Accountability is critical to delivering results and building a strong company culture

Accountability is at the core of what most organizations come to understand is affecting their results and hurting their culture.  CEO’s of organizations see this, know this and want to change it, so why is so hard to get it done?

The simple answer is people and the inconsistencies that come with human nature and interpreting expectations.  We find reasons to justify or rationalize all our actions or inaction.  We will blame anything we can to find for why the expectations were not realistic or unattainable.  When we do this, we are operating from the victim side of the Accountability Stairs.  The Accountability Stairs are a format created for use by The Growth Factory to visually explain the spectrum of employee actions or lack of around accountability.  When we move up the stairs, we are moving towards a higher performance level and success for not just ourselves but the organization as well. 

The Accountability stairs define eight levels of actions broken into two halves.  The lower four stairs are the victim side that covers a total lack of awareness, blaming others, and all forms of excuses.  The other half is the accountable side that starts with personal accountability and builds to a team and a total culture of accountability.  We strived to get every employee to the accountable side and focused on individual accountability of their actions to meet the expectations of their role and responsibilities.

So how do we do that?  Here are some foundation steps to build better accountability.

1.     Create a culture of Accountability

2.     Define clear responsibilities and measurements

3.     Consistent management

4.     Addressing team members not performing to expectations

Create a culture of accountability

It is up to the leadership team to create a culture that makes accountability a key tenant and value.  Doing this allows employees a clear understanding of expectations and everyone who works at the organization.  Clear expectations allow for consistency and fairness across all departments.  Employees will perform to a higher level when they know all employees are expected to meet their measurements to deliver the organizations results.  

Define clear responsibilities and measurements

Every employee from top to bottom needs to have clarity of responsibilities and expectations.  The clarity needs to include measures and metrics, so the employee has no confusion on what they are being asked to do to be successful.  Not doing this is the most common breakdown with organizations.   They give vague job descriptions/expectations to employees that lead to confusion and interpretations that can vary by each employee and manager.  Organizations that want high accountability need to teach each team how to set clear goals and metrics for the team to accomplish.

Consistent management

Consistent management is usually the most challenging step across most organizations accountability.  Simply because we have many managers in our organizations with various personalities and beliefs of what is right or wrong.  Remove the decision of how to apply rules from each manager.  Instead, it should be an overall set of metrics that everyone sees and understands so not implementing those expectations equally across the organization will be seen by all.  That removes the choice of application and accountability from the manager and creates public awareness of the measurement and behavior. 

Addressing team members not performing to expectations

We must discuss and enforce consequences if employees are unable to meet expectations for their role.  Our jobs are a two-way street where we need to know our expectations and perform to them. If training and coaching yield no performance change, then our job may need to be in jeopardy.   Not taking on lack of performance creates a domino effect that will deteriorate the overall success of the organization by demoralizing productive employees.

It does not sound that hard when written in a few words, but the application of accountability is still a top challenge for most organizations today.  I work with CEO’s and leaders every day that are trying to improve their performance through better accountability.  I hope that you can use the foundation steps to bring stronger accountability to your organization.

This article was featured on Louisville Business First. Read it here.

Is Emotional Intelligence the secret ingredient in leaders building trust?

EI imagge for blog

We understand it takes trust and a certain connectedness to build cohesive high functioning teams.  At times, we have hired a smart, qualified leader, but the team may still struggle to move forward.  There could be infighting, lack of compromise and a “gotcha” mentality, and we wonder why this is happening.

The simple reason this has happened to you is that the leader lacked Emotional Intelligence (EI).  Too many of our managers today lack these skills, and we feel it in terms of turnover and lack of trust amongst our teams.  So why is EI so valuable?  Let’s start by identifying what makes up EI.

Emotional Intelligence:

  1. Self- Awareness
  2. Self-Regulation
  3. Empathy
  4. Motivation
  5. Social Skills

Self-Awareness is the understanding of ourselves and our emotions.  It becomes easy to see how you can benefit from the ability to see how your emotions affect others.  This almost out of body ability to see ourselves act out life is priceless.  It allows us to adjust our actions real time to have a more successful outcome, and without this, our communication remains one-sided and self-focused. 

