First 90 Days on the Job

 

 

Your First 90 Days on the Job

Getting Commitment and Accountability

on Your Team

By Dr. Dan Neundorf

Harold Geneen, the late founder, CEO, and president of ITT, said it best: “Words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises.  The performance of a true leader can only be measured in attitude and actions. ”If your performance inspires and motivates others to do more and be more, if you communicate well and have clearly visualized and road-mapped your path to success, it’s time to cement your performance by stepping up to accountability and commitment during your first 90 days on the job.

Lead with your strengths; turn deficiencies and doubts into challenges.

Is there something magic about the first 90 days?  No. How you approach your job in the first 90 days is how you think about it, and that can create a positive synergy.  However, experienced managers agree that the 90-day window is critical. Use this time to establish credibility and trust, build coalitions, and to grow accountability and commitment on your team.  During these first 90 days, you should develop an action plan for yourself and strategies to achieve it. That means setting short-range and long-range career objectives, much as you would in an actual business plan.

  • Where do I expect to be in 90 days? Next year? Five years from now?
  • What weaknesses do I have that I can work on? Which assets?
  • And the action plan: What are the steps I must take to actualize my 90-day, one-year, and five-year objectives? For example, these may involve getting more schooling and a higher degree, choosing the right mentor, and quickly finding the right people with whom you can forge new working relationships.

Write down your objectives, refine them, type them out.  Keep and refer to them. They’re your personal business plan. Remain focused. Remember that the 90-day period also sets the tone for your service with the organization.  During this period, co-workers and those to whom you report will expect you to be action-oriented, delivering on good ideas and producing measureable results, even if modest. Actions taken by you and your group during this period will positively or negatively impact long-range productivity.  During this time, how you manage your team for accountability and commitment will be crucial. Remember that accountability is a skill; like driving a car or learning a language, it’s a learnable skill.  This book breaks it down into steps and exercises for you.  With the proper amount of time, energy, and commitment, you can master accountability and be a mirror for others.

Steps toward accountability and commitment

First, design a learning curve for yourself

  • From available data, start by learning all you can about the company itself—its stakeholders, its products or services, its strengths and weaknesses, technical capabilities, financial position, its competition, its position in the industry, and the industry itself. What do the mass media say about the company or not-for-profit organization?
  • Study the company’s history—conservative, risk-taking, innovative, middle-of-the-road? What do magazines such as Forbes and Business Week say about its strategies, its key personnel, even its business culture?
  • Get with knowledgeable people to find out about company politics and stakeholders.
  • What about challenges the company may face? The strategies it employs? What about opportunities it may have missed and the commitments it may be making for growth? How can you be a key player here? To answer those questions, get with the person who hired you: Remember that he or she has a personal stake in your performance.

Next, take stock of your best assets.

What makes you feel good about yourself? What strengths do you have? The secrets of leadership depend on your ability to actualize and capitalize on your assets. Psychologists tell us that confidence, a belief in yourself, in your self-worth, in your basic skills and competence are assets that will propel you toward job success.

Exercise

Take a few minute of quiet time to jot down your best assets; for example, congeniality, promptness, a head for figures. Type them up and put them somewhere only you can see; refer to them when you need to. How can you capitalize on them?  How can you put each asset to work on the job? Think back on your previous successes and list them. What did you bring to those endeavors?  What did you come away with? Were your contributions recognized and acknowledged? Remember that failure in a particular enterprise in the past does not define who you are. Having trouble with your list? Seek out friends and former coworkers. Ask them to suggest some of your good points. Now ask yourself: Was I hired for my current position because of my past performance? Because of my potential to increase productivity?  It was probably for both reasons.

