Category Archives: Crucial Accountability

Crucial Accountability QA

Dealing with New Job Expectations

Dear Crucial Skills,
I have been doing a job for 14 years, making improvements and reevaluating each year to make it more efficient and produce better results. The two teams I have been dealing with have always expressed satisfaction with my work. We now have a different management team with a different philosophy; they want me to do my job in less than half the time, assisting 50% more clients than I had previously. They want me to just “get the job done” and are not concerned about quality. How do I deal with this without sacrificing personal integrity?

Regards,
Frustrated with Management

Dear Frustrated,
When managers make this kind of demand, it feels like a kick in the guts. It’s as if the new management team is discrediting your experience and the improvements you’ve worked so hard to achieve. You’ve put a lot of yourself into your job, so it’s hard not to take it personally. And, when they increase your workload as much as they have, it feels as if they are devaluing the job itself—“Since your job isn’t worth doing at all, it’s certainly not worth doing well.”

And yet, taking this demand personally would be a mistake. It’s very unlikely the new management team was thinking about you and your personal performance when they made this change in priorities. I’ll suggest a few, more dispassionate, ways to respond.

Explore Others’ Paths. Begin by seeking to understand the facts and logic behind the new direction. Hold off on evaluating the feasibility of the specific changes until you understand why the new management team believes new priorities are needed.

For example, I worked with a management team that discovered they could double their sales and triple their profits if they switched from producing top-quality external siding to lower-quality interior siding. Employees felt lousy about producing lower-quality material, until they understood it was what the marketplace wanted. The lower-quality material would be used inside walls, where its flaws would be hidden. In this case the change was a success. The operation expanded, and everyone benefited.

Reinvent the Process. Try to reinvent how you manage this new volume of clients. Tweaking the existing process probably won’t be enough. It will likely require a disruptive innovation. For example, instead of increasing the speed with which you work with clients over the phone, maybe the solution is to ditch the phone, and use a website where clients solve their own problems.

Learn from Positive Deviants. A positive deviant is a person who faces the same challenges as everyone else, but has somehow achieved breakthrough results. Check to see if there are any of your peers who are meeting the new numbers without sacrificing essential quality elements. If there are any, go and observe them. Ask them to observe you as well. You may discover insights that will radically change your results.

I saw this a few years ago when I was working with a team that transcribed physician’s notes. The department had just introduced voice-recognition software, but hadn’t seen the productivity increases they’d expected. The team looked for positive deviants, and discovered three members of their team who had become four times more productive than the rest—but no one knew why. They observed each other, and quickly figured it out. These exceptional three had independently programmed Microsoft shortcuts that sped up their work. Once they shared these shortcuts with the team, everyone’s productivity quadrupled.

Track a Balanced Scorecard of Outcomes. My guess is that you and the management team are focused on somewhat different outcomes. They are looking at volume and margins, while you are looking at quality and complaints. The mistake would be to track one set of outcomes without also tracking the others. You’ll want to track both the desired outcomes and the potential risks.

Notice that I’m emphasizing tracking and measuring. Verbal warnings about potential risks never carry as much weight as actual data. Maybe the results will confirm your warnings, or maybe they will confirm the management team’s hopes. Or maybe the data will land in the middle, and everyone will see the need for more work. Remember, it’s not about winning or losing an argument; it’s about getting facts and data on the table, where they can serve as common ground.

Yeah But . . . What if these tips don’t work? What if, after giving it your best shot, you conclude that the new management team doesn’t value the work you do? If this is the case, I believe you have three options.

1. Stay in your current job, but feel as if you are sacrificing your integrity. This won’t work—at least, not in the long run. You will hate your job, and your feelings will show on your face and in your actions.
2. Change to a job they do value.
3. Or find another organization that values the kind of work you want to do.

Good luck,

David

Crucial Accountability QA

Respecting Part-time Coworkers

Dear Crucial Skills,

I am a middle-aged, part-time worker by choice and work very hard while I am at work. I have a great attendance record, I’m dedicated, meticulous, and take initiative without drawing attention to myself. I try to do everything I can to make my coworkers’ jobs easier. Per my supervisor and coworkers, I am a “great team player.” However, I am still bothered by some comments along the lines of “she’s just a part-timer,” and I don’t get the same treatment as full-time employees regarding things like perks, raises, etc.