Self-Regulation understands the effects on you and your body based on external triggers.  It is that feeling of your temperature rising based on something someone said to you or maybe something seen or heard.  If you were able to control that feeling and maintain composure and not have an outburst or lose your composure you just exercised self-regulation.


Empathy is a challenge for many leaders.  It can be misunderstood to be easy going or lacking in accountability.  The truth is just the opposite.  Empathy expects us to listen and hear the point of view of others and allow that to influence our approach and response to them to maximize performance.  In other words, build a relationship of trust and treat others the way we would expect to be treated by understanding the whole person and the challenges they may be facing to accomplish all the things in their life. 

Motivation is the ability to be driven by passion or the outcome versus what you may receive for it.  Once you are focused on intrinsic motivation, you are heading in the right direction, and the self-satisfying feeling of working hard to accomplish change and success to help you and your team achieve their goals and make a difference.  You are not doing it for the bonus or potential reward which can skew the direction of work sometimes inappropriately.  

Finally, Social Skills are critical in building trust and forming relationships.  Our brains trigger chemicals based on our interactions, and those chemicals are either reinforcing trust or telling us to be skeptical of the situation.  Social skills allow us to talk to anyone without fear of the new interaction.  We deepen our relationships in business and our personal lives by learning more about those we work with.  Numerous studies support this in building a positive culture. 

At this point, it is easy to see the value EI brings and also the hole created when it is missing in a leader. High intelligence, for example, without EI, leaves a manager unable to build trust because there is no connectivity and understanding on that personal level.  Having high EI is appreciated by your team and will translate into better listening, communication, and decision making.

Here is the good news we can grow EI skills throughout life.  As we age, there is a bit of a natural calming and patience that we start to develop.  We must practice and recognize these areas in our lives and look for opportunities to increase these skills.  Put yourself in that uncomfortable position because as we learn in life, we grow more out of that experience by far than staying in our comfort zone.  Try it the next time you are faced with a choice.  Choose the path to grow instead of the easy, comfortable one.  If you do, your EI meter will see a boost and your team will appreciate you working to build those skills.


Retention, engagement starts with front-line managers


We hear it so many times that as an employee we quit our supervisor and not the company.  I know I have quit my supervisor while I loved the company I was a part of and I talk to managers every day that say the same.  So the real question to ask is “What can we do about this?”  to help our companies to be stronger and our leaders to be more in tune with their teams.  Employee engagement is powerful and delivers that “X” factor that we all look for from our teams but wonder how to maximize.  Active employee engagement is key to developing a culture that customers will notice; employees will love and seek out.

Our frontline managers impact the most employees, and they often have the least amount if any invested in helping them learn to be aware of the circumstances they will face.  Just not knowing what they do not know as leaders is not a real good excuse for their performance and how their team will look at the working situation and company.  You can start by saying that managers need to understand the laws that impact their organizations and there are many.  Beyond the risk of these laws that they are required to keep top of mind these new leaders are also responsible for the employee development side that yields the performance magic for highly successful companies.  It is hard for these managers to develop their teams when they are lacking that similar knowledge and focused attention on their own needs.  It is essential for them to be as effective as possible that they are comfortable around many skills when interacting with their team.

As mentioned, there are many skills that our frontline and mid-managers need, but it all starts with building trust.  Trust is slow to form, and until teams can believe that their managers have their best interest at heart when they make decisions, they will be hesitant to give their all for that manager.  We build trust by connecting on a personal level, learning and communicating one to one with our team and following through on what we say we will do.  To connect we need to understand what makes our team tick, what their skills and strengths are so that we can make sure they have a role where they can perform at their best.  Trust starts the ball rolling, but there is a lot more to learn.  Here are a few of the areas that these managers rarely if ever have had much exposure to:

