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Join Dr. Janet Pilcher as she delves into the core principle of leadership accountability from her book, Hardwiring Excellence in Education. Janet explains that leadership is more than just a title; it’s about modeling the right behaviors and fostering ownership within an organization. Listen as she explores the critical role of individual accountability and sheds light on how leaders can inspire self-motivation among employees to create a positive workplace culture. Listen now to learn how fostering accountability creates inspiring workplaces where employees are connected to the organization’s missions and goals.

This episode addresses questions such as:
  • What role do leaders play in setting the tone for accountability in an organization?
  • How can you distinguish between motivating employees and inspiring them to motivate themselves?
  • How can leaders effectively create a culture where employees feel a sense of ownership for their actions within the organization?

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Episode Transcript

[Intro music plays in the background.]  

Janet Pilcher: Hello, everyone. Welcome to today’s Accelerate Your Performance podcast. I’m your host, Janet Pilcher. Thank you for tuning into our show today. This podcast is all about leadership, and I don’t mean leadership as a position. It’s about how we can all see great leadership in action so that we can all be leaders in our organizations. 

And the focus of leadership is connected to the Nine Principles Framework highlighted in my new book, Hardwiring Excellence in Education. Today, I’m going to focus on Principle 6, Chapter 6. Principle 6 is Be Accountable. Be Accountable means commit to individual accountability to achieve organizational goals. I’m going to spend a few minutes in this chapter today talking about what it means for us as leaders to model the right behaviors, to model good behavior. 

Principle 6 focuses on how we create a sense of ownership within our organizations. Our goal as leaders is to support a culture where people feel ownership for their actions. We want to activate the will of our employees. We want to do that so that they contribute in particular ways that benefit our organizations. This is different from employees feeling motivated. We, as leaders, can’t motivate employees; employees motivate themselves. And leaders can create a culture where people are inspired to motivate themselves. That’s what our jobs are. 

And we, as leaders, can avoid words and actions that discourage people. What are the things we, as leaders, can do that we can model for others? Most important and one of my favorite paragraphs in the book: “We want to create workplaces where people have a deep connection to the work and a motivating force that drives them toward accomplishing their work at a deeper level.”  

That’s what is meant by employees being owners of their work. Employees come to work living the organizational values, engaging with their teams, accomplishing organizational goals, and consistently being at their best. And that’s what our podcast is about: being our best at work, focusing on the Nine Principles. 

And leaders in positions model what they expect of their employees. To have strong organizations these leaders must be high-performing leaders. Holding a leadership position is a choice people make. This choice requires leaders to be accountable to others and to organizational goals. By doing so, leaders in positions empower their employees to lead.  

When we have good leadership across the board, our organizations thrive. People in the organization are committed to creating inspiring workplace environments, building strength in people, and accelerating results. Our flywheel. Being accountable is a direct link to creating workplace environments where people have purpose, do worthwhile work, and make a difference. That’s the centerpiece of the organizational flywheel that’s outlined in the Nine Principles Framework. 

A critical barrier for creating inspiring workplaces is incivility in the workplace. As leaders, we must hold individuals accountable for being uncivil to others, including team members, including customers, those people we serve. Some forms of incivility are overt, like insulting people, being rude, and continuously blaming someone for all the problems. To be accountable leaders, we simply can’t tolerate this behavior from our employees. We move quickly to holding critical conversations. That was highlighted in the principle of developing leaders to develop people and really focusing on critical conversations as part of one of the components of that. 

Uncivil behavior can also be more subtle, like people emailing or doing other work at a meeting, teasing people with underhanded jabs, interrupting others, giving someone a dirty look, and having side conversations at meetings. So, it’s our job to hold people accountable to uncivil acts. And it’s even more important for us as leaders to not engage in those types of acts and to model what “right” looks like for others. 

So, here’s the important note: people who are in leadership positions model how to be accountable. According to the Global Leadership Accountability Study, 72% of employees believe leadership accountability is a critical business issue, and 31% are satisfied with the degree of leadership accountability in their organization. We’ve got work to do. The results show how important it is for leaders to master this work and to be models. 

