrate displays of accountability. Most leaders don’t do a great job of acknowledging and recognizing their team members for a job well done on any day. I am not referring to the formal corporate human resources recognition programs that occur at best once a quarter or a couple of times a year. I am talking about creating an environment of day-to-day verbal recognition. People respond extremely well to genuine recognition. It makes them feel noticed, appreciated and valued and that causes them to want to do and contribute even more. If you want to create a powerful culture of accountability go out of your way to recognize small, medium or large displays of ownership and accountability. Make it a daily routine and practice.