  • Accountability – Setting clear expectations is critical.
  • Understanding the laws involving the management of people.
  • Coaching great performers to be their best.
  • Handling conflict and dealing with it sooner than later.
  • Generations in the business and understanding their needs and the interactions they require with each other.
  • Critical thinking a skill most HR professionals put in the top 3 needs for managers to have
  • Building collaborations on your teams for higher performance
  • Excellent listening skills and better communication
  • Emotional Intelligence is more important than IQ hands down to be a great manager

The 3-5 generations that are seen in the workplace add an extra level to navigate that will play a part in all of the areas listed above starting with building trust.  Each generation can find excitement or connectivity for different reasons and we the managers have to be able to orchestrate that to the benefit of the whole team, customers and company.  The skills to do all this do not come easy or without development and learning.  We owe it to our managers to give them all the tools they need to be productive and successful no matter what they may face.

How do you measure accountability?

The Growth Factory Accountability Stairs 2019

When it comes to accountability for most of us, there is either accountable or not accountable. While this is true to a certain extent, it also points out a challenge that we have in determining the levels of accountability. At The Growth Factory, we use the Accountability Stairs model we created in 2016 to help show the journey of accountability.

We like the thought of a staircase because stairs carry us from one level to the next and our path for improved accountability takes us up a level in performance every time, and we get better at it. As you can see the stairs travel from “Unaware” to “Make it Happen.” We see the transition take place from victim to accountability between the steps of “Wait and Hope” and “Acknowledge Reality.” So, for today let’s discuss these four steps in a bit more detail.

Unaware – This step speaks to that naïve state of mind that lives in the average teenager that believe if they only answer you with a shrug of the shoulder and the words “I have no idea how that happened” they have escaped consequences as they hold the broken parts or pieces in their hands. They think claiming to know nothing about it will enable them to have no responsibility as we all know they are very wrong. On the opposite end of the spectrum is “Make it Happen.”

Make it Happen – These individuals not only make sure that they are on top of all that needs to happen in their area of responsibility, but they will also look to help others to make sure the department or team meet their commitments. Team members like this look ahead to see what is coming that may have an effect on the outcomes and then move quickly to remove those obstacles from themselves or others. These employees are the best of the best and can carry your team to great places, so it is critical to recognize and reward them appropriately for keeping them happy.

Then we have our transition point. Wait and Hope – When someone is at this step, they are almost ready to take the responsibility but seem to find a way to stop short of that and look for help to finish the job and it can come in several forms. This person might need the 11th -hour help from the “Make it Happen” employee to get the job done. This is the 6th grader that hopes for the snow day instead of studying like they should and in both of these examples they can be saved from time to time and that fuels the behavior. To contrast, this, Acknowledge Reality finishes the effort and knows that the person
in the mirror is the only one that is responsible and capable to make sure the work gets done. At this step, we realize that whatever is happening we must acknowledge that reality and determine what we need to do to complete the task to the specs promised when promised. This awareness that kicks in at this step is the game changer to determine what accountability means.

The Accountability Stairs allow you to see yourself and your team at any point and determine where they are and what they may need to move to the next level. We all will move back and forth from time to time, but we should see our progress heading in the right direction for success.

Interested in learning more about accountability or maybe your team could use a refresher in the form of a professional development class. If you feel the need to boost accountability and the understanding of where you and your team might be on the staircase reach out to The Growth Factory, and we will Make it Happen!!

Keep real conversations REAL to avoid miscommunication

realconversations.jpegEvery day, I coach leaders of all levels and somewhere along the way we discuss when to use email and when to have a face to face discussion.  Email cannot pass emotion or intent it can only send words on a page.  Those words are then read and interpreted through the filters of the recipient.  How often do you imagine there could be wires that get crossed?  Statements like this become front and center:

  • “I thought this said that”
  • “My intent was this”
  • “when I read that I was offended by what you said”

So, as you can see there are a lot of things that can enter into our minds.  This does not mean you can’t send a “thank you” or other simple message through email.  We want to avoid this confusion for sure but that is easier said than done.