Third, Establish Your Credibility

You’ve made a list of your best assets and studied it.  Your next step is to establish credibility. During those first 90 days, you’ll be building your credibility as a capable, knowledgeable leader.  Others may flounder; you do not.  You inspire confidence and get cooperation from your team. This is a strategic move: There is no more telling measure of credibility than the cooperation you get from your team.  How will you know you’re succeeding? You’re succeeding:

  • if you’re approachable. The members of your team voluntarily come to you for advice and suggestions.
  • if you’re able to answer questions from team members even if you have to go elsewhere for the answers.
  • if you regularly acknowledge the accomplishments of others
  • if you solicit input and give feedback, always listening and thinking before responding.
  • if team members are taking action without being prodded.
  • if you are consistent and realistic in your expectations of others.
  • if co-workers and those to whom you report acknowledge your efforts and have begun to consult you for suggestions as a person who gets things done.
  • if you submit regular oral and written reports and updates to those to whom you report without being asked. It is essential to keep them in the loop about your team’s progress. They, too, must report on that progress to those higher up in the corporate structure.
  • if team members are not afraid to speak up during meetings to offer different scenarios and solutions. This is measure of trust. Your people now know they are valued members of the team.
  • if you have encouraged initiative. Team members are able to work independently of you, the team leader.

Robert Simons refers to encouraging initiative as creating “opportunity space.” Simons expands on this: “To transform opportunity space into outputs of value, managers must find ways to leverage the limited attention of their organizations.  Opportunity-seeking must be directed and focused.  Employees must be given cues about what to pay attention to; they must be encouraged to create the right kind of opportunities.”  Of course, the types of opportunity spaces available to a particular organization vary and will be defined by its corporate history and the decisions it made years ago, by the organization’s willingness to venture into new digital territories and markets, and by the growth history and positioning of its major brands.

Fourth, Step up to trust

It’s a simple fact: You can’t build accountability and commitment with the members of your team if they don’t trust you.  Trust is multi-layered. Delivering on real commitments in business, says David Arella, founder and CEO of 4Spires, builds trust better than performing at your best. Much of the time, commitments are too loose, too vague to stick. Yet making commitments, says Arella—and keeping them—“is what Covey and Merrill call the ‘Big Kahuna’ of all trust-building behaviors.”  How do you get it?

  • Be willing to trust. Audit your perceptions of others’ intentions and competence. If you are having difficulty giving trust – determine which of these it is.
  • Be current in your knowledge. Nothing destroys credibility more than being hesitant and having to say “I don’t know” time after time.  Come prepared to team meetings with the knowledge and information necessary to proceed with the project.  Be frank if you don’t have the answer; let the team know you’ll find out shortly and will report back.
  • Don’t be afraid to compromise when team members voice differences of opinion. Hear them out.  Give feedback. Their solutions may be better than yours.
  • Don’t waffle in what you say and do. Be consistent; consistency builds reliability, and that builds trust.
  • Be transparent. Team members can quickly sniff out hidden agendas. Remain open. Share unknowns and fears. Address unknowns if you can.
  • Talk to the talk. Share information about yourself and encourage others to do so.
  • Commit to the team vision by ensuring unified purpose and contributions of team members.

Fifth, Make Sure To Engage with Team Members and To Involve Them in Decisions

A good leader wants the heart, mind, and commitment of each team member. That’s why it’s important to keep engaged with your people. Both during and between staff meetings, check in daily with team members to insure that they’re meaningfully involved with the project and aligned with its goals.  Make sure to stress with each of them just how important their participation is in achieving those goals. Initially, it would be a good idea to visit with team members in their respective departments, work beside them for a few hours, and learn as much as you can about their duties and the operations of their area. This hands-on approach will gain you respect. However, if you find it necessary to prod your team to project completion, you’ll know they haven’t taken ownership of it; accepting ownership is the final step toward building a culture of accountability.

How can you be assured that team members are working productively, keeping committed, and remaining accountable to team goals?

The answer:

Ask them. Though this sounds obvious it is not always common with busy schedules. Keeping open channels of communication through feedback and sharing expectations will help ensure a culture of productivity and performance, commitment and accountability.  During team meetings, remember to keep working on trust. Have set times in the agenda for some trust building activities (for suggestions, see the bonus that came with this publication). Also, ground rules for discussions, conflict, and decision making will help the team establish boundaries and process. Make sure to remember that obtaining team consensus may be more difficult when team members are at a distance and not face to face.

