You’ve just finished your annual strategic planning meeting, which hopefully if you listened to episode 73 of our podcast, went a little better than usual. Now you’re sitting at your desk with binders full of big ideas and lofty goals for where to take your company next. And as a leader, it’s your responsibility to seize that heightened energy from your team and run with it. So how are you going to do that?
One word: ACCOUNTABILITY
On first glance, ‘accountability’ might conjure up some negative feelings. It certainly does for Jan, who has long associated the word with blame.
“When people say, I'm gonna hold you accountable, it means you've got to do this. Because if you don't, you're gonna suffer the consequences,” Jan says. “And that's not what accountability is all about.”
What accountability should look like is you as an authentic leader using your management skills to inspire your team. Instead of just “trying your best,” start thinking outside the box and pushing your team to reach for loftier goals. After all, how are we going to grow and change this industry if we’re only focused on playing it safe?
In the second part of this special solo series of Finding Gravitas, Jan breaks down company accountability and how to do it right in the automotive industry. For more on accountability, check out Jan’s recent episode with Brian Moran, co-author of Uncommon Accountability.
Themes discussed in this episode:
- What accountability really means
- How to be clear about your goals and expectations
- Why positive language gets things done
- What it means to take ownership of an objective
- How to create a safe environment for high performance
- The importance of metrics and how to track them
Featured Expert: Jan Griffiths (Host)
What she does: Jan is the co-founder and president of Gravitas Detroit, an organization dedicated to cultivating authentic leadership by providing courses, workshops, speaking events, and more. She is also the host of the Finding Gravitas podcast.
Timestamped inflection points from the show
[0:37] Adjust your strategy: Jan recaps her top five tips from episode 73 on how to improve your strategic planning meetings to create a more authentic leadership culture.
[3:14] Where to go next: Effective strategic planning is essential, but what are the needed steps to put your new ideas into action? How do you carry out objectives and keep people accountable for their goals?
[6:32] Definition and clarity: You can’t hold your team accountable if they don’t know exactly what they’re being held accountable for. Be clear and direct with specific goals, objectives and tasks.
[7:24] Positive language: Jan explains why it’s so important to use positive accountability language and why it helps get things done.
[12:22] Own it: What does it mean to encourage your team to take ownership over an action item? In this segment, Jan discusses how you can inspire your team to own their tasks and why doing so will hold them accountable.
[15:09] Fear and failure: Our tendency to play it safe comes back to our natural fear of failure. But playing it safe isn’t going to change the automotive industry. Here’s how to break that mold and create an environment that allows your team to aim higher.
[17:24] Metrics and tracking: Jan explains why she’s researching the OKR method — objectives and key results — to track progress and improve accountability.
[19:37] A brand new look: Jan’s taking a short break following this episode of Finding Gravitas to take a step back and rebrand. Listen to this segment for more on why we’re rebranding and what you can expect when the podcast returns on September 22nd.
[24:23] Keep in touch: We love to hear from our listeners! Email Jan directly at Jan@gravitasdetroit.com to tell us about your journey to authentic leadership and what topics you want her to cover in future episodes.
[7:08] “You cannot hold people accountable to something that's vague — that people don't understand. So spending time making sure you have definition and clarity, every minute of that time is time well spent. ”
[9:28] “What does that mean, I'll try my best? Does that mean it's gonna happen or not? When you're running a business or you're making a commitment and taking ownership, that kind of language just doesn't work. So you have to start to train the team — and it starts with you — on using positive accountability language.”
[13:16] “It's up to you as the leader to get people to feel inspired and excited about these strategic objectives so that people want to be a part of it [and] they want to own it. That’s what leadership is all about.”
[15:33] “We're not going to be able to stretch ourselves and really reach for those moonshots… if we always play it safe.”
