Tag Archives: accountability

Quick Review: Crucial Accountability

After reading Crucial Conversations a couple months ago I wanted to also read Vital Smarts’ Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior. It used to be called Crucial Confrontations, but the name change was probably a good thing.  I’m supervising a lot more people and coaching some others on supervising and have been looking for more tools on how to establish supervising relationships characterized by development and accountability.

There’s some overlap with crucial conversations, but there was sufficient new content that was really helpful. However, there are so many small pieces or elements of this book that a review is tough.  A lot of the book functions like a flow chart to supervising – which is really practical from a reference standpoint.  The book covers a lot of ground – from personal storytelling and identity to conversational dynamics to supporting structures and mechanisms.

There is also a lot of added content borrowed from the Vital Smarts book Influencers when discussing how to coach people for change. There are some aspects of non-directive coaching, but given supervision and accountability dynamics – not all coaching will be able to be non-directive. But the book offers a lot of suggestions and ideas to help address these conversations. It discusses basic conflicts as well as ongoing patterns that merit intentional engagement.

One of the more helpful components is the authors’ identification of common ways leaders take alternative paths to hard conversations or holding others accountable. There’s an in-depth section exploring the ways leaders bypass accountability for safety and security or certainty. It also covers elements such as passivity, blaming, manipulation, passive-aggressive, and other common approaches used by leaders to avoid having the hard conversation.

This is a good one for the toolbox of the leader – every leader needs a clear philosophy and system for how to supervise others and hold people accountable in ways that empower and hold up grace and truth instead of the alternatives such as control, manipulation, avoidance, condescension, and fear-based strategies.  This book can help you evaluate your approach and generate a lot of ideas for a fresh vision for your leadership moving forward.

The vital smarts website has a great companion pdf download as well that can walk through the more collaborative problem-solving dimensions of a crucial accountability discussion.


Quick Review: Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

It’s one of my commitments every year, while I’m in the small kid stage of parenting to read a parenting book. I have tended to satisfy this goal of mine through general books that “somehow relate” to parenting, but I have felt the need now that our kids are a little older to actually read some parenting books that are more specific and targeted towards parents with our kids’ ages in mind.

So before 2016 came to a close, I got in a parenting book by reading Kristen Welch’s Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World.  Genre-wise, this is a mom blogger book. The author is a blogger and she quotes a lot of bloggers. But it’s well done and is rich in illustrations that resonate well if you have kids in the same age brackets. Where we are at in parenting fit the insights of the book to a tee.

Each chapter covers some significant area for parenting in today’s world. And by today’s world – the context is primarily western and more or less affluent. Living in Manila, our kids are spared from some of the materialism and excess discussed in the book.  But in other ways, being westerners living in a developing nation we have more resources and can live comfortably compared to many others. Entitlement can grow even in the developing world.

Topics include discipline, setting limits, social media best practices for parenting, financial systems to promote stewardship and selflessness, and how to cultivate servant’s hearts among others.  Each chapter includes some suggestions and best practices for developing children organized by different age groups – there were a lot of helpful ideas in them.

Our kids are just starting to learn to use the internet, but we’ve been holding them off from social media. But it was just helpful to get a primer on social media issues and dangers and possible parameters to help us empower and protect our kids.  This was one of the more helpful chapters for me to listen to.

But in general – the message is consistent and clear and helpful, that for kids to abandon entitlement, parents must abandon it first. And I couldn’t agree with that more.  We just don’t often assess our own hearts first and realize how we often are the source of some of the problems we are frustrated by. This value of the book is how it can help parents check their own hearts first and then think through how best come alongside children in a way that is helping them learn to live in reality and with a grateful and others focused, serving posture.

It gave me some new conviction to engage some things I have been getting softer on without realizing it. I’m refreshed and motivated to be as intentional as needed to guard against entitlement and to help our kids grow and develop into people who can love and serve in the true reality of this world – and not in an escapist or fantasy world that they are expecting to rescue them from challenge or struggle.

It’s a pretty fun read with a lot of humor in it, but the substance is solid.


Stats Lie Pt 3: ….Except For When They Don’t

This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series Stats Lie

I titled this series “Stats Lie.”  And they do sometimes.