What can I do to help my employer and coworkers understand that I am part of the team and contribute just as much as they do without causing hard feelings?

Signed,
Part-time Worker

Dear Part-time,

There are three different levels of crucial conversations that can be addressed. They are: content (a specific problem or issue), pattern (a repeating problem), and relationship (the way we work together, or the way we relate to each other). Issues of respect, like the one you raise, are relationship issues. Instead of solving a single problem, you want to Finish Reading

Crucial Accountability QA

The Silent Spouse

During the month of July, we publish “best of” content. The following article was first published on February 2, 2005.

Dear Crucial Skills,
Whenever my husband and I get into a conversation that he doesn’t want to continue, he will resort to a comment like, “You always have to have things your way,” and will refuse to continue the conversation. This approach leaves issues unresolved and interferes with other areas of our life. How can I get around this?
Signed,
Unresolved

Dear Unresolved,
When we teach Crucial Conversations Training and ask for the kinds of challenges people face, this issue comes up in several ways. Some talk about being married to a mime. Others comment that their spouse seems Finish Reading

Crucial Accountability QA

Q&A: Distracted Meetings?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ron McMillan

Ron McMillan is coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything.

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Crucial Conversations

Q Dear Crucial Skills,

I am getting incredibly frustrated by the various meetings I attend. I feel they are increasingly ineffective. Information that is shared is not understood and later attendees claim they were not aware of matters we discussed. In my opinion, technology is to blame. During the meetings, people are frequently checking their e-mails and texts and responding to them instead of paying attention. Am I just a dinosaur unwilling to get with the times, or are others being rude? What can be done?

Signed,
Irritated

Finish reading

Crucial Accountability QA

Q&A: Holding Your Children Accountable

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Maxfield

David Maxfield is coauthor of three New York Times bestsellers, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything.

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Crucial Conversations

Q Dear Crucial Skills,

I have a very hard time getting my children to do their chores. They often volunteer to help people outside of the house but, rarely make extra effort to help out at home. Growing up, my siblings and I saw what needed to be done around the house and just did it. My kids don’t seem to have any motivation to do anything. When asked to do a specific task, the normal response is to do the bare minimum (not always a good job at that) and not an iota more. While I’m sure it’s my fault that they are this way, I don’t know where to start to change things. Help!

Sincerely,

Last Straw

A Dear Last Straw,

Thanks for asking a question that is truly universal. I think every parent from every society and era can relate. I’ll offer a few tips on influencing children to take responsibility for tasks around the house.

The goal is to build responsibility, not just obedience. One of the challenges we face with teens (and many adults) is that they prize independence and autonomy, but don’t always act responsibly when they have it. As parents we want them to be independent, but only if they are responsible. Household tasks can be a wonderful laboratory for building independence and responsibility.

Build an accountability system that doesn’t rely on you. Currently, you are responsible for all aspects of accountability. You tell your children when chores need to be done, evaluate their performance, and administer praise or sanctions. You are their supervisor. Your goal should be to replace yourself by making your children responsible for each of these elements. This will allow them greater independence, while also making them more accountable.

Expect this to be a learning process. I think you will discover that your children aren’t as unmotivated as you might think. Sure, they don’t like being interrupted in the middle of an important video game to “clean their room right now!” But the real barrier they face will be ability. Few children have ever been asked to create an accountability system before—and it takes some learning.

Ask them to set clear standards. Let’s imagine a few household tasks you might have them do: dishwashing, laundry, and keeping their rooms clean. Ask your children to create a checklist for each task. For example, their steps for doing the laundry might include: collect clothes, sort clothes into darks and lights, wash clothes in separate loads, dry clothes, sort and fold clothes, put clothes away. You should not be the one making this list. Have one child make the list, and then have the other children evaluate it and add to it. Give them as much independence and ownership as possible.