The issue of goal-setting and performance-monitoring can be critical when you lead a virtual team whose members may be located in different parts of the globe, in different time zones, share different cultures, perhaps speak different languages, and even have different work ethics. While such diversity can often yield interesting solutions that may lead to higher productivity, the differences also present unique challenges to accountability and commitment. Larson and the LaFastos in their book Teamwork:

What Must Go Right, What Can Go wrong have laid it out clearly: Virtual teams need “a clear and elevating goal.” As a manager, goal-setting and monitoring productivity is your responsibility, and this means, say Larson and LaFasto, you must set “a specific performance objective, phrased in such concrete language that it is possible to tell, unequivocally, whether or not that performance objective has been attained.” Collaborating with your team to that end will provide communication challenges not effectively solved with e-mail.  Methods that closely approximate sit-down conversation are more effective; for example, teleconferencing meetings with you team.  Note that some people do view this with reservations; a teleconference is, after all, only a simulation of face-to-face contact, during which miscues can lead to costly miscommunication.

How can you be assured that virtual team members are working productively, keeping committed, and remaining accountable to team goals when they’re at a distance?

The answer is surprisingly obvious:

Maintain frequent contact.  As virtual team leader, you’re expected to monitor and evaluate the performance of individual team members as well as the productivity of the team itself. This means setting up a system to monitor discussions among team members.  Are they having difficulties? Personal problems? Problems working with other team members? Difficulties in relating to the project itself or to the team goal? It won’t be easy without the face-to-face contact from which team consensus is usually built. However, research by Kirkman et al. reveals that virtual teams, while slower to build consensus, in their diversity can actually be more productive than team members at headquarters.

Finally, Establish Accountability and Commitment for Yourself and Your Team

You’ve heard it before:  It’s the business buzz phrase for the 21st Century—a culture of accountability.  If you attribute this as placing blame, you’re mistaken.  As a manager, a lack of accountability is as much your responsibility as it is the team’s. And if you’ve had the misfortune of being hired by a business with poor leadership, it is likely that not only the culture of accountability is lacking in the organization, but other cultures are lacking as well. Nevertheless, to get your team to function productively, you’ll have to establish accountability and commitment among the members. “The key to building a culture of accountability,” reports the Relationship Management Institute, “is to find a way to lead people without ruling them.” That’s the way you’ll generate a high level of accountability in your people. Group facilitator Ian Cook puts it another way: The best leaders of the best teams “take personal accountability for their goals, habits, attitudes and performance.”

In real time, exactly what is accountability?  Can you define it? How does it differ from commitment? Or does it? Thomas Labadie, business writer for the Dallas, Texas, Examiner, defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” It will only function in an atmosphere, said Labadie, where trust and open communication have been established. In an ideal situation, team members not only fulfill expectations—they take accountability for doing what it takes to exceed them.  They don’t have to be reminded, pushed, or prodded. Like the fabled little train that could, they did–because they had internalized the commitment factor.

Accountability doesn’t lay blame: That’s negative.  But it does go both ways, and Arella, the 4Spires CEO, sees it as stemming from a sincere, two-way dialogue.  “Practicing accountability is much more than honoring due dates,” he says.  “A complete conversation between a requester and a performer with the power to really build trust will depend on the quality of the dialogue between the two parties.” Arella enumerates several factors that will influence that dialogue.  Among them are:

  • How explicitly the request was made
  • If the recipient of the request—the performer—was given the opportunity to negotiate terms of delivery and even to decline it
  • If both people were party to an explicit agreement
  • How well and how frequently requester and performer check in with each other during performance of the activity
  • Whether completion of the task was acknowledged formally by the requester

Make your commitment public

To be accountable, make or get a public commitment, not a lukewarm “maybe” or a listless, “Oh, sometime soon.”  That applies to your team members and to you, as well. You expect a commitment from team members; they, in turn, expect you to make a commitment to support them and, if necessary, to stand up for them. It shows you trust them and as you’ve seen, trust builds accountability.