But sometimes they don’t! 

Sometimes we do.

But sometimes measurements are so clear and so powerfully self-evident that there’s not a whole lot that people can do to skew them. And there’s a whole lot of measurements we better pay attention to!

Say your blood pressure gets tested at 180/100.   How are you going to confuse that for anything else than you better get some help fast!

Say your gas tank is on E and the light’s on – you know you only have a small window to refill before you pay the price.

Say your checking account is lower than what you’re outgoing bills are.  Well – the numbers speak for themselves.

In all phases of life, we have measurements and we use numbers to gauge health or progress.  It’s a necessity and we can’t avoid it.  To avoid measurements is to either live in a world of wishful thinking (fantasy) or deep denial.

Those who reject responsible metrics are those who are rejecting adulthood, truth, and accountability.

Measurements, used properly, connect us to reality – and reality is our friend (if we hope to be leading towards any kind of meaningful future).   So just because some stats or measurements are somewhat malleable in the hands of leaders and people does not mean we should throw them all out the window.  You’ll find yourself lost if that be the case.

Several years back we uncovered the fact that a large percentage of our staff were significantly underfunded with also significant amounts of personal debt.  While it hurt us short term, would it do us good to ignore that stat or explain it away?  No.  We had to engage and do the hard work of leading into the exposed area of needed leadership.   And those efforts have paid off.

Some measurements are somewhat self-evident and there’s not a lot of interpretive work needed.  Most measurements in ministry leadership often do need a lot of interpretive work.  That’s doesn’t diminish the need for measurements, just speaks to the complex sociological and spiritual and human nature of how things work together systemically.

There’s more to come on things that affect the interpretation of statistics and thus the the theme of how stats can lie.  But know this – stats hardly ever do damage by themselves, it’s how they’re interpreted and used that can be good or bad.

And some measurements scream loudly enough to overcome even the most ignorant or biased perspectives we can bring to the table.

What measurements do you think are helpful and scream the loudest in your context?  

What measurements do you think are highly contextual and thus more subject to human interpretation?

A Team’s Last Line of Defense Pt 2

Now that I’ve laid out the metaphor and context of “A Team’s Last Line of Defense” in Part One, I want to point out that in a team setting there are always (or usually) one or two people that are the “goalkeepers” – they see when the values and vision are being compromised and they try to step in to keep things on track, guarding against decisions and processes that undermine core values.  They see the big picture in a value and holistic sense and understand how various decisions influence other aspects of what the team’s going after.  These people tend to keep us honest.  Sometimes they function prophetically.  Sometimes they just remind us what needs to be happening.  But in what they do they provide reminders of the team’s value foundation and what is most important.

But the fewer people that are “doing their job” as Doc Rivers likes to say on a team, the more pressure is put on these individuals to speak up, challenge processes, or do damage control.  Goals are allowed and with each one the trust and meaning that depends on the integrity of the team breaks down a little more.

Here’s one of my observations about teams – when job descriptions become the sole ground for accountability on teams, then over time the pressure to preserve the integrity of the team and the foundation of values falls increasingly to the instinctual team “goalkeepers” and if things don’t improve those people will grow disillusioned.  Why I highlight the job description culture is that it nurtures a CYA environment (which stands for Cover Your bAckside in this family friendly blog).

We have to expand our view of “Doing Your Job” to the world of reinforcing values as opposed to just taking care of what you are supposed to be doing on paper.  When people view “doing their job” as only extending to their own job descriptions, it creates massive cracks in the system that things can fall through that run against the foundation of values.  Goals get allowed and nobody really learns or changes anything because they can point to their job description and say, “Hey, that’s not my job” or they can absolve themselves of guilt.   Or decisions are made by other people outside of one’s own scope of responsibility, but they undermine the values that everyone has committed to.  A failure to speak up in these moments or engage on the level of values can allow the overall integrity of the team to be undermined significantly.

CYA cultures end up discouraging the instinctive “goalkeepers” and likely send them elsewhere since after a while people understandably get tired of getting scored upon when there’s no hope of the defense getting any better.

