ABCs: A is for Accountability
As promised in our initial blog post – The ABCs of R3 Leadership – we, Paul M. Wood and Lori Gibson Washington, are writing about the ABCs of R3 Leadership; the A-Z of good and not-so-good leadership characteristics. Paul’s first post of his satirical serial, “Circus of the Despicables” (cue the music) is about the leaders at the fictionalized Alviso Swamp. Click here to read “A is for Accountability: An Elusive Spectre Wades into the Swamp”
So now it’s Lori’s turn to talk about true-life experiences linking to the “Accountability” leadership characteristic described in his satire. In this section, the stories are true. But the names have been changed to protect the innocent and… the guilty. The baton-wavers and… the bat-wielders.
You might recall that Paul and Lori believe leading people is an art – it’s musical. As humans, we all have a beat we march to. When we tune in to ourselves, we become conductors of great teams making music and money!
As we go through the alphabet, we’ll have stories linking the 3Rs of R3Leadership – RHYTHM, RHYME, and REASON to various letters of the alphabet. Until then, let’s just say Baton-wavers make sweet music. And Bat-wielders not so much.
Baton-wavers embody accountability using these 3 characteristics:
- upfront, honest, clear, non-blaming communication style
- good teaching style approach
- common language
Snippets from the Satire
In Paul’s satirical send up, there was a comment that is the epitome of what not being accountable is: “They claim nothing of what they sow.” This was said by the Product Development VP, Chima to her aide-de-camp, Zev.
In this story, Chima and her team’s world is turned upside down by an annoucement of a takeover from an invisible entity.
If communications is upfront, the author of the message must also be visible.
Imagine moving into a new building thinking you’re going to a have a brand new start. Chima, Zev and team got a brand new start all right. But…. It was confusing and most unclear.
Oh yes, if 2 are more people are gathered together, there’s bound to be unclear messages. And accountable leaders know how to listen and work with their teams to clear the air of stench.
One such accountable stench-clearing leader was an administrator at a highly ranked university. Let’s call him Dr. Administrator. He was affable, approachable, and very fiscally responsible. But like all humans he had a blind side. It appears he trusted EVERYONE! Let’s face it, if you waving the baton, you pretty much assume the pretty music is happening because everyone is playing their part.
Doc had about 20 people who worked in his world and a few folks supervising the group. Kinda like section leaders in a band, orchestra, or singing group.
As bad luck would have it, there was one very toxic leader who loved using a bat to consciously unmake people’s day.
Mr.-Toxic-with-a-Bat once told the youngest staff member, “Little Girl”, that his goal and role in life was to make every straight person suffer because straight people had made him suffer. Dear friends, making anyone suffer is NOT being accountable!
Toxic’s little denigrating comments said with a wry smile was the topic of discussion among the staff. He’d walk around the office, smiling that twisted smile, clasping and rubbing his hands together as if ready to devour a sumptuous meal. Instead of food going into his mouth, words came out. Words like “The Doctor and I are such good friends. If you want to speak to him, you must go through me. Because he’s so busy. Anything you need to say to him, I will be your mouthpiece.”
So you can bet the staff was scared to death to talk to Dr. Administrator. As much as most people felt warmed by the Doctor’s “Good Mornings” and inquiries about people’s families, they just didn’t know if Doc would defend Mr. T. Or even worse, support Toxic’s behavior.
One day, Mr. Toxic took it too far. “Little Girl” doesn’t even remember what he said or did. That’s how things go when one microaggression piles onto another and another. As a result, this young 20-something marched down the hall to make an appointment with the administrator.
He listened. He took notes. And then he spoke. 3 things from Dr. Administrator:
- “Dont ever let anyone continue to verbally abuse you.”
- “When you do hear verbal abuse, don’t own it. Act like a duck, letting it roll off your back.”
- “I will investigate this further and let you know what steps I’m taking, who I’m talking to, what questions I’ll be asking, and what I’ll do to resolve this matter.”
And investigate he did…
First, he met in the office of his most trusted section leader. The one who was the most quiet and observant. Now it was Doc’s turn to storm out of an office and march down the hallway. Dr. Administrator went to his secretary. He had her clear his calendar, and made 30 minute appointments with each staff member.
At the end of the day, Doc met with Mr. Toxic. As Toxic left the good Doc’s office, his face was beet red and he spoke to no one.
After that long day, “Little Girl” was waiting for her carpool. Doc was leaving himself. He stopped and told LG about his findings. Again, she didn’t hear much until she heard “Effective tomorrow morning, Mr. T will no longer be part of our team. I will be having an all hands meeting to make the announcement and to apologize for my not being observant.”
The baton prevailed over the bat and sweet music was made (until the next reorganization). And that’s a story for another day.
In the meantime, here are some truths that maybe obvious to some, plus some reminders.
Bat-wielders are the Antithesis of Baton-wavers
- “…claim nothing of what they sow”
- blame every- and anyone or -thing
- have a fixed mindset
- make people suffer
If You have a Bat-wielder in your Workspace:
- Be accountable to and for yourself first
- Honor your own integrity
- Know the definition of accountability that is acceptable to you
- Speak up
- DO NOT ACCEPT toxic behavior even when everyone else looks away, excuses it, covers for it, rationalizes it and plays second fiddle to it
- Do not expect others, in a toxic environment, to “validate” your sense of accountability (But be sure you have a trustworthy network of supporters OUTSIDE the workplace in response to the potential opposition and the isolation on the INSIDE)
If You are a Seasoned Baton-waver or a Baton-waver in Training, Do:
- Wander around. (Don’t stay tethered to your electronic devices. There are people out there thirsting to be led.)
- Say what you mean and mean what you say
- Tell what you can change immediately
- Mention what you have to investigate before making a decision
- Declare what you will not do and the fiscal reasons not to do so
With all this in mind, what will you start doing, stop doing, continue doing?
On behalf of Paul and myself, we wish you the calmness of the sweet music of accountability.