The Basic Four of Leadership: # 4, Accountability

When I make a mistake, I’m recognized 100 percent of the time; when I do something great, I’m not recognized 99 percent of the time.

 – employee in the hotel industry

A 200,000-person study by the Jackson Organization confirmed that managers who achieve enhanced business results are significantly more likely to be seen by their employees as strong in the Basic Four areas of leadership:

  • Goal Setting
  • Communication
  • Trust
  • Accountability

Authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton used that study as a foundation in their book The Carrot Principle, adding on the accelerator of frequent and effective recognition to illustrate that the relationship between recognition and improved business results is both highly predictable and proven to work.

As in all good things, you must start with the basics – and here’s # 4:

Holding People Accountable

The employee quoted at the top of the page brings the issue of accountability into sharp relief: there’s a fine line between mistakes and failures, and it takes a great leader to know the difference.

Many well-known organizations have developed awards for intelligent mistakes. They realize that in an atmosphere of speed and innovation, team members need to feel safe to adapt, innovate, and experiment. That means, of course, that some mistakes will be made – and that’s all right. In these cultures, part of holding people accountable is celebrating mistakes that were worth being made.

In a culture that has equilibrium between accountability and celebrating success, recognition is frequent and meaningful and reinforces the notion of accountability. Keep in mind that great leaders don’t just hold their people accountable in formal ways – in many cases, you might not even know you’re being held accountable.

It’s just that you don’t want to let your leader and the team down.

That is a home run in accountability.

Goal setting, communication, trust, and accountability. These are the Basic Four of effective leadership. Alone, each one can move you quite a way toward good results, but when a leader is even somewhat competent with the Basic Four and then adds the accelerator of Recognition and Honor to each, leadership effectiveness soars.

And that will be the topic of a future post!

Adapted from The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

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The Basic Four of Leadership: # 3 – Trust

The moment a leader recognizes someone on their team for a contribution, the trust meter shoots off the scale.

 – Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

A 200,000-person study by the Jackson Organization confirmed that managers who achieve enhanced business results are significantly more likely to be seen by their employees as strong in the Basic Four areas of leadership:

  • Goal Setting
  • Communication
  • Trust
  • Accountability

Authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton used that study as a foundation in their book The Carrot Principle, adding on the accelerator of frequent and effective recognition to illustrate that the relationship between recognition and improved business results is both highly predictable and proven to work.

As in all good things, you must start with the basics.

Building Trust

Trust is often viewed as more of an interpersonal quality than a leadership skill. That’s a mistake, since it turns out that trust is a central concept in organizational health and growth.

In an organization where leaders are trusted, there is a greater level of team investment. When an employee believes a manager has his best interest at heart, it motivates him to give his bet to his work and the organization, which creates overall higher commitment.

Louis Barnes, professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, describes the trust phenomenon as the theory of reciprocity: in short, people respond in kind to the way they are treated. For leaders who want to build trust within their organization, this means respecting and listening to team members, treating them fairly, and worrying about the success of their team more than their own success.

A leader who is trusted displays the following characteristics:

  • Publicly owning up to his mistakes
  • Keeping her word and commitments
  • Surrounding himself with people who can be trusted
  • Consistently taking the high road
  • Refusing to participate in any level of deception
  • Actively contributing to the positive reputation of the organization

This is an impressive list of qualities – maybe even a little intimidating! A good place to start the process of building trust is by becoming more visible to your team. Experience has shown that the single act of getting out of your office and mingling with team members is a simple solution to a very common trust problem.

Trusting relationships with your team can begin with leaders’ being more visible and available. It’s a place to start – something that will be noticed and appreciated by the people on your team.

Next: Accountability

Adapted from The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

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The Basic Four of Leadership: # 2 – Communicate

A senior leader’s job isn’t to have all the ideas or even most of them. Her job is to communicate corporate goals to employees and motivate them to achieve them. – Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

A 200,000-person study by the Jackson Organization confirmed that managers who achieve enhanced business results are significantly more likely to be seen by their employees as strong in the Basic Four areas of leadership:

  • Goal Setting
  • Communication
  • Trust
  • Accountability

Authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton used that study as a foundation in their book The Carrot Principle, adding on the accelerator of frequent and effective recognition to illustrate that the relationship between recognition and improved business results is both highly predictable and proven to work.