Have them establish roles, times, and reminders. You don’t want to be the one who has to remind your children to do their part. Instead, ask them to figure out who will be responsible for which tasks, how that person will remember, and how they will remind each other. You might need to help them come up with ideas. For example, you could create a responsibility bulletin board where assignments can be kept—e.g., Jamie does the laundry checklist on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Make sure their plans include reminders that don’t come from you. For instance, they could set alarms on their phones. Let them set the times for doing their chores—within reason. These bite-sized pieces of autonomy will mean a lot to them.

Set up peer evaluations. Don’t accept the disciplinarian role. Instead, have your children evaluate each other’s performance. For example, they can use their checklists to check on each other’s quality. In my experience, they will be as strict or stricter than you’d ever be—and they’ll appreciate the autonomy and independence.

Use deliberate practice. Don’t expect your children to be as good at doing household tasks as you are. They are unlikely to be as fast or as effective. For example, there is no reason why it should take them more than fifteen minutes to clean their room (pick up floor, make bed, put things where they belong, vacuum, and dust)—if they stay on top of it every day. Make it a challenge. Have them practice while a brother or sister times them and checks on the quality of their work. Doing a great job in ten minutes should be a source of personal pride for them.

Manage the team and the system, not the individual and the exception. Your children won’t always follow this new system, and you’ll have to hold them accountable. However, don’t hold a one-on-one with the individual child who has failed to do their chore. Instead, hold a brief family meeting, and focus on the accountability system. Point out that the system isn’t working well enough, and challenge them to fix it. Maybe they need to build in better reminders or maybe they need to get better at holding each other accountable. Don’t allow them to put you back in the supervisor role. Make them continue to manage themselves.

I hope some of these tips will be helpful. Of course, you will have to modify them depending on your children’s ages and your own family situation.

Best of Luck,

David

Crucial Accountability QA

Q&A: Keeping Your Workers Safe

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ron McMillan

Ron McMillan is coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything.

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Crucial Conversations

Q Dear Crucial Skills,

Our company has worked long and hard to improve workplace safety and we’ve made some great strides. I have good employees that work for me and I’m sure none of them come to work with the thought that they will have an accident that day, but unfortunately it sometimes happens. Why would employees continue to take risks or shortcuts that lead to accidents?

Sincerely,
What Can Be Done

A Dear What,

I congratulate you and your company on your success. Recently in the U.S., many of the most obvious workplace threats have been reduced or eliminated, making American workers far safer.

However, in 2007 more than 5,600 people were killed on the job and more than 4 million were injured.¹ In addition to this tragic human toll, these injuries cost firms more than $48.6 billion.² Clearly, there is much more that needs to be done.

Most of the gains in workplace safety can be attributed to improvements in equipment, policies, systems, and training. However, the issues left to address are the informal, cultural challenges.

Here at VitalSmarts, we conducted interviews and surveys among more than 1,500 employees from more than 20 firms. Our research revealed that the ugly secret behind most workplace injuries is that someone is aware of the threat well in advance, but is either unwilling or unable to speak up.

Specifically, we uncovered five crucial conversations that exist in most organizations that are politically incorrect or uncomfortable to surface. Ninety-three percent of employees say their workgroup is currently at risk from one or more of these five “accidents waiting to happen.” In fact, nearly half are aware of an injury or death caused by these workplace dangers.

The five crucial conversations of a safety culture are:

1. Get It Done. These are unsafe practices justified by tight timelines. According to the results, 78 percent of respondents see their coworkers take unsafe shortcuts. These common and risky shortcuts are undiscussable for 75 percent of the workforce.

2. Undiscussable Incompetence. These are unsafe practices that stem from skill deficits that can’t be discussed. Sixty-five percent of respondents see their coworkers create unsafe conditions due to incompetence, and 74 percent of workers say safety risks sustained by incompetence are undiscussable.

3. Just This Once. These are unsafe practices justified as exceptions to the rule. Fifty-five percent of respondents see their coworkers make unsafe exceptions. Only one in four speak up and share their real concerns with the person who is putting safety at risk.

