What’s the Best Path to Accountability?

I once had a friend whose business motto was “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”  It’s not surprising that he eventually closed his doors – that management style went out of fashion about a century ago, and it was never effective to begin with!

In business we’re always focused on accountability. Naturally, we want everyone to be doing their job correctly and to the highest possible standard, but how we get to that point matters. Sure, you can demand accountability from your employees, but a forced approach is almost certainly going to backfire. You want your employees to feel encouraged and engaged, not criticized, distracted, and likely looking for another job behind your back.

The first book I’m reading in 2020 is Inspiring Accountability in the Workplace by Elaina Noell. Noell is the founder of a management strategy consulting firm that utilizes neuroscience to empower leaders to design company cultures that increase employee engagement, productivity, and accountability. Essentially, her firm’s goal is to help businesses override old patterns to carve new pathways toward success.

The title of the book sparked my interest because traditional accountability models leave a lot to be desired. Leaders often feel frustrated and out of options when employees don’t live up to established standards, while the employees feel scolded, discouraged, and uninterested in trying any harder. In Elaina Noell’s system, on the other hand, a foundation of neuroscience and human dynamics helps inspire productivity and results. It’s a much more appropriate approach for the 21st century, and avoids a lot of unnecessary friction and damaging conflict between managers and employees.

So if you’re looking for the best way to implement a strong, healthy culture of accountability in your own business in 2020, I encourage you to read Noell’s book, or listen to it on Audible. The book’s toolkit is robust, and the strategies will pay dividends as we navigate a workforce that has many options in today’s economy.

How Can You Assemble Your Dream Team?

One of the issues businesspeople face every day is human resources – hiring and firing. How do you find the right people, retain them, and keep them inspired? Naturally the ideal would be to have a team of employees who are engaged, motivated, and working together toward a common goal. The reality, of course, can be a little more complicated.

There are two resources that help shape my thinking on this topic. The first is a book that was given to me by Linda Bishop of Thought Transformation, entitled How to Think like Leonard da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, by Michael J. Gelb.

Gelb uses da Vinci’s works and methods as a foundation to introduce seven principles that are the building blocks of creative genius. Whenever I’m interviewing a candidate and any of the seven traits from Gelb’s book surfaces, I sit up and take notice, but the one that captures my attention most readily is curiosity.

Curious minds typically make great employees. They always want to learn, they want to understand the process, they are motivated to improve processes, and usually they are optimistic, glass-half-full types. They tend to be detail-oriented and eager to get things right.

If you’re interviewing a candidate and they already seem enthusiastic not only about being employed, but also about your company and how they can be useful to the team, that’s a great sign. In turn, it’s immensely helpful if you can tap into your own sense of curiosity to find out what your employees need to succeed and thrive.

The second resource is from the Harvard Business Review. It’s an interview with Claudio Fernández-Aráoz about his book It’s Not the How or the What but the Who. The main takeaway is that hiring based on experience is not necessarily as important as hiring on potential.

To use Stafford as an example, given today’s tight job market and considering our relatively niche needs, we can’t always expect to find experienced press and bindery operators. In a sense that doesn’t matter, though, because those are skills that can be taught. What we’re more interested in is finding people with the right mindset – those who have an innate desire to learn, those who follow their curiosity as described above, and those who enjoy taking on a challenge and making it their own.

If someone shows that they have the potential to excel and flourish, the rest is simply down to training them well and guiding them in the right direction.

Keep these ideas in mind when you’re seeking out and vetting candidates, and remain open to the possibility that the candidate who looks most impressive on paper may not be the automatic right choice. You never know who might surprise you with their ability to think outside the box and bring something new and innovative to the table – those are the employees that you’ll truly cherish in the long run.