Arella correctly notes that the higher the trust, the greater the level of accountability.  But, he notes, “most people think of managing accountability as a monitoring and enforcement approach.”  In other words, a leader makes assignments and holds his or her people accountable later for getting them done on time. That kind of thinking is flawed.  Here’s why: It fails to establish a collaborative, partnership arrangement.  Arella sees it as “a very top-down, autocratic approach,” one that implies enforcement and some kind of punishment.  The monitoring-and-enforcement approach also is one-sided, says Arella. You make a request (of a team member, a vendor, etc.), but because it’s not a true dialogue, with a contribution from the other end also, the management of accountability has thus been left to you.  A better, more suitable dialogue shifts responsibility from the requester (you) to the performer (vendor, team member), leaving it up to the performer—who now owns the task– to keep it on point and follow up.  This makes less check-in-and check-up time for you, the team leader or manager.

Exercise

Using the following questions suggested by Thomas Labadie, examine your own level of accountability.  Re-examine past situations in which you’ve been involved and examine new situations you find yourself facing.  Write down your answers.  You can also use the following questions with members of your team:

  • What can I control and can’t I control in Situation X?
  • Can I achieve the results I want by other means? What are they?
  • If I really “owned” it, is there something I could do differently?
  • Is there something I don’t want to know about my accountability in Situation X?

Owning a problem, a task, a situation, is more than merely acknowledging it exists.  Says business manager Fizza Khan, “The symptoms of psychological ownership are intense interest, passion, determination, and the persistent investment of energy to find the solution.”  Do you have that?  Do your team members?

Improve your accountability and that of your team

In the worst-case scenarios, your team members:

  • don’t seem to endorse the company’s mission and that of the team.
  • give lip-service only to the company’s products and client/customer base.
  • seem to “play” at their job rather than be fully and energetically invested in it.
  • wring their hands and talk about results without delivering them: “I just never got around to it. Sorry.”
  • give ambiguous responses and don’t seem to be buying into –or contributing toward–decisions.

It’s safe to assume that this lack of fervor equates with a lack of commitment.  You can take certain steps to raise the level of accountability and commitment in yourself and team members by building on the steps you’ve already navigated for establishing credibility.

  • Ramp up the level of recognition and acknowledgement that you give team members for performance. Don’t wait to praise. By the same token, lackluster or wrong behavior and failure to perform team service should be quickly nipped in the bud; this may involve coaching team members for higher performance.
  • Check to determine that team expectations, values, and performance standards are clearly defined and clearly understood.
  • Raise the level of productivity by involving all team members in determining the efforts needed to achieve it. It’s essential to keep themunified to the overall goals.
  • Make sure that the responsibilities of each team member are clearly defined and acknowledged and that accountability is clearly attached to each responsibility and task.  It’s your responsibility to empower employees rather than to command them.
  • Don’t wait for regularly scheduled team meetings to find out what is happening. Be available.  Walk around.  Listen to concerns. Remember that one-on-one conversations can pay off in information and insights.
  • Make sure you have the confidence of your team. Don’t indulge in personalities, don’t try to share personal confidences with them. Small talk may not be your friend. You’re a boss, after all. But do make sure to keep the team current, updating members about new products, changes in goals and strategies, modifications in project objectives.
  • Decide how you will measure team success. Metrics for evaluating each task should line up with individual responsibilities.  Remember: If you can’t evaluate productivity, neither can your supervisors. Why, then, has the team bothered?

Part of leadership accountability must be your willingness to accept responsibility for shortfalls, team mistakes, and personal errors.  Make sure to share credit with the team for your own successes.

Case History

In Japanese business, gemba is the place where value is created. It could be a department store, factory, chicken-processing plant, even a construction site.   In the Toyota production system, value is created on the factory floor where problems are visible and improvements can be made. Managers at Toyota plants provide a literal example of “walking the talk.”  A member of management, perhaps together with the head of a production line, will walk the production floor on a daily basis, each walk one-pointed in theme.  Themes vary, but they can range from eliminating waste, to culture and awareness, to accountability and commitment.  During the walk, he or she will ask a series of questions of team leaders and team members.  The questions are purposeful, designed to see how employees view and use the concepts (themes), how they employ materials such as charts that may illustrate the concepts, and to elicit suggestions for improvements.  Ideas are shared, creativity unleashed, and the unity of teamwork encouraged.  Overall, a picture emerges that values both the individual employee and team leader and unifies all production workers to the overall vision and objectives of the company.

