High achieving executives are vulnerable to the belief that working harder and taking personal responsibility is almost always the answer because it has worked in the past. Unfortunately, these two strategies only reinforce the problem of lack of accountability. Einstein is often quoted as having said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” The sentiment certainly applies in this situation.
So how to get out of this box? Here are three strategies for addressing this dilemma:
- Spend time building a true enterprise team. Over-responsible, hardworking CEOs are at risk of putting themselves at the “hub” of a group of strong functional executives (spokes) who are experts in their disciplines but have little interest in what each other is doing and don’t want others in their “turf.” Thus, the CEO becomes the “integrator” and falls into a COO vs. CEO mentality. Your over-responsible self will think this is how it should be. But it is a trap! To avoid this, commit to holding the team accountable for leading the enterprise as well as their functions. And, make clear that they share the responsibility for driving accountability into their functions so that they hold the same standards that you would if you were present.
- Know when to stop coaching. It is reasonable and compassionate to spend time coaching a team member to become more strategic or work to higher standards. But there is also a time to say “enough.” Sometimes the fit isn’t right, or the motivation isn’t present, or the ability isn’t there and it is the CEO’s job to make the call and bring someone in who is capable of what is required.
- Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. There is always a temptation to add things to your plate or to the plate of others, rather than hiring additional leadership capacity. This is almost always a mistake, because it results in critical initiatives either not getting done or taking way too long. Enterprise leadership expertise (and support for those with that talent) is worth the investment!
There are many other steps to building an accountability culture but the three above are necessary prerequisites. If you are struggling to build a culture of accountability, give me a call or send me an email. The Bailey Group can help!