“A good leader recognizes their team for success, and shoulders the blame for its failure”
In our “Leaders Are…” series, we’ve covered trusting, curious, coaches, self-aware, challengers, influential, celebrators, and developers. Accountability is also game changing. A great read, The Oz Principle, lays out a clear framework for above the line and below the line behaviors in demonstrating accountability. Good leaders get this. They lead their teams by example – taking the high road, setting goals, and following through by doing what they said they would do. It’s the simple things, really.
Take the high road
Leaders set the tone for how the team responds to a good or not so good day. A leader recognizes their team when things go well, and accepts the blame when things go not so well. In other words, they take the high road. It’s empowering and recognizing the team’s success, and jumping in front of the bullet for the team when it fails. It’s as simple as using inclusive words like “we” instead of “I”, and “our” instead of “my.” The words we use matter. When leaders signal to the team that it’s a safe place to make mistakes, and makes success collective, teams thrive.
Everyone knows what it feels like when a “leader” deflects blame on their team, and when a “leader” accepts the team’s success. It feels fake, not genuine. A good leader does not have to boast about themselves. If she or he is really that good, people know it. A good leader co-creates a culture of trust, where we share in our successes and she or he shoulders the blame for the team.
So, it’s not that a leader has to accept the blame for their team. She or he just simply shoulders it for them. There is nothing good to come from a firing squad unleashing tough feedback directly on the team. A good leader stands in front of the firing squad’s feedback bullets, and accepts the responsibility for the team. She or he gathers the feedback and collectively ties it to the team’s goals.
Set SMART goals
A big part of taking the high road has to do with goal setting. Goals are a fantastic way to make success real. When we set goals that are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely – the team responds. People need a picture of success painted in their minds to know when it is achieved. A good rule of thumb is one to three goals for the team and/or individual. Focus is key. When we keep the list of goals short and sweet, we increase our chances of remembering, and, therefore, focusing. A great adage that explains this – “what gets measured, gets done.” Leaders often share goals that measure revenue growth, cost reduction, and/or customer acquisition growth. The thing about goals is, make it your own. Get the team together and brainstorm and align on good goals. When the team weighs in, they buy in. When we align the team, we gain the commitment to achieve the success we will achieve.
Single handedly, the biggest challenge of leaders. Those I coach often say, “the team gets together and decides X, Y, and Z. And, next thing we know, we are back to the day-to-day, and we lose sight of implementing the decisions we have committed to.” Sound familiar? Follow through. Hold the team accountable. Make sure action plans have resources and timelines outlined up front. Put the team in a position to be successful. Check in often and ask the powerful question, “what can I do to help?” And, mean it when you say it. Leaders that eliminate the obstacles, tackle the fears, and motivate the team to do what they said they would do achieve better business results.
How will you hold your team accountable?
Next time, the series will conclude with “Leaders Are…” Visionaries. To be a part of the next blog, share your ideas and stories with Julie @ firstname.lastname@example.org.