Exercise

Study the techniques of successful managers and team leaders in your organization.  Which personal assets, which management techniques, do they use to achieve accountability and commitment pay-off? Can you mirror some of them? Make a list and follow it.

How do accountability and commitment play out?

We hold humanitarian agencies such as the Red Cross, Care International, and Oxfam accountable to the welfare of the publics they serve. We hold companies such as Ford Motor Company and Toyota accountable for delivering safe, efficient automobiles and trucks. We hold logging companies, oil companies, and ocean fisheries accountable for preserving ecosystems.  And we hold to public account the failure of TEPCO, the Japanese power company. Its failure to upgrade nuclear power plants built in the 1970s and regularly inspect them could have avoided thefires, explosions, and radiation leaks in six reactor units following the devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

In India, mismanagement and project failures are the rule rather than the exception, reports the web site www.excellentguru.com, an online business education community.  An exhaustive compendium of flaws, such as defects in plant erection and installations, weak project teams and/or managerial talents, and absence of personal accountability and commitment among project team members by the project team and/or the organization could be avoided, certainly controlled, “through committed involvement of all agencies in an integrated style, implementing sound project management practices and giving a significant weightage to human aspects of project management.”

Is accountability, then, performance-based?

Some say it is; others, that’s it a myth.  What do you say? Let’s examine another case history that lead to a crisis.

One industry analyst described the management practices leading to the massive 2010 Gulf Oil spill in the United States this way. First, says Richard Lepsinger, author of Closing the Execution Gap: How Great Leaders and Their Companies Get Results, there were too many players caught up in a “maze of relationships” that included BP—owner of the blown well—Transocean, which owned the rig, Halliburton which provided oil rig services, the Coast Guard, which licenses the crew of the oil rigs, and two federal governmental agencies–the Environmental Protection Agency and the Minerals Management Services, both of which made fragmented decisions before the crisis and after. These players failed to work well together, and the complexity of that network resulted in “a lack of clear accountability and poor-quality decisions.”  Furthermore, said Lepsinger, “a good structure should enhance accountability, coordination, and communication. It insures that decisions are being made as close to the action as possible.”  BP failed to develop an operational structure which “would have clarified the responsibilities, level of authority, and expectations for all involved.”

Next, despite BP’s advertised commitment to environmental protection and public safety, its operational decisions usually had two motives—saving money and saving time.  Says Lepsinger: “BP should have placed greater importance on aligning its leaders’ behavior with the company’s stated values and held them accountable for those behaviors.”

A third factor in the BP oil crisis can be laid at the feet of the government agencies involved, the principals of which knew of the risks yet granted BP a number of regulatory exceptions that made disaster more likely.  In Lepsinger’s judgment, “Ensuring that decisions and actions are coordinated across organization boundaries requires more than faith and words alone.  It takes shared goals, clear communication, and well-defined roles.”

Finally, without clear accountability and well-defined roles, without empowering personnel to act on their best judgment, BP couldn’t get decisions on how to handle the oil spill from the people who had the knowledge and skill to do it.  Says Lepsinger:“The right people have to be involved with the right decisions,” and he cites the case of a workman who didn’t call to shore for help because he didn’t have permission to do it while another workman was admonished for pressing the distress button without authorization.

Exercise

Below are 15 case histories in the public and private sectors where mistakes or mismanagement may have caused very real crises. Choose five and research them, looking for similarities and possible incongruities. How did each fail in accountability and commitment?  What would you have done better? Write out your thoughts and keep them for reference.

  • Enron
  • Exxon/Exxon Valdez
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Florida Public Schools
  • Maxxam, Inc./Pacific Lumber Company (the California Headwaters region)
  • Spectra Energy
  • European Bank for Reconstruction and Development(EBRD)/Mittal Steel/ Karaganda coal mines—all in Kazakhstan
  • Three-Mile Island
  • Ottawa (Canada) City Council
  • Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Wal-Mart
  • Chernobyl
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Golden Gem Growers
  • Apple, Inc.

Exercise

Compare what you’ve found to what you’re now seeing on your job.  Can you make any suggestions for improving job performance? Take a few minutes to list them. Again: Remember that supervisors—and your team members– will expect you to be action-oriented during those first 90 days and to produce some wins that,even if modest, will increase productivity.