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Welcome to the Finding Gravitas podcast. It's time to stop trying to fit someone else's mold and step into the world of authentic leadership. Connect with that irresistible force that is gravitas. Your host, Jan Griffiths will guide you through an exploration into exactly what this elusive quality means and how you can get it. Now, let's join Jan on the quest for Gravitas.Jan Griffiths:
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Finding Gravitas podcast. In this episode, we're gonna go on a journey. Yes, we are. And it's a journey that you'll be familiar with. It's a journey that I started in Episode 73. Talking about strategic planning meetings. As a quick recap, when we think of strategic planning, our mind typically conjures up images of Dell conference rooms and PowerPoint presentations, loaded with meaningless corporate phrases, and lots of politics and gamesmanship. And it really doesn't have to be that awful. Sometimes you come away with strategic goals, but they're kind of broad, based in in corporate speak, and often hard to understand. And it's supposed to be a strategy meeting, you're supposed to be outside of the day to day thinking onward and upward. You're thinking about where to take the company next. It's supposed to be exciting. So I shared in that episode, a few tips of how to get better strategic planning meetings. Because let's not forget, particularly in the automotive industry, we're going through a period of massive transformation. And we are never going to meet the lofty goals of moving towards a more electric and autonomous vehicle future. If we keep running strategy meetings, the same way that we've always done. And we keep following the same processes, using the same leadership style that we've always done. No, it is time to step up and change this process and imagine what it could look like in an authentic leadership culture.Jan Griffiths:
In Episode 73, I gave you some tips on how to do that. Go off site. Imagine the future think of bold, big vision, moonshot ideas, develop a solid, why remember, you have to rally a whole team of people around these strategic objectives. And if you don't have a good why, and you can't connect people on a human to human level, then it's not going to work. Tip number four was visualize visualize, what does the top of the mountain look like and feel like? Number five, get really, really clear. Stay away from corporate speak, be crystal clear on what the strategic objectives are and what they really mean. So those are the five tips of better strategic planning meetings. So great. So here you are, you leave the strategic planning meeting, you've got this great deck of PowerPoints, maybe you followed all these five tips, and you're ready to rally the troops get everybody on board, right? So what are the next steps in the journey? You leave the conference room? And then what? How, how on earth? Do you get a whole team of people excited about these objectives and hold them accountable? I've been there where you have this lovely strategic planning binder, maybe maybe it's online? I don't know. But sometimes it's actually a hardcopy printed binder. And what do you do? You put it on the shelf? Maybe in your office, maybe in your home office? And it stays there, doesn't it? And do you actually take any actions against those strategic objectives? Well, maybe you do. I don't know. Maybe you don't. But maybe that binder sits there. And just maybe you convince yourself that the firefighting and the issues of the day take precedence. And that's where you have to focus your attention and you just don't have time for that strategic stuff. Can you relate to that? There's no judgment here. I've been there. I know exactly what that feels like. And then you get that meeting notice that says the next strategic planning meeting is about to be put on the schedule. And you see it and you frantically desktop that binder weeks before the meeting. Oh no. You've got to put together some action items. Really? Is this a way to run a business? Of course not. So what do we do? How do we make sure that doesn't happen? And then how do we rally the troops around these objectives? And how do we hold them accountable? You know, in past episodes, I don't like that word accountability, because in my life, it's been associated with blame. When people say, I'm gonna hold you accountable, it means you better do this. Because if you don't, you're gonna suffer the consequences. And that's not what accountability is all about.Jan Griffiths:
So let's talk about some things that you can do after you leave that strategic planning meeting, to make sure that the team is held accountable in a positive way. And it feels good, it feels powerful, it feels inspiring, it's motivational, it's exciting. A lot of that falls back on you, the leader of the team. Do you walk out of that strategic planning meeting excited? Do you have transparency in the organization, so that you can start to cascade these plans and objectives down through your team and through the organization. I'm going to share with you five tips on exactly how to improve that accountability with your team and to make sure that these strategic plans stay alive. And the first one is actually the same as tip number five, for better strategic planning meetings. But now you start to bring it down a level. So tip number five is definition and clarity. So you've got the strategic objectives, let's say it's well defined, it's not in corporate speak, people can relate to it, they can understand it. Now, you've got to start to work with your team and break it down a level. There has to be specific goals, and objectives and tasks, and the alignment has to be there. So that's step one, definition and clarity