I recently made this mistake with an email I sent that was left to interpretation.  My intent could not be transferred in the message only words were and they did not hit the mark.  This left me with a damaged relationship and then trying to explain my purpose and intent when they thought it was a different one so basically you have a conflict you will need to resolve.

Email is great to transfer data, information and reports.  You can quickly share that information with large or small groups.  Really though that is where email starts to stall out.  Anything we are sending that contains emotions, needs to have intent read into it, or could confuse the recipient should be a conversation not an email.  We break this rule all the time and it is usually because of time.  Better planning to allow for proper communication is one step, but also resisting the urge to respond when we should exercise patience.  In the rush to get more done we start to communicate less appropriately and then we will pay the price with poor communication or like in my case the potential loss of a customer.   Please heed my advice and use email for the right messages and keep the real conversations to just that REAL conversations!!

Wishing you success and growth!!


Getting things done for real this time!! Execution!

Road to successHow many times have you been part of a high energy off site planning session?   Plans are discussed and the team gets excited.  Then what happens?  Everyone heads back to the office and the wind goes out of the sails in the matter of 30 days for a lot of companies.  How do we fix this challenge?  It takes a process that really is built to make it simple to stay on track.  Generally, it will break into 4 steps to fix the culture of execution.  You need to get Traction!!!

Let’s look at the steps of execution as they fall into 4 discernible phases.

  1. Narrow the focus to 1-2 goals or targets. We get swallowed up by the day to day so when we are hit with 5-7 goals and metrics from an offsite and then get back to business unfortunately the day to day wins.  So, 1-2 items max to control the focus.
  2. Define the who and what around those 1-2 goals. Now that you have the goals defined you need to determine the personnel and the metrics to keep the goals on track for success.  So, define the measures and milestones for the goals and who is responsible for what and your odds for successful execution just went up again.
  3. Tracking and celebrating success. Create a scoreboard all can see and track to know where performance stands.  This helps create better team support and also transparent communication and accountability.  We all want to win and this helps us see how to do that.
  4. Hold weekly meetings to report progress. This will again create the team buy in and accountability you need for success.  Regular meetings are like the pulse of the projects and processes that you are working on.  The team gets use to that reporting structure and it makes it easier for them to plan activity and understand accountability.

 It may sound simple but carrying out the 4 steps is not easy, it can break down at any one of these steps.  To get real Traction it takes a leader up to the task that can make sure all are on board and engaged at a high level.  You have seen the word Traction in here now 3 times bold, underlined and italic.  That is because it is a book and that program from the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) is what we teach at The Growth Factory.  The EOS process is a proven one to allow you to set track and accomplish more than you ever thought possible.  Simply put you will get things done and after all that is what we are talking about right?  Execution!!!

Are you interested in getting more out of your business?  More growth, efficiencies and profit.  If the answer is yes like it is for most businesses talk to us about implementing EOS with you and your team.  Until next time when we will cover building trust.

I wish you success and growth.


Can leaders succeed without Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence mind map, business management strategyThis is a question I hear and receive all the time as we are developing leaders.  Owners and CEO’s look for something that helps assure them that they have hired or promoted the right person.  The question of which is more important EQ (Emotional Quotient) the measure of Emotional Intelligence VS. IQ (Intelligence Quotient) the measure of Intelligence.  While both are very important to have real success as a leader and manager of others, EQ is seen more and more as leading the 2 measures.

Why is this and what is Emotional Intelligence?  The Emotional Intelligence model is defined in 5 areas as follows according to Daniel Goleman:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Regulation
  3. Empathy
  4. Motivation
  5. Social Skills

We described Self-Awareness in the last blog a bit as that ability to understand yourself, your feelings and reactions to things even in anticipation of them happening.  The next area is Self-Regulation and the control of our reaction to things that may be triggers.  Managing anger, disappointment, failure or fear.  The ability to not let any of these overpower our own will to choose to act in a certain way when needed.  You can see easily the power of this when working with a team and the dynamics of situations that they may throw at you.  Intelligence can help problem solve in certain situations but Emotional Intelligence can far exceed that for the team and the morale of the group.

