In “Being Accountable To You” we emphasized the need to take care of ourselves first so that we could take better care of others and how to find accountability to ourselves. This can not only work for you as an individual, but also in your workplace where we are constantly asked to do things for others in the name of being a “team player” and supporting the business. We just need to answer some obvious questions first.
Why Does "Shit" Roll "Downhill"?
Think of the common workplace phrase “Shit rolls downhill.” Which, if you’re not familiar with it, simply means that the lowest ranking person in an organization nearly always gets stuck doing the task nobody wants to do. First off, what an incredibly ridiculous deficit oriented concept this is?! Second, how is it that we use it as a workplace truism?! But, let’s take a moment to dismantle this a bit. “Shit” clearly refers to some undesirable thing, and in this case a task or project that nobody wants to do. Then, we have the idea of “downhill”, which clearly references workplace hierarchy where the person at the bottom has the least power and authority, and, by proxy, the least valued thoughts and skills. What if there wasn’t any “shit”? What if there wasn’t a down because there was never a hill?
What if instead of forcing a task on someone, we take a moment to align the task with a person’s strengths. Instead of it rolling in any predetermined direction, there was some thought into who is not only well-suited to succeed, but could actually benefit, learn, and take joy from accomplishing this task. That person might even see the task as an opportunity to l or hone their expertise. The great thing in all of this is that the time it takes to figure this out is far less than the combined costs of the task being done half-assed, the inevitable negative effects on the person who it landed on and is forced to do it, and the ongoing costs of maintaining the hierarchy and workplace unpleasantness in the first place.
If There Is No Shit And No Hill, What’s Left?
Several years ago, I was given a book from a colleague who had been trying to “clean out their library.” The book was Empowerment for High Performing Organizations, written by Phil Guillory and Linda Galindo. It transitioned from my colleague’s library to mine where it sat for a few months. Finally, my own fear of becoming like my colleague and having to clean out an entire library of books became acute enough to inspire me into action; so, I cracked it. By the end of chapter one I had already come across one of the finest equations I had ever seen.
It rang through with simple brilliance. When an individual and the team are truly empowered and supported with organizational systems and resources, the entire organization becomes empowered. Now, to be sure, “empowered” is one of those business words used so often it has come to mean almost nothing. But here, Guillory and Galindo have established empowerment as the very foundation for a high-performing organization. It isn’t just a dated leadership buzzword, it is the crux of building success.
Now, this may not sound like rocket science, and many might look at this equation as a simple matter of fact. But, the key to the model is more subtle and deeply profound:
It demands transformation at the individual level. It forces each and every person within the organization to be clear in their personal beliefs and responsibilities in the name of being empowered. And, beyond that, each person, to be empowered, must have accountability to their beliefs and responsibilities.
Ah yes, accountability. Just as we discussed accountability to self, so too does this model for high-performing organizations. It is only through accountability to self that we can achieve as individuals, teams, and organizations. Let’s explore this with an example.
Getting To The Epic Shit
Imagine the follow scenario:
Phil is an employee of a company and has strong beliefs about how things should get done, what quality work looks like, etc. Further, he is clear on what he is good at and what he enjoys doing. As we discussed in our previous article about accountability to self, when Phil is asked to do a task he can choose to view it from a deficit model, and thereby slog through the task…
Phil can identify how it aligns with his strengths, beliefs, and responsibilities, and find the task much easier to accomplish. Where issues pop up is when Phil is not able to find alignment between the task and his strengths, beliefs, or responsibilities. This is where the corporate mindset encourages “strong management”, which effectively means forcing Phil to do something he doesn’t want to do. Clearly, over a long enough time horizon, this is not a sustainable model.
If we empower Phil to leverage his personal truths, as well as his teammates, there almost certainly will be some other way to get the same task done. Moreover, it is more than likely that task will get done better, faster, cheaper, etc., than it has ever been done before, because it has transitioned from a chore that landed on someone to a step in building upon someone’s strengths, talents, and goals.
Empowerment for High Performing Organizations
It begs the question of why we allow our organizations to be structured this way, and moreover, why we as members of these organizations standby and allow it to persist. We can clearly see the corporate mindset at work here, and it is through leveraging our strengths, finding our truths, and being accountable to ourselves that we can most immediately tear it down and build a new way of operating that is far more enjoyable, effective, and, in the end, profitable for all parties. Unlock the corporate mindset so that we can all do epic shit!