Knowledge Source

The Manager’s Most Important Tool

"Words, words, words." -Hamlet Simply put, management is about getting things done. At times, it’s the manager taking action, but most often, it’s the manager motivating others to take collective action. And the manager generally does this through one common yet powerful medium: words. Written or spoken, words are the manager’s most important tool. How well this tool is used determines nearly every measurable outcome—everything from the engagement level of employees to the team’s results and even the manager’s own career trajectory. If this is the case, as I believe it is, why do we spend relatively little time considering how the words we use impact—or fail to impact—others? Most managers I know are deluged with a daily avalanche of words. In fact, one study suggests that managers spend between two-thirds and three-fourths of their day in conversation. No matter where you work, unless maybe you’re a lighthouse keeper, it’s likely that you spend the vast majority of each day talking or listening. It’s the way we gather information, stay abreast of projects, identify problems, give feedback, make decisions, define strategy, update superiors, and virtually everything else that determines success or failure in organizational life. In short, it’s how we...

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Seeing Diversity through a Different Lens

By Michael Patterson, Ed.D. The need for diverse teams that can embrace different perspectives and collaboratively create innovative solutions has never been greater. Plus, tapping into the best thinking of a wide array of people is only going to become more important as problems become more complex, competition increases, and the pace of just about everything accelerates. In fact, the ability to build diverse and collaborative teams may just be the most important management skill of the decade. Recent research supports this view: McKinsey & Company’s research suggests a “diversity dividend” based on a strong correlation between financial performance and a company’s makeup. Specifically, they found that gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers and ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform industry averages. MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence found that teams that are socially sensitive, give everyone a voice in meetings, and include more women work smarter and often make better decisions. The idea that women should be given greater voice in decision-making is also supported by research from Catalyst that found organizations with the highest representation of women on their boards financially outperform their peer companies by wide margins. Deloitte Australia...

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Could You Be the Reason People Are Leaving?

  Become the Reason People Stay. Why do good people leave organizations? I often ask this question when I lead workshops or speak at conferences. Inevitably, someone offers up that people leave managers—not companies. And, while nearly everyone agrees with this maxim, there is also data that proves it. Research from Gallup shows that roughly 50% of employees will leave a job at some point because of a poor relationship with their manager. In fact, while reading this blog, you are probably thinking about some exasperating boss that was at least a factor in you leaving a job. I see this data come to life when people share how they felt an overwhelming need to “escape” an employment situation in order to restore a sense of dignity to their lives. I hear words like “toxic” and “miserable” and “suffocating”—to describe how people spent the better part of their waking hours. As I listen to these stories, I wonder how we got to this point and why we’re not doing better in this crucial area of leadership. Here’s where it gets (even more) interesting—most of the people in my sessions are managers themselves. Yet, when I ask whether they have ever...

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Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Strengthening Accountability

How would you like to be accountable to 4 million boys and girls? Just ask the staff at Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). Every year, they are accountable to help these children grow, develop, thrive, and fulfill their potential.


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Developing the Skill of Accountability

  A Dozen Things You can do after Core Strengths Accountability Training to Sustain and Extend the Learning Now what? It’s the essence of a question the authors of Core Strengths Accountability (CSA) training and our Master Facilitator Team often hear. The questions arise from the realization that no matter how good the CSA training experience, if there is not additional reinforcement and personal commitment on the part of learners, sustainable change and better performance in high-stakes situations is a hit-or-miss proposition. Metaphors abound that make this point. Imagine going to the best gym in town, working with a professional, knowledgeable, and engaging personal trainer who puts you through the best workout you’ve ever experienced. Then, you leave the gym, return to your old habits, and expect your fitness and health to be forever improved. Although we all wish this were the case, it’s not. Lasting change requires intentional effort and in most cases, hard work. Fortunately, for accountability skills, it’s an enjoyable process that simply requires people to do what they really want to do anyway—take ownership and take initiative—and help others do likewise. So whether you are a CSA facilitator, a L&D executive, or a line leader trying...