Empathy is discussed a lot and not always positively. Sometimes it can be seen as being too soft and moving to sympathy, but that is not the correct viewpoint on empathy.  It allows us to listen more intently and understand better other points of view.  Empathy creates in us a real desire to help others and see the situation as they do.

Motivation is not simply money, title or status driven.  Yes, they are important but, there are other types of motivation like intrinsic motivation that focuses on team success or experiential gain and accomplishment.  People with strong Emotional Intelligence are driven to reach their own internal and team goals that may be even harder than the one that drives the bonus.  They will always want to do more and have great initiative.

Lastly is Social Skills but it is in no way the least.   Being able to understand others and build rapport and relationships is critical in leading and managing.  Manager and employee have to be able to connect, listen and communicate effectively for success of their own performance but also the teams and the business.

So, looking back the 5 areas and understanding what they mean you can see why organizations want leaders that are intelligent (IQ), but often fall short of seeking the EQ needs of a great leader.   Ultimately though to truly get the most for the business and the teams.  Leaders with strong Emotional Intelligence are critical to success and typically deliver overall stronger results.  Strong business cultures typically are led by leaders with high EQ.  Highest performing teams are lead by high EQ leaders.  Our businesses are the people and high EQ leaders tend to build relationships that are deeper and get the most out of them.

This is not a topic that can be handled in a single blog we do full and multi-day workshops on Emotional Intelligence and the impact on your company.  Until next time when we will discuss execution.

I wish you success and growth.


Why did I do that?

Closeup of worried Hispanic man sitting at deskHave you ever had one of those days where you just felt that you lost touch with yourself and your behavior?  Before you knew it a series of impulses and actions followed that were not your best and you were not even sure why they happened.  You probably were just triggered.

What are Triggers?  Anything really can be one.  In simple terms, they are any form of stimuli that cause a reaction or behavioral change.  They are not that simple though as environment and personal situation can change the impact of something said or an action from day to day.  Meaning that if you have had a personal recent situation take place you may be more sensitive to something that before did not affect you.  For example, if you recently lost a parent and your emotions are very heightened then a passing comment by someone that said a derogatory comment about their own parents may trigger you to jump in and want to tell them to stop their behavior and act differently and this may lead to a further discussion and soon turn into a verbal conflict.  So why does it all happen and how can we be better prepared?

We move through a few phases when we look at the root cause behind a behavior.  If you looked at the flow of the events you probably have:

  1. The trigger – whatever it was that stirred the reaction and got things moving.
  2. Impulse – this is the “what should I do with…”  stage.
  3. Understanding – Why am I interested in the outcome.
  4. Decision – the choice to do something. And finally,
  5. The Behavior – the action we take as a result of steps 1-4.

Looking at that information flow how do we change our behavior.  The most impactful thing we can do is develop great self-awareness.  The ability to be in touch with and know our self and the interaction we can anticipate based on environment and other factors. We choose to be in control and do not choose to be a victim of the circumstances that unfold.  We have the accountability to our actions and understand that if we allow a poor situation to happen based on our inability to control our self when the trigger hits it is on us.  So, the next time you feel that emotions and impulse building inside of you ask yourself if you can control your outcome or not.  Choose self-awareness, make the right call and don’t allow yourself to be the victim of the trigger.  Until next time when we take a bit deeper look at Emotional intelligence.

Wishing you success and growth!


After Thanksgiving – Family for Thought

wood text cube family

As we have all wrapped up our 2017 Thanksgiving Holiday we have said thanks and have expressed appreciation many times.  We’ve connected with family both near and far.  Maybe, reached out to someone not spoken to in a while.  We smiled a little more, maybe laughed and cried some too.  Possibly, we had a few awkward situations, a couple of fights and a word or two that we wish we had back.

