The Financial Director on the other end of the line was in a panic. “I don’t know what happened! I don’t have anything to do!”
Ed’s department at a major medical center was in disarray when I arrived. Constant finger pointing and blaming dominated everyday “huddles” that were meant to target problems and propose solutions. Teams were nothing more than a loose configuration of individuals that were left to their own devices until a problem emerged and a manager was needed to fix it. Roles were not clear, authority was ambiguous and it was every person for him or herself. But at the end of the day, the reports went out, and Senior Leaders had their metrics for their next meeting. The cost was staggering to get work done and the department cried out for more people and resources.
Ed and I worked together Instilling accountability top to bottom and one year later…the phone call came – “I don’t have anything to do!”
Ed’s worst fear was realized. By implementing the concept of personal accountability in the department and leading by example to create an environment of clarity, accountability, teamwork and clear purpose, he was no longer needed in his old role of “rescue, fix and save.” What’s a management “firefighter” to do when they get the memo –
As a result of successfully putting out fires by instilling accountability, individually and collectively in your department’s employees, you are no longer needed as a “manager”. We invite you to toss all your firefighting equipment out and pick up your leadership tools.
Ed was staring down the ultimate and best result of increasing the level of individual and collective accountability in his department. What’s that best result? Creating not being needed in a “manager’s” role. Now he could spend time leading; providing strategic direction recommendations to the Senior Leaders of the organization and putting focus on developing the talent in his organization with mentoring and coaching.
I explained to Ed what a great opportunity this “new space” in his professional career was. He was not enthusiastic, at first. This huge change had him going to class on how to be a great coach and mentor and he began searching for performance evaluation tools that would focus on development and growth of the department’s employees instead of the “check the box” historical view evaluations. He became a student of creating value as a leader and his employees loved it.
As it happened Ed’s spectacular shift soon outpaced the organization’s willingness to grow with him. Legacy leaders at the top frowned on anything other than chain-of-command org charts. Even in the face of Ed’s lower administrative costs and the need for fewer resources to get the job done, the Senior Leaders could not abide that it would require a personal change on their part to create the same effectiveness in their silos. He left in good conscience knowing he could be of service to others that needed to move in the direction he had taken the department. He’s thriving in his new role. And the department he left did not experience a leadership black hole. They interviewed for a new Department Director that did not espouse command and control, understood teams and valued accountability. The new director came from within the department.
Are You An Accountability Leader?
Do you want to lead the accountability charge in your organization’s culture? How many of these do you say “yes” to?
1. I am willing to start with myself.
2. I am willing to create “not being needed” in my current role.
3. I will ensure the full utilization of every employee, and they are proud of, and like delivering their best performance.
4. I will deal with under performers with compassion and respect but I will face and act on their need to move on or step up.
5. I will look forward to the day that my old role as “firefighter” goes away and my new role of Leader requires me to learn and implement new skills.