Two accountability problems

A team has decided that adding social media to the company’s marketing mix should be a viable option.  If approved, the team “will have to hold themselves accountable for measurable outcomes,” say Nick Smith, Robert Wollan, and Catherine Zhou, authors of The Social Media Management Handbook.  In addition, says the trio, the teams will be closely scrutinized for measurable results and “most likely will need to demonstrate return on investment (ROI).” This situation presents numerous questions that have to be answered, say the trio, “in order to insure that investments in social media align to business goals and are properly controlled and managed.”  In addition, the contributions of employees involved in the enterprise must be measured and, if appropriate, rewarded.

Toyota found itself scrambling in 2010 when it had to announce to shareholders, customers, and the global public at large that it was recalling 2.3 million vehicles for defects in acceleration and, in addition, was suspending production of another eight models.  Lumped together, that accounted for 57 percent of Toyota’s business.  According to Capstrat president Karen Albritton, “it’s one thing for a leader to admit a mistake, it’s another to be accountable for it.  This doesn’t mean ferreting out who’s to blame, although sometimes that’s a necessary part of making sure the problem doesn’t happen again.  Accountability means making it right.”

Accountability also means making commitments and taking responsibility.

Accepting responsibility for your team’s performance is an intrinsic part of team operations.  So is stepping up to the plate, admitting mistakes and shortfalls, and accepting the consequences.  The pressure for mistakes will build, of course.  But a team leader willing to take personal responsibility for mistakes removes some of that pressure from team members and gains further respect.  In speaking to the Institute of Industrial Engineers, Richard Lepsinger places great stress on after-the-fact accountability. “Rather than berate a person for failure to deliver results,” he says, “reinforce his or her accountability and focus on solving problems.”  Lepsinger suggests that blame-laying behavior can be avoided if team members have been coached to ask themselves these questions:

  • “What can I do now to get back on track?”
  • “What can I do to prevent this problem from happening again in the future?
  • “What could I have done to prevent the problem?
  • “What might I have done that contributed to the problem?”

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) coaches managers to make sure staff members commit to accountability each time they start a new project.  Staff members, says the TSA, “should commit to personal accountability at the start of a new assignment or project by agreeing to analyze what happened when issues or problems arise, to identify what they could have done differently to prevent or deal with the issue or problems, and to identify what they will do differently in the future based on their experience in this situation.” At the outset of a project, you and your team should collaborate to set realistic and measurable goals, decide on the methods for achieving them, and develop criteria for evaluating success.  It doesn’t hurt to play devil’s advocate in this process, either.

Frankly, accountability requires you to set the standards of behavior for your team and to act on them yourself.  If the standards you set are realistic, make sure to praise those on the team who demonstrate the desired behaviors; similarly, make sure to coach, redirect, and encourage those who haven’t.  This may sound simplistic.  It’s not, but achieving accountability, says leadership trainer and consultant Chris Edmonds, isn’t complicated.  Noting that “skills for holding others accountable are different from actions for holding others accountable, he suggests you “focus on eliminating any policies, procedures, systems, or dynamics that hurt or hinder the demonstration of desired behaviors.  Developing what Edmonds calls a values survey is a way of monitoring team members. The values survey is optional: Use it judiciously.  It shouldn’t be used at all unless team members first have agreed on its helpfulness. The values survey assesses how well (or poorly) individual team members demonstrate the desired behaviors over a period of time. It can be used periodically, perhaps throughout a year, and then used as follow-up at year’s end.

Exercise

Study the team you’ve inherited or the one you’ve just formed.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are the members committed to task objectives?
  • Do they subscribe to the values of the organization and the goals of team projects?
  • Are they willing to expend the efforts to achieve them? Can you trust your instincts?

You don’t need to. Remember: The higher the commitment level, the more productive a person’s performance.  Hedge your instincts those first 90 days by scheduling time to meet personally with individual team members. Your task at this point is to assess their personal level of commitment and listen attentively. Let’s see how this plays out:

A Case Study

It was considered the Cadillac of long-term healthcare facilities in a tri-state service area.  Corporately owned, Roche de Wellmark was one of 136 such Wellmark facilities nationwide, most of the others more modest institutions with far fewer beds than the 148 provided patients and short-term residents at the Roche de Wellmark.