Okay, so did I just describe your Thanksgiving Day or a day at the office?  In my many years, I have seen it as both on a regular basis.  Every day the teams we work with are our family just as much as all of our relatives.  You might be shaking your head and thinking I’m not sure I agree.  Well, let’s take a look.

If you think about the 24 hours in the day and how they break down for most it looks about like this.  At least 8+ hours at work, add in the time to get there and all else that goes with our time around work and you can see pretty quickly that the largest chunk of our time awake is at work around our co-workers.  We are scattered at home and rarely have evenings where we get home from our work and are able to sit down with the whole family all night.  Then, before you know it, the night has caught up with us and bedtime calls.  We wake up and we do it all over again.

Based on that rough look at an average day you can quickly see how our co-workers see more of us than our families to a certain degree.  So, why would we not think that that full range of emotions that we experience and share with our families would not be the same at work?  The reality is they are the same, but often we fail as leaders and managers to recognize it.  With the amount of time we spend with our teams and clients, relationships are built, strengthened and also disrupted daily.

A large part of the education time we spend with our clients at The Growth Factory is around how to communicate well with the teams they manage as well as their customers.  In all of my years of managing and leading teams, I’ve recognized that the need for this is obvious.  We can say the wrong thing or misinterpret an email with our work relationships just the same as we do with family.  The consequences will look and feel familiar as well.   Making sure to always take the time and recognize the good performance and saying thank you for the effort put forth on a regular basis is a nice start.  If that isn’t done well or consistently enough it can feel a bit superficial and like a substitute for not being more connected year-round.  We all can suffer from this as we know we are busy and have so many things going on in both parts of our lives.

The point of this blog, written the day after Thanksgiving, is to challenge yourself to try to make a conscious effort with both of the families in our lives to be a little more aware each day of how we, as leaders, are caring for both of these groups that in the end mean so much to us.  It takes thought and effort to make a difference, but in the end, the payback here is well worth it.  I think in this case the return on investment is clear, but sometimes in our day to day lives, we quickly lose sight of it.  Work every day to be a better leader/family member and show everyone the right way to build that strong productive and caring family.

Good luck and good growth to all.


The Heartbeat of Your Business

man drawing heart and chart heartbeat

We all say it more and more this time of the year.  As the end of the year approaches, we  become more and more goal driven. Suddenly, our teams have an amped up awareness of numbers, goals and what it will take to hit certain levels because there’s usually a bonus tied to it.  This extra focus and increase in performance feel good around the business, but it is usually short-lived.  When the calendar turns and the numbers are counted focus and energy seem to take a bit of a break and a deep breath from the hard end of the year push.  So, what if you could harness that year-end push and keep it more consistent all the time.

The focus of all businesses is to have the best return on the investment put into it.  Human capital is one of the largest assets that we have to lead and encourage to get the best overall results.  If you look at the performance of a team you see a spike in activity right before any due date.  If you only have one true measurement point a year you only have one period of truly heightened performance for your business or your teams.

We like to use a formal quarterly accountability/measurement because it helps to harness those emotional activity peaks and smooths them out to keep the total year at a higher performance level.  Instead of a peak at year-end, you have four accountability points that drive individuals and teams to have their work complete and reported on.  All of this leads to better results and your team/business is thinking about driving or finding innovative ways to accomplish their goals.  This can be done through quarterly companywide meetings to show each teams goal and their results.  When you set up this type of accountability/recognition you will be shocked by how your teams respond.  No one likes to have their numbers shown and see a big miss to a goal.  Self-motivation now is driving all the time to do everything possible to stay on goal and receive the positive recognition at the quarterly celebrations you now have set up for your business.

We would love to see you challenge your business in this way to track the improvement you can achieve.  It is important to always look for and try to maximize our human nature to respond to deadlines.  This will deliver measurable improvement but you have to stay creative with it as anything can become tired and worn out.  That is your challenge going forward.  If you need ideas give us a call as we have a lot of different approaches you can use to keep things fresh and your teams motivated.

Good luck and wishing you growth and success.