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Do you know where you really live? It could change your life.

Often, people do not pay enough attention to what they say—both publicly and privately. Whether positive or negative, people don’t seem to understand the immense consequences of what they say or think.

I believe most people would agree that positive, optimistic and encouraging conversations uplift and empower their spirits and psyches, whereas negative, cynical conversations have the opposite effect.

However, there is more to the story. What we say and think also have significant repercussions on our overall wellbeing. Certain conversations give us energy while others suck the energy out of us. Have you noticed that some days you are tired at 10am in the morning and other days you are full of energy at 10pm at night?

That is not a coincidence.

Most of the time, our level of energy is not a function of how many hours we slept the night before…or even how hard we worked during the day. In fact, some mornings we jump out of bed full of vitality even when we only slept a few hours. And, some nights we are wide awake even after a long day of hard work.

Our energy, mood and spirit are all shaped by the conversations and thoughts we entertain and dwell in. In fact, we live more in our conversational environment then in our physical environments.

Let me illustrate:

Have you ever been on a conference call while commuting to or from work on the highway and suddenly had a shocking realization that for the previous 20 minutes you were completely not present to what was occurring on the road in front of you?

Have you even taken time off with the intention and desire to fully disengage from work and rejuvenate, but you just couldn’t relax and let go because some issue or interaction at work was still irritating, upsetting and consuming your attention and soul?

We don’t litter, trash or neglect our physical environment because we know that we live in it. But, we do tend to litter, trash and neglect our conversational habitat.

If you accept this premise, you should be more inclined to better care for and manage your conversational environment. You dwell in your conversations so make sure that the conversations you surround yourself with are positive and empowering. Make sure they support, represent and honor who you are.

Here are a few practical things you could do immediately to achieve this:

  1. Don’t participate or initiate gossip, especially when their focus is trashing other people that have a part in your life. Gossip may be valid, but it NEVER makes a difference.
  2. Have the courage to address issues with people quickly, directly and productively. Don’t let issues fester.
  3. Make requests and ask for things instead of complaining about things.
  4. Apologize and clean up your mess when you misbehave. Swallow your pride and don’t let your ego get in the way.
  5. Always have something to look forward to; a goal, project, milestone or event that you are working on that excites you in the present.
  6. Express gratitude, acknowledge and thank people around you every day, especially the people in your personal and professional environment that you respect and love. Don’t be lazy or stingy about that.
  7. Be thankful and count your blessings every day.

 

 

 

 

Take your head out of the sand

How many times have you participated in a meeting and halfway through it you realized that something important wasn’t being said openly and honestly. You knew that others knew it, too, but no one said anything?

How many times have you seen managers and employees sit around a meeting table, nodding in agreement as their leader explained the plan for a critical change initiative. Once the meeting was over, people pushed back their chairs and drifted back towards their desks. As they congregated at the water cooler, they opened up to each other: “What a pile of crap!”, “That’ll never happen!”, “I can hardly wait until the weekend?”

By the time these underhanded comments go viral throughout the organization cynicism and quiet rebellion are rampant. In this organization, people will definitely be paying lip service to the organizational mandate.

Meanwhile, their unsuspecting bosses leave the meeting imagining that they have done a wonderful job of communicating their strategy, and that people are on board.

Nothing will undermine a strategy or initiative more effectively than a lack of employee ownership and alignment. If employees are expressing skepticism and criticism about their leadership and the initiative in “around the water cooler” conversations that is a sure sign that they are not on-board, and not aligned with the company’s strategy.

So many leaders and managers simply don’t get it. They think that what people tell them to their face is what people really think. Sometime that is the simple truth. But, many times it isn’t.

There are two types of conversations taking place in every organization at all times – one is spoken; what people say out loud. These are often the politically correct things. The other is unspoken. It’s what people only say in private to their close friends and confidants. This is often referred to as the “background noise.”

When leaders don’t create an environment that fosters genuine openness and honesty people go underground to converse. Instead of addressing the important things out in the open they tend to cover their behinds, blame others for things that are not working well, or they simply become silently frustrated and resigned. When they have to, they pay lip service to the authorities, but they say only what they believe to be politically correct and safe.

As a result, far too many leaders simply have no idea what their people are really thinking and saying. In fact, many mistake fear and compliance for commitment.

It takes courage – on both sides – to create an environment of blunt honesty. Leaders must be willing to hear the unvarnished truth, and employees must be prepared to express it. It takes two to tango, however, this has to start with the leaders.

Leaders who learn to listen carefully and engage in blunt and meaningful dialogue with their people will find that the investment of time and effort is deeply worthwhile. Over time, people will rise to the occasion, abandon the background noise and start addressing challenges and opportunities head-on.

In fact, even if the strategy is not optimal, if managers and employees feel they can make a difference and their leaders really want to hear what they have to say, they will go out of their way to make sure it succeeds.

But, in order to succeed leaders have to take their heads out of the sand.

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.

 

Are you part of the problem or the solution?

Blame – or the blame game – is always harmful and destructive. It undermines the team dynamic and creates a stressful work environment. When something goes wrong and there’s a witchhunt for whose fault it is, people react by hiding, covering themselves, misrepresenting and being increasingly cautious. Nobody engages in a productive conversation to learn from the mistake, which only perpetuates the situation and increases the likelihood it will be repeated.

Contrast this with an environment of ownership and commitment, where people are orienting around open, honest discussions that lead to the source of problems and allow for real resolution. In this environment, no one is interested in who’s at fault, but rather in getting to the source of problems. In this environment people are eager to volunteer their insights, observations, and energy to addressing what was missing, what needs to be corrected, and take personal ownership for resolving the issues.

Unfortunately, most workplaces are filled with people spending more time trying to avoid blame for something that did – or might – go wrong, than in anticipating and addressing real problems.

In a healthy environment, people are also much more open to receiving feedback and constructive criticism, as the name game is “how to get better all the time,” rather than a “gotcha” environment where they are consumed by the fear of being caught.

If the environment is one of everyone looking out for themselves, people look for – and compete for – credit as evidence of being better than others. “Look how great I am” is the unspoken theme. In that environment, people also tend to be threatened by others getting credit; the better you are the worse I am. They can’t be happy with the accomplishment and success of others; they are far less inclined to recognize and praise others.

But, in a healthy team environment, where people feel they are working together towards a common aim there is no angst about credit and blame. In this environment, people are much more inclined to view others accomplishments as their own; they are far more generous in providing praise and recognition to colleagues. This produces energy, inspiration, motivation, and a desire to do whatever it takes for the team to be successful.

stini