Building strong relationships – Accountability matters

If you want to build strong relationships with your partners, you need to build trust. Trust comes from being open and honest. It also comes from saying what you’re going to do and then following through on your promise. Every time!

If you have strong relationships and trust, the sky is the limit to what you can achieve. If you don’t have that basis, you will forever be the lone warrior and limited by what you as an individual can do.

Strong relationships require trust. Trust requires accountability.

Value your partner

Value your partner the same way you would like to be valued. If you need them to do something for you, explain why it’s important. Give real deadlines when you need something back, not sandbagged ones that will make life more comfortable on your end but put the other person under unnecessary pressure.

Assume maturity in their planning and hold them accountable against their promises.

Own your promises

On the flip side, your partners need to be able to trust the promises you have made. Don’t let things slip, don’t have them check back in and remind you of something you said you would do.

Close the loop on any actions you have. Do what you said you would do. Deliver in time and with the expected high quality.

Earning trust is one of my three favorite Amazon leadership principles. Here is how the official definition goes – however, in my opinion, it misses the accountability piece:

Earn Trust

Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Here’s a simple framework to ensure accountability

Establishing ownership

  1. If you need something – If you need something, establish explicit ownership. Get an explicit commitment. There is no half-commitment. Ownership is digital – either you own it, or you don’t.
  2. If you are asked to do something – If you are asked to do something, usually commitment is assumed. If that assumption is wrong, you must explicitly say NO. It can be ok to deprioritize or postpone something, but you have to SAY it explicitly to the requestor.
  3. Pretending ignorance doesn’t give you a free pass – Haven’t seen a task or request is not a good excuse if you did get the information. Pretending not to see something is not ok.

Following through on ownership

  1. Owning means owning – You own it, you do it, you fix it. Don’t just drop a task last minute because you have overcommitted yourself. Once you own something and realize that you cannot deliver it, YOU are responsible for finding a way to get it delivered, not the person who has asked you in the first place.
  2. Accountability is a part of the performance – Work is not a place where you make promises and then fail to meet them. When you miss something once for good reasons, people will work around it. When you miss your promises repeatedly, then you will lose trust and support. You will run into performance problems.
  3. If you don’t get support, escalate effectively – If a deliverable from someone else holds you back, you need to escalate quickly. Waiting for someone else but not letting anyone know is not a good reason for not delivering. If you need something, say it right away!

The flip side of the accountability expectation

Some organizations drive themselves into a culture of non-accountability. They do that by frequently changing priorities and not following through on things that previously have been the most critical thing to do.

If priorities change all the time, employees cannot be accountable. Period. Employees learn this quickly and resort to ignoring tasks and promises unless they serve their own needs. After an employee has missed their promises often enough and without consequence (because the leader’s mindset has moved to the next shiny object), they will have learned that accountability doesn’t matter and that they can’t control their ability to deliver what the leader wants anyway.

If requests become too much, too unpredictable, or too random, people will disengage and stop owning things. They will lose their sense of connection and accountability

If you ask for something, you need to follow through, and you must value the deliverables you get back and take action on them. If priorities do change, tell the people who are working on tasks for you about the change early enough so that they don’t waste their time and energy.


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Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
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Developing an Entrepreneurial mindset

‘Entrepreneurial mindset’ is one of those terms that people like to throw around these days. But what does it actually mean? Does it only apply to startups and Silicon Valley companies, or is it something we all should care about?

The short answer is that we ALL should care about it and strive to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset in everything we do. In my mind, ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ or entrepreneurial thinking means that we 1) care personally and deeply about what we’re doing, 2) take a forward-looking and proactive approach to thinking through future challenges and opportunities, and 3) feel committed to do what needs to get done, whether someone tells us to or not.

I recently listened to some courses on LinkedIn that suggested you should revisit your job description regularly to ensure that you are doing what is expected from you and thus advance your career. I think that’s terrible advice! It might work for highly repetitive jobs (think retail checkout person), but not for the majority of jobs we have today and even less for the future’s work requirements. Most job descriptions are written without a complete picture of what needs to be done (yes, managers make mistakes), and even if they were perfect, times and demands change way too fast to keep up with them.

If you want to achieve greatness, you need to do what needs to get done. Not what someone has told you to do. Sometimes you even have to ignore what others are telling you.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can ignore your core job responsibilities. Not by a long stretch. What it means is that following those gets you to mediocracy. To be great, you need to go beyond expected and documented tasks and develop your own sense of what matters and what needs to get done.

To be great means to take ownership, to think critically, to propose what needs to get done, and to think beyond what your manager understands – after all, you know your space better than anyone else. To be great means to look at your work as your own business that you want to make successful and exceptional. To be great means taking the entrepreneurial perspective.

Don’t wait for others to tell you what to do. Look at your work as your personal business. Decide what needs to get done (and what doesn’t). Take control!

I saw many of those exceptional behaviors as people stepped up and thought out of the box to deal with COVID. Keep up that mindset, and it will serve you well regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in.


Did you like this post? Want to read more? Check out our newest book!

Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Ownership

One of the things that define how Amazon runs its business is what they call the Leadership principles. These principles are treated like religion. They define daily business processes, project priorties, how decisions are made, and apparently, they work really well for the company’s success. Those leadership principles are also widely regarded as operational blueprints for many startups. Over my time with Amazon, I learned to love some of them, see the value in others, and realize that a critical one was missing (I’ll tell you that secret over a beer if you’re interested).

Since those Leadership principles are universally applicable and useful, I will pick a specific one every now and then and share its official description as well as my personal take and experience. As always, I would love your thoughts, feedback, and differing point of view.

Ownership

Ownership

Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”

To me, ownership is probably the most important one of the leadership principles. It is so important because it defines how we approach our jobs. Are we just in to tick off hours and collect a paycheck, or do we deeply care about what we’re doing and want to positively impact our field, our customers, and our co-workers?

For that reason, in my mind, ownership is also closely linked to the three pillars that drive job satisfaction (purpose, autonomy, and mastery). If we don’t step up and take personal ownership, we will not feel any control over these three pillars either.

Ownership means caring about what we do. Ownership means not waiting to be told what we should focus on but proactively assessing our space all the time and moving forward with the things that matter most. Ownership is the difference between looking at the clock ticking away versus looking at your customers and thinking through how you can improve their lives.

Ownership is also about being in control, which again, is one of the key drivers for job satisfaction as well as one of the key things that cause burnout if it’s lacking. If you don’t show ownership and take control, someone else will fill the void for you and tell you what to do.

Always remember:

Ownership is taken, not granted!


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Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First
A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9781077278929

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If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.