I’m so proud of the people working in my organization.

Dear Nicole,

I’m so proud of the people working in my organization. They are all hard workers and care deeply about our mission – helping families with children who have terminal illnesses. It is hard not to fall in love with all of the families. It makes us want to work even harder for them. Here’s my question, key members of my staff often miss important deadlines, but I’m afraid to say anything because they work so hard. What should I do?

Want to Work Smart

My Quick Read: You can’t change behavior without changing the thinking that created the behavior. As the ED, YOU lead the way and model it for others. Is being compassionate and being accountable mutually exclusive? Of course not, but it sounds like you are unknowingly reinforcing that message in your words and actions (or lack of action). At the end of the day, an organization is only sustainable if it is both.

Hello Want to Work Smart,

You are singing the heartsong of many an organization. When the guitar strings get plucked, it is easy to forget that you are, just that, an organization.

If this is a widespread issue, accountability is not being modeled and reinforced at the top. You can’t do it alone; your leadership team has to be front and center with you. It is refreshing when a chief executive acknowledges that point.

Have a working discussion with your senior team about it. Notice I wrote “working discussion”. For the discussion:

  • Show how resolving this issue serves your organizational values (i.e. being accountable means _______________(positive result for organization) which in turn (positive result for people you serve).
  • Create a safe space to discuss the issue by establishing rules of engagement. (e.g. we will assume that we are working with the same level of dedication, we will start with a clean slate, we won’t defend the behavior that no longer serves us)
  • Divide the group into two teams. Ask one team to come up with a list of “What Being Accountable Looks Like At Our Organization” (e.g. showing up to meetings on time.) The other team makes a list of “What Not Being Accountable Looks Like At Our Organization” (e.g. missing funder deadlines). No more than 10 items per list.
  • Decide as a group: As an organization, for us to say we’re accountable, which 5 behaviors on “being accountable” list are non-negotiable and which 5 behaviors on the “not being accountable” list we won’t tolerate.
  • Build a consensus with the group for adoption: Is everyone comfortable with what is/isn’t on this list? Any concerns? Go around the room and have people respond individually to the questions so you can see where everyone stands.

Let me know how the discussion goes.

Happy Leading,

“You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.” –Marianne Williamson