4. This Is Overboard. These are unsafe practices that bypass precautions already considered excessive. The majority of respondents—66 percent—see their coworkers violate safety precautions they’ve discounted. Almost three out of four either say nothing or fall short of speaking up candidly to share their real concerns.

5. Are You a Team Player? These are unsafe practices that are justified for the good of the team, company, or customer. Sixty-three percent of respondents see their coworkers violate safety precautions for this cause. Only 28 percent say they speak up and share their concerns with the person.

The missing ingredient in a safety culture is the willingness and ability to effectively hold those who are engaging in unsafe behavior and practices accountable.

In order to create a culture of safety, everyone must have the skills to hold others accountable. These are the skills we train in Crucial Accountability workshops. The other essential component is to use the Six Sources of Influence to motivate and enable the team members to be accountable.

I witnessed a dramatically successful strategy work for a team on an oil rig working to reduce accidents and injuries and a team at a hospital improving patient safety. They both implemented a 200 percent accountability initiative.

After being trained in Crucial Accountability skills, as part of an Influencer plan, the workers agreed that they were 100 percent accountable to abide by the safety protocols. They also committed to be 100 percent accountable to speak up when they saw someone else violating safe practices. Each signed a “200 percent accountability” poster and gave others permission to confront them if there was any question about their own compliance. With amazing speed, workers reported a change in their culture and an improvement in the vital behaviors that lead to a safer workplace for workers and patients.

Accountability is the implicit assumption that underlies every safety program. Yet as our research shows, this assumption is more fiction than fact. Consequently, accountability is the critical weakness of most approaches to safety. If people don’t hold each other accountable for acting on observed threats, then more training to help them recognize threats will be of limited value. Silence, not blindness, is the problem.

This research also points to an exceptionally high-leverage strategy for improving workplace safety. If leaders focus on the five undiscussables and transform them from undiscussables into approachable accountability conversations, they can expect dramatic improvements in workplace safety.

All the best in your worthy effort to keep your people safe.

Ron

¹Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, July 2009.

²”2008 Workplace Safety Index,” Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, 2008.

Crucial Accountability QA

Crucial Applications: Digital Divisiveness

VitalSmarts’ new research study shows that 89% of participants surveyed report damaged relationships as a result of the insensitive or inappropriate use of technology. And yet, most suffer silently.

According to the study of 2,025 people, 9 out of 10 report that at least once a week, their friends or family members stop paying attention to them in favor of something happening on their digital devices. And 1 in 4 say Electronic Displays of Insensitivity (EDIs) have caused a serious rift with a friend or family member.

So what do we do when confronted with such blatant EDIs? According to the research, most of us do nothing. Specifically, 1 in 3 people admit to coping with EDIs by simply ignoring them.

However, what happens when repeat offenders are your spouse, child, best friend, or coworker? Even with close relationships, people still struggle to speak up. In fact, nearly 2 out of 3 have no idea how to effectively reduce the impact of others’ inappropriate use of technology.

Those who say nothing give their silent approval of insensitive and bad behavior. So next time you’re face-to-face with an EDI offender, use your crucial conversations skills to restore civility without damaging common courtesy.

Here are five tips for getting started.

1. Take the high road. Some EDIs are urgent or necessary so assume the best intentions. Empathetically say: “That sounds important. I can come back later if you need to respond to that call or text.”

2. Spell it out. Specificity leads to results. Rather than making vague requests, set specific boundaries. Say: “We need your full attention in this meeting, so please turn off your cell phone.”

3. Illuminate the impact. Describe the consequences of an EDI rather than blast your judgments about another’s moral compass. Say: “Your screen light is disturbing my experience of the performance. Would you please turn it off? Thank you.”

4. Take heart. Don’t measure your influence by whether or not people immediately comply. Your intervention registers as disapproval and helps in the slow establishing of new norms.

5. Let it go. If you’ve employed every tactic and the offender fails to comply, let it go. Unless the situation will continue for an extended period of time or your safety is at risk, you’re better off just moving on.

View the results of our study in the infographic below or click here to download a copy.

EDI-Infographic-Big