So what am I proposing?  Every member of the team needs to be first and foremost committed to the team values and a clear understanding of what’s most important in how things are done.  Each person needs to be an advocate for the values and the overall culture you are trying to advance.  They need to be perhaps even more committed to this than their own job description.

Every team member needs to embrace what it means to be the team’s “Last Line of Defense” against integrity breaches.  If this doesn’t become part of the team and leadership culture, then you will lose the instinctive goalkeepers you do have and you will pay the price.  Teams have to spend consistent time talking about values because that the internalization of those values dictates the group identity.

In case anyone thinks that my train of thought on this topic is nurturing a blame shifting or fault finding culture, what I would say is that such a critique is still fundamentally reflective of a job description mentality.  It’s not about blame shifting – it’s about fighting for your values and preserving your integrity.  Perhaps there is more accountability to go around, but the focus is positive – on advancing your values.  Gracious accountability is possible.  Blame shifting is toxic.

What do you think?  Is it possible to nurture an environment where everyone sees their role as being the last line of defense against decisions, indecision, processes, and practices that undermine integrity and core values?    How do you think this can be done in your context?

And finally, there’s a leadership metaphor here in this picture though I’m not yet sure what it is.  Feel free to share your own interpretation 🙂


Try First-Guessing

As a Cub fan I’ve watched a lot of games on WGN over the years.  One of the great Cubs announcers for a time was Steve Stone (who now does TV on WGN for the White Sox).  He coined a phrase that I recently have been thinking of in a new light – “first-guessing.”Second-guessing is actually a significant force in the world’s economy today.  Sports radio, newspapers, blogging, twitter, and other venues all provide outlets for second guessing.  In sports it’s when a coach or manager makes a big decision and then it doesn’t work out or it fails spectacularly.  Then it’s time to release the hounds – the hordes of second-guessers who invest tons of energy talking about what a bad decision it was. It’s also a leadership reality.Steve Stone would frequently give his two cents before the results of the decision happened or even before the decision was made by the manager.  When the results materialized, he would claim credit for “first-guessing” in contrast to the “second-guessers” who just pile on the complaining bandwagon after the fact.I like that and it appeals to how I like to operate.  When it comes to work and leadership, I let go of second guessing a long time ago.  I still will have my thoughts on what should have been done or what would have worked better potentially, but I don’t engage in the Monday Morning Quarterback aspect anymore with a sense of angst about how my leaders let me down as it relates to a particular decision.    It’s good to learn from bad decisions – our own and others decisions, but second guessing is not typically helpful.First-guessing is awesome unless you’re being a jerk about it.  But weighing in with a constructive observation about you think should be done or could be done can be really helpful.  First, first-guessing can contribute insight and input that can help shape decisions.  Silent and passive people in decision making processes aren’t really influencing much and therefore they really in my mind disqualify themselves from second guessing.Second, first-guessing can help develop your ethos or your leadership presence.  I’m not talking about a self-promoting way, but you develop more leadership credibility when you’re offering solutions in a timely way rather than criticizing when it’s too late to do anything about it.Third, first-guessing has a vibe of personal responsibility and accountability to it.  It’s a sign someone is engaged and invested and contributing.   Second guessing can manifest itself in throwing others under the bus and building up one’s own sense of superiority at the expense of others.  First guessing allows you to stand with others shoulder to shoulder.  You’re risking as much as anyone else because you’re willing to stick your neck out ahead of time.Constructive first-guessing doesn’t mean popping off or demanding your way.  It means you’re giving voice to what you think is best, but there still needs to be an attitude of submission and humility.One factor that challenges first-guessing in a constructive sense:  leaders that don’t allow it. First-guessing will typically happen anyway in an informal sense, but if leaders don’t allow channels to hear from people that have significant insight or solutions to contribute then they almost deserve the second-guessing when it comes.First-guessing can be prophetic.  Or it can be naive or misguided.  But at least it’s not offered in hindsight.  So if you have thoughts on what needs to happen, err on the side of first-guessing rather than second-guessing.What other benefits or problems do you see with first-guessing?Here’s a recent example of first-guessing from my beloved and horrible Cubbies.  Listen to current Cub’s analyst Bob Brenly and then what transpires.