Something needed to change – this critical software development project was taking more time and resources than projected and if this continued, the product would miss the market.

As the CEO described how he intervened in this problem, a gnawing question forced its way through my lips.  I asked him if we could explore this more deeply, with the purpose of creating value for him at a more personal level, and he agreed.  So I asked, “In your company, what specific outcomes are you responsible for?”

Recently, a CEO asked me to interview his team members with the goal of helping them execute faster.  He believed they were not getting the traction they needed and he didn’t know how to fix it.

Traction comes when commitments are tied to the name of one person – not a team, a department, a group or a company, and in both cases, this was not happening.

Managers in the Northwest can seem “politically correct”, or I’ve also heard this term called “Seattle Nice”.  Either way, it’s the same costly fog screen designed so that everyone gets a “trophy”.

It may seem harsh to name one person responsible for a specific outcome, but it actually makes an organization crazy when you don’t, which is why this software project was behind schedule.

Leaders are people who make commitments and take on personal responsibility and risk.  To assign a title that implies leadership, without assigning specific public commitments, for outcomes by a certain date, is common and unproductive.

I know what great execution feels like, both at the beginning and at the end of a project that I have led.  When it works, it feels remarkable.  When it doesn’t work, it is usually because there was no single name and date, tied to ownership.

When I asked the software CEO about what he was accountable for, his first response was, “Wouldn’t that send a message that I work for them?”  While I loved his honesty, I let his question linger without an answer and then he said, “I’m not sure I’m seeing this right, maybe what I want is mutual accountability.”

As he considered this, he began to see the bigger picture.  Unless he models real accountability to his senior team, he won’t get it from them.

Try to think about it this way – if everyone who worked for you knew that you owned three specific measurable outcomes with dates, what would change for you?  How would that impact your company?

You might be saying to yourself, “What I have now is working, so why change it?”  As I discussed this topic with my CEOs this past week, several asked me to set up a 360 review for them so they could find out if they are doing a good job.

The clients I have are amazing – they want to be better as leaders and are willing to risk seeing themselves through the eyes of others.  The Truth does set us free.  Would you like more ownership from your people?

I’d love to know your thoughts.   Jim@peer-place.com

PS – I have gone fishing and will write another post in two weeks.



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