As in all good things, you must start with the basics.

Communicating Openly

When you stop to think about it, communication within an organization is going to happen without a leader’s active participation. Communication is happening every day among employees. If a thing or a person or an event exists in an organization, someone, somewhere, is talking about it. So when a leader fails to constantly and openly communicate “who we are and what’s important,” the conversation doesn’t stop. The dialogue among employees just goes in a different direction, and the organization’s culture develops away from the leader’s influence, goals and priorities.

So what do leaders who openly communicate do? For starters:

  • Set clear guiding values and goals
  • Discuss issues facing the organization and the team – not just the big decisions and announcements
  • Pass on all useful bits of information to employees, especially those that involve change initiatives or that personally affect employees
  • Make time for employees and listen intently when they express opinions and concerns
  • Welcome open discussion from team members about rumors they hear
  • Respond promptly to team member requests for more information
  • Go up their own chain of command to fill in the details they don’t know
  • Introduce employees to other key individuals in the organization, sparking dialogue
  • Give employees online access to relevant databases

Leaders communicate on many other levels as well. They communicate by example, gesture, their decisions, what they value, and what they celebrate, what they reward and what they don’t reward, and their actions.

The one thing they can’t do is communicate from their office.

While meetings, conference calls, and reports are all important, the things that keep leaders in their offices are nowhere near as important as open communications with their team.

It’s impossible to lead people without open communication.

And that requires you to open your door and take a walk…

Adapted from The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

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The Basic Four of Leadership: # 1 – Goal Setting

A 200,000-person study by the Jackson Organization confirmed that managers who achieve enhanced business results are significantly more likely to be seen by their employees as strong in the Basic Four areas of leadership:

  • Goal Setting

  • Communication

  • Trust

  • Accountability

Authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton used that study as a foundation in their book The Carrot Principle, adding on the accelerator of frequent and effective recognition to illustrate that the relationship between recognition and improved business results is both highly predictable and proven to work.

As in all good things, you must start with the basics.

Setting Clear Goals

The work life of many employees today is seen as a meaningless task with no end in sight. Too many organizations are operating in a vacuum where team members and even their leaders have no idea what is valued. Deprived of direction, team members coast along, getting nowhere fast.

Whoa – did those words just describe the organization that you are a part of? GASP – even your church?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

While leaders cannot often change the tasks in their organizations, they can change team members’ attitudes toward those tasks by setting clear team goals. Be defining the purpose of a task and tying it to a desirable end result, effective leaders infuse work with meaning and purpose. The task remains the same, but its significance in team members’ minds skyrockets.

Great leaders infuse their team with a clear sense of purpose. They not only explain the mission to the organization in terms of serving others, acting with integrity, being the best in their category, and so on, but how that grand, overarching mission applies to specific goals for their team and each individual’s daily work.

Teams need clarity from their leaders: clarity of goals, clarity of progress, and clarity of success. Leaders who provide clarity set an optimistic tone for the future.

A leader has to focus every day on gaining alignment with what matters most to the organization. Achieving goals should be noticed and rewarded while variances from the mission and values should necessitate quick action.

Goal setting may seem to be a basic management skill, but it is rare to find a manager who does this effectively. If you were to think back to an effective manager or leader you’ve had in the past, chances are they not only helped you understand the direction of the team, but how you as an individual contribute to that direction.

The power of a clearly communicated goal is amazing. Cultures around the world from all time periods have created epic myths about journeys through danger, despair, and ultimately, triumph. What makes the journey and its trials worthwhile is the hero’s noble purpose – his goal. Those stories live on today…

Isn’t it time for you to create an amazing legend of your purpose (goal) that permeates deeply within and through every member of your team?

Next: The Basic Four – Communication

Adapted from The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

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