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Friday, November 6, 2009

Ensure Accountability—Increasing Team and Organization-Wide Performance

Over the next week I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Ask the Right Questions by Barry Cohen (McGraw Hill, September 2009). This is the THIRD of several posts on Just Ask Leadership: Ensure Accountability—Increasing Team and Organization-Wide Performance

a. Getting co-workers and employees to solve their own problems, the author would argue, is important, no vital, to a successful organization. Setting up he CEO as THE champion knowledge oracle is not only unwise but short lived. Hero-based cultures only last as long as the CEO is right and erodes quickly in fast-changing cultures like that of the 21st century. E.G., how many CEOs know much about social media—and how big is that becoming in our society! Here are a couple of questions from this chapter:

--How often should I schedule performance reviews?

i. Here’s a sequence that moves the monkey off the boss’s back and on to the employee. A couple of days before a scheduled review, ask the employee to provide the list of her goals and detail the progress on each. At the meeting, ask how well the employee did at achieving the goals. If she met a goal, celebrate the win. If she did not reach a goal, ask her to tell you what was the root cause, what got in the way? Leaders should NOT provide answers but probe with questions and then ask the employee to establish an action plan, deadlines and set a follow up meeting. The more severe the problem, the more frequent the follow ups.

--How can I reduce the fear of failure? [Taken from Major General Dick Newton’s (Air Force) advice, the author introduces a German military process of the 1800s that was very successful. Translated it means “mission tactics.”]

i. Mutual trust is based on personal knowledge of leaders and subordinates.
ii. Training and organization of the force and decentralization…ground-level decision making.
iii.Willingness to act…even in the face of potential failure.
iv. Simple concepts (Keep it Simple—Kis principle). Finally, the author notes that it was not failure of an action that the Germans would punish, but failure TO ACT. Not bad for building trust in an organization: Allowing experimentation.

-- Other questions asked in this chapter include (along with neat stories, research and anecdotes:

Who’s to blame—the employee or the job description? Are my team leaders leaving a trail of frustrated people behind? How do I get coworkers to stop repeating the same mistakes? What am I afraid of losing? There are a total of 12 questions asked in this section. Check them out if you’re interested in leveraging your leaders to lift much heavier issues and opportunities in front of them.

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