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Better Decision-Making Through Accountability

 I recently had a conversation with a friend who was wrestling with a tough decision. Oftentimes, tough decisions involve choosing between two less-than-ideal options — discerning the lesser of two evils. In my friend’s case, there were two good options. Both would likely yield a positive outcome in the near and long-term future. Surprisingly, it didn’t make the decision any easier for him. In fact, the choice remained incredibly difficult. The conversation made me think about David Brooks’ recent op-ed in the New York Times, The Choice Explosion. In the article, Brooks describes social science research that reveals how Americans crave options, yet don’t feel equipped to consistently make good choices. In fact, in some ways, we are wired to make poor choices. While experts offer a variety of techniques for weighing options, Brooks eventually prescribes a large dose of self-awareness as perhaps the most critical component of better decision-making. At this point, my friend had been deliberating for weeks already, struggling to make the right decision or at least the one that would be best for his career and family, and allow him to feel good about the path forward. He was more than willing to take responsibility for...

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The Learning Theory of Accountability

Five Ways in which Core Strengths Accountability Aligns with Adult Learning Theory Thanks to Malcolm Knowles (1913-1997), talent development professionals have had the opportunity to use the very erudite-sounding word, andragogy, to describe something most of us know intuitively: adults learn differently than children. While it’s sometimes fun to throw around “six-dollar words,” it really comes down to the fact that adults need to be involved in the learning process, find what they’re learning to be relevant to their real-world situations, and recognize opportunities for immediate application. Without these elements, training can fall flat with little hope for a sustainable performance boost. Although adult learning theory has informed the design of corporate training for the last 30 years, some courses more closely align with the critical principles of andragogy than others. In this paper, I will explain how the design and delivery of Core Strengths Accountability honors the principles of adult learning. In fact, Core Strengths Accountability can truly be transformative as learners begin to see themselves, their colleagues, and their world differently. What We Know about Adult Learners Nearly everyone agrees on a few key ideas when it comes to designing and delivering effective workplace learning: 1. Teachers are...

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Positive People Perform Better At Work

Accountability Raises PsyCap You might have a hard time saying that 10 times quickly, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It’s been proven by scholarship in the emerging field of positive organizational behavior, but it also reflects the experiences of anyone who has managed people for more than a few days. Just think about the times when you’ve had one of those grumpy, glass-half-empty folks on your team. An Eeyore isn’t very productive and tends to drag down the productivity of others, as well What’s less well known, however, is how personal accountability creates more positive people—the kind of people you fight to have on your team. That’s because personal accountability improves your team’s PsyCap. My team’s what? you ask. Psychological capital, or PsyCap, is a relatively new term researcher coined when describing the benefits of positivity. Dr. Fred Luthans, the George Holmes Distinguished Professor of Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has identified four PsyCap components: self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience. Luthans and his fellow researchers believe people can develop these elements through brief training interventions. But what kind of training addresses all of these psychological constructs? Does it even exist? The answer is found in a...

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Raising the Bar from Engagement to Ownership

Missing the Mark If you think employee engagement is good for business, then you aren’t alone. And if you think business isn’t good at creating employee engagement, then, again, you aren’t alone. A recent global survey by Deloitte confirms other studies and what many of us instinctively understand -- that there’s a gap between what leaders know to be important (employee engagement) and how well business creates that engagement. That’s why studies routine show that only about 40 percent of full-time workers are highly engaged. That leaves the other 60 percent feeling unsupported, detached, or disengaged.Clearly, such numbers don’t engender a great deal of confidence in the ability of businesses to provide the performance lift needed to win in a competitive global economy. Typical attempts to improve engagement often involve small changes like free coffee in the break room, relaxed dress codes, or flexible work schedules. More enlightened companies might go further by increasing opportunities for employee growth and development, more clearly defining career paths, or encouraging greater work-life balance. None of these changes are inappropriate. In fact, they are likely to be helpful in small ways—steps in the right direction. Winning in a highly competitive global marketplace, however, requires...

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Ten Things Accountable People Never Say

Few things are more frustrating than hearing co-workers constantly shifting blame and denying accountability for the results of their teams. What’s worse, however, is reacting to those co-workers by expressing the same types of frustrations. Accountable people are different. They take ownership of their responsibilities and take initiative to make things happen. They connect what needs to be done with why it’s important—to them, the organization, and other key stakeholders. This link sparks initiative and opens the door to a wide array of strengths that can be chosen based on the situation and the needs of the people involved. Accountability is a liberating and energizing force, but it does limit our vocabulary when interacting with people. So one way to see if accountability is an issue for you or your teams is to listen to what’s being said. Specifically, here are 10 things accountable people never say… 1. I don’t have a choice. We always have choices, but people allow their personal filters and the circumstances they’re in to limit their perception of choice. We can only choose from the options we see, so if we have a self-limiting view, we don’t see all of the options we have. 2....

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