Leavitt Blondell received the call at 4 p.m. Friday.  It was distinguished by one word: “Help.”  An experienced marketing and public relations manager, Levitt had managed crises before and had a record of putting out fires and spearheading development of new programs and initiatives. He was on the job at 8 a.m. Monday.  Within 24 hours, after conducting initial research, Blondell smelled fire once again.  Roche de Wellmark was in deep trouble.  Its filled-bed rate, or census, had nose-dived and now remained at 82 percent. Competition in the tri-state area, however—facilities less medically competent, less-attractive, offering far fewer amenities–were running at 100 percent capacity with long waiting lists. Why? By the end of the following day, Blondell had finished touring the facility and was impressed with its rehabilitation wing, its skilled medical care, private patient and resident rooms and suites, its dining room, well-trained dietary and wait staff, and other amenities.  He scheduled sit-down time to meet individually with members of the administration and followed that by meeting individually and in group with skilled medical staffers and on-call physicians, with the housekeeping and culinary staff, with the cadre of volunteers, and with maintenance workers. He also called on a handful of physicians in the immediate area and learned that the Wellmark admissions director periodically brought cookies to their office.  Apparently, this was the extent of the Roche de Wellmark marketing effort.

His conversation with the facility’s administrative head the following day spoke volumes.  Accountable to a rarely-seen vice-president of marketing and other top marketing heads at nearby corporate headquarters, the administrator—a social worker by profession –claimed that Roche de Wellmark’s low, 82 percent census was caused by a negative image it held among townspeople in the three-state area. Why?  Because, said the administrator, the Roche had demitted from the Medicare certification program and become a totally private-pay medical institution.

Blondell wasn’t so sure that was the reason.

In subsequent individual and group discussions with staff members, Blondell learned that the administration’s negative attitude had spread like an infection through the 48 employees. They felt constantly under the administrative gun to produce and frankly had more or less given up trying. Blondell now smelled more than fire—he smelled fear and anxiety for their jobs.  He determined that an ineffective and poorly trained administrator, plus a lack of knowledgeable and helpful support from corporate headquarters, had failed not only the healthcare system but its employees, who surely carried that negative atmosphere into the communities where they lived.  Added to that, corporate recently had mandated that the facility choose, plan, and stage several public events designed to benefit a few charities and thus to raise visibility for Roche de Wellmark.

How was Blondell to inject new life into the medical workplace? How was he to achieve 100 percent census within the goal of a year?

Even before commissioning a marketing survey that would eventually confirm his hunches, Blondell knew that the key to raising census would be the 48 staff members–admissions, medical, housekeeping, dietary, maintenance, even volunteers. With corporate approval, he hired a marketing firm to survey the internal publics and scientifically sample targeted external publics over a wide geographic area.  Results confirmed his suspicions: Rather than being perceived negatively for its demission from Medicare, the facility instead was perceived as cold, distant, unfriendly, uncaring–an uncommunicative healthcare facility uninvolved in the communities it should be serving.  Blondell set to work. He drew up a set of long-range and short-range objectives and the action plans to support them. To fulfill them, he would need accountability and commitment on his team, and that meant collaboration to carry out the action plans. He had12 months. Could he raise census to 100 percent by that time?

Could you?

This exercise asks you to assume Leavitt Blondell’s mission. Without playing a blame game, state the problem and its history.  Now develop long-range and short-range plans for the facility and the action plans and strategies to achieve them. Then choose one event and select the charity it will benefit.  Research and describe both; draw up action plans and strategies to execute the event. Make sure to include the metrics that will be used to evaluate performance. Now describe how you will get accountability and commitment on your team.

How am I doing?

At the end of your first 90 days on the job, conduct a frank self-assessment of your performance. Write it out. Remember that it’s your performance you’ll be evaluating. Regardless of how well team members may have handled accountability and commitment, ultimately it all comes down to you, the team leader.

