The attraction of owning it

I was recently asked to consider, as an employee, what I look for in an organization.

I can be shallow at times and my immediate thoughts were: a good cook, great dancer, and an ability to gauge and react appropriately to my moods….uh, I mean, good perqs, willingness to have fun, and flexibility in my schedule.

My filter was working that day and I only thought those things.  What I said out loud (thankfully) was: accountability, communication, and openness.

Do they sound like buzzwords? A bit mothership-ish?  Perhaps, but I stand by them.

Let me reassure you.  I do not have the inclination to write a blog post that covers all  three points.  It’s way too reminiscent of writing an essay and frankly with my tendency to go off on tangents, and an inability to create articulate closing paragraphs, this would be waaaaaaay too long.

So let me focus on the one that resonates the most with me: accountability.

I am a fairly perceptive person and I also have two teenagers, so I am also very familiar with the art of dodge and detract (“Why do you always think it was me that ate the last of the cookies and put the bag back empty?!”  “Nobody told me that I was supposed to feed the cat?”  “I missed the bus because you didn’t wake me up early enough” “The teacher didn’t tell us to do that”)

So when it comes to professionals who won’t accept responsibility or be accountable, I have very little patience. After all, unless I have a picture that you made out of macroni and pipe cleaners tucked away in my basement, I have no instinct to tolerate your shortcomings.

Alright, let’s just get it out there.  We all make mistakes.

We all give the wrong answer, provide inaccurate information, miss a scheduled meeting, forget to do something, or hit Reply All.  Everyone has done these things, but not everyone is willing to admit it.  Well, at least not without making up some elaborate excuse, or worse, blaming someone else, for it.

Repeat after me: I fucked up.  Sorry about that.  (And if possible) I will correct it.

That’s owning up to what you have done.  Now take it one step further…how about owning what you have said you would do and be held responsible for the outcome.

For managers this means that you are not only accountable for your work, but also for the deliverables of your team.  Sound daunting? It can be, but that’s why they gave you the cubicle with direct exposure to natural light.

So when your boss asks you for an update and you realize that someone on your team hasn’t done their part – do not dodge and detract…do not point and blame…accept and admit that you did not follow-up, fix it, and then move on.

And when that really, really innovative program you pushed for and launched finally crashes and burn…do not blame IT…do not blame the consultants that you overpaid to tell you it was a “best practice” (which is essentially the professional version of “all the cool kids are doing it”)…do not fault senior management for not properly supporting it, and last of all…do not suggest that the project team wasn’t committed.  Own it, learn from it, and move on.

When it comes down to it, accountability is probably one of the best ways to attract and retain people.

Because you could cook me the best meal, go all Footloose on the dance floor, and let me sit and read for hours, but none of that would be worth having to listen to you complain about how everyone is out to screw you over or how it’s never your fault.

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What the world needs more of: constant reminders and a POP of colour!

Do you know what phrase irritates the hell out of me? ” POP of colour”.  As in, “Hey, do you know what this room needs? A POP of colour!”

Not just a dash, splash or a bit…but a POP of colour!  And yes, the uppercase letters and exclamation marks are mandatory because you have to say it like you’re reading a comic book out loud. (KAPOW!)

Another thing people say that is almost as irritating: “everyone can be replaced”.

I am not disputing the fact that you can replace people in the physical sense.  Ask anyone involved in recruitment…they can have a body in the chair by the end of the week.

I take exception to the fact that some organizations, and by default many managers, feel that this is something worth reminding their employees or openly operating under that premise.  I have heard (and been told) that it’s wise not to get too comfortable in your job because after all… everyone can be replaced.

Well now, that is motivating.  Nothing like knowing that my status is on par with the toner cartridge in the copier.

It’s true, items can be replaced.  Equally true, people can be replaced.    But the impact of telling an office chair that there’s a good chance that it might not be there  next fiscal is probably a lot easier than telling the same to the person sitting in it.

You do not need to stop replacing people when it’s necessary.

What you need to do is stop looking at your employees as though they have dotted lines around their profiles.  You need to stop referring to them only as FTEs, PYs, Boxes, or Seats rather than employees or people.

I realize that in putting this out there, I might ruffle the feathers of a few budget-loving spreadsheet huggers out there who are rolling their eyes about all this  people-loving bullshit.

I’m okay with it if you don’t like it. After all, even you can be replaced.