Employees are watching what their leaders do. They watch us each and every day. For example, they watch to see if we live the standards and follow through with our promises. They watch to see how we react in difficult decisions and situations. And at those times when leaders make a mistake or fail to act in ways that align to cultural expectations, it’s important for us to openly acknowledge the misstep and sincerely apologize. 

One common way I’ve seen leaders stray from living the organizational values links to how we use technology. Our mobile phones, our mobile devices. It’s easy to get caught up in constantly looking at our phones and not paying attention to those people who are in front of us who are giving us their time.   

As we shifted to these virtual interactions, I’ve noticed that people put their picture maybe on the camera while doing work but they’re doing something else, you know, or they don’t put their pictures on, they don’t come in on Zoom at all. I’ve been in a situation where I’ve been maybe at a meeting with four people, and maybe I’m the only one that has my picture on it. I’m looking at four blank screens. That’s not a way that we work together. And I’m not saying that people can always be on their screens, but let’s figure out a way that we do our pre-work so that we’re engaging in conversations, even if it’s just picking up a phone and making that phone call if we can’t get on Zoom or the cameras or whatever technology we have.  

No one has a negative intent here. We just get caught up. We get caught up in the moment and what we think is most important to us. If we’ve been guilty of any of these behaviors, and I know I have, then it’s our job to apologize. That’s what accountable people do. We show others that we care about them, and we care about who they are and their contributions to the team. You hear us say, for those of you that have been connected with us, “What we permit, we promote.” If we permit anyone in our organization to live outside of the standards, our actions say it’s okay to do that. Negative actions jeopardize building a positive culture. On the other hand, when we consistently recognize people for living organizational standards, we reinforce how valuable people are and how being accountable is just part of our organizational culture and building an inspiring workplace. 

You know, prior to learning about the Nine Principles Framework years ago, I had moments as a leader where I failed to be accountable, and sometimes I still do and have to course correct. Now, I remember a time when I was leading a small committee to accomplish a big organizational task. I was the leader of that task that the organization had relied on me, depended on me. The members of the committee had been long-standing, good colleagues of mine. The senior administration placed their confidence in me to lead this work with them.  

So, prior to starting the meeting, I used the time, unfortunately, as a platform to complain about things in the organization that were presenting barriers for me to lead in the way I wanted to lead. And after several sessions, one of my colleagues asked me if I ever had anything positive to say about the organization. And that caught me off guard. Addressing my negative behavior took courage. After that meeting, I went to her office and thanked her for calling me out. And I was not accountable for my behavior as we were engaging in that conversation. 

In conversations met with my colleagues, I had to go in and let her know, “You called me out.” Well, I stopped doing that in those meetings, but the damage was done with my colleagues because I didn’t do one thing that was really important. To correct what I did, I needed to own my mistake in front of them by apologizing to this team. I wanted to ask them, or I should have asked them, for grace. Years down the road, without apologizing, some of the members on that team remembered my negative behaviors, and without apologizing, I didn’t really get a chance to receive that long-term grace, and it affected me as a professional. 

So, let’s be accountable to ourselves and to those we serve. I learned a great lesson that day that I’ve taken with me throughout the decades of leadership in my life. This is one of my favorite chapters. It’s the heartbeat behind the other principles because as leaders, it’s our job to make a strong commitment to be accountable, to commit to our individual accountability so that we can lead others to achieve the organizational goals.  

[Outro music plays in the background.]  

Thank you for tuning in to this episode of Accelerate Your Performance. I look forward to connecting with you next time as we continue to focus on the Nine Principles Framework so that we can be our best at work. Have a great week, everyone. 

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If you enjoy the podcast, explore Janet’s latest book, Hardwiring Excellence in Education. Each chapter focuses on the Nine Principles® Framework offering tools and tactics to enhance leadership skills and elevate organizational performance.

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