Books, Articles, and Websites for Your Reference

Albritton, Karen. (2010, January 27). “Toyota: Accountability Before Trust.” Retrieved from http://www.capstrat.com/insights/blog/toyota-accountability-before-trust/

Arella, D. (2010, September 24). “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done”—My Top Ten Quotes. “Conversations about Commitments. Retrieved from http://4spires.com/blog/?cat=4

Ibid. (2010, August 13). “Accountability: Sharing the Load.” Conversations about Commitments .Retrieved from http://4spires.com/blog/?p=39

Ibid. (2010, August 9). Conversations about Commitments. Retrieved from http:// 4spires.com/blog/?cat=4

Connors, R., Smith, Tom, & Hickman, Craig T. (2004). The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam.

Cook, Ian, (n.d.). “Our guiding beliefs about leadership.” Fulcrum Associates. Vienna, VA, and Toronto, Ontario.

Covey, M. R., & Merrill, R. (2006).The speed of trust: The one thing that changes everything.” Goshen, IN: Better World Books.

Edmonds, S. C. (2011, February 28). “Four steps to consistent accountability.” Driving results through culture: The powerful impact of culture. Retrieved from http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com/?p=1109.

Ibid. (2011, February 21). “Doing the right thing. You’ll sleep better.” Driving results through culture: The powerful impact of culture. Retrieved from http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com/?p=1048

Ibid. (2011, January 10). Surround yourself with values-aligned people.” Driving results through culture: The powerful impact of culture. Retrieved from http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com/?p=977

Ibid. (2010, May 7). Accountability=Consequence Management.” Driving results through culture: The powerful impact of culture. Retrieved from http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com/?p=108

I4 Process. (n.d.). “Corporate training: Building leadership accountability and commitment.”  Retrieved from http://www.i4process.com/training/leadership_accountability.html

Labadie, T. (n.d.). “Got Accountability?” Examiner.com. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/workplace-in-dallas/got-accountability

Khan, Fizza.Mvergence Media Technologies. Lahore, Pakistan.

Kirkman, B. L., Rosen, B., Tesluk, P. E., &  Gibson, C. B. (2004, Autumn). “Leadership challenges in global virtual teams: Lessons from the field.” SAM Advanced Management Journal. (69 )4, 4-10.

Larson, C. E.,LaFasto, F. M., & LaFasto, M. J. (1989). Teamwork: What must go right, what can go wrong. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

LeadershipNow.com (n.d.). Leading Thoughts: Quotes on leadership. Retrieved from http://www.leadershipnow.com/leadershipquotes.html

Lee, S. (2010, February 20). “Teamwork series: Dealing with accountability and commitment.” Retrieved from http://blog.sysil.com/2010/02/20/teamwork-dealing-with-accountability=and-commit

Lepsinger, R. (2010, November/December). “Building accountability and commitment.” Institute of Industrial Engineers. Retrieved from http://www.iinet.org/details.aspx?id=23560

Ibid. (2010). “Execution meltdown: Four key failures that sank BP.” Closing the execution gap: How great leaders and their companies get results. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/A. Wiley.

Ibid. (2010). Closing the Execution Gap: How great leaders and their companies get results. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Relationship Management Institute. (2009, May 15). “How to build a culture of accountability.” Retrieved from http://www.relationshipmanagementinstitute.com/tag/reputation/

Robinson, W. (2011). Your First 90 Days in a new job (how to make an impact). LaVergne, TN.

Simons, R. (1994). Levers of Control. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Smith, N., Wollan, R., with Zhou, C. (2011). The social media management handbook. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Transportation Security Administration. (2011, March 9). Accountability. Retrieved from http://www.tsa.gov/join/benefits/editorial_1437.shtm

Watkins, M. (2004, April). “The first 90 days.” Executive book summaries: Critical Strategies for new leaders at all levels..(26)4, part 2. Concordville, PA: Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

WIKI (n.d.).Managing Groups and Teams/How do you build high-performing virtual teams?” Retrieved from http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Managing_Groups_and-Teams/How_Do_You-Build-High-p

www.excellentguru.com  (2009, November 5). “Causes of project failure/mismanagement.” Retrieved from http://www.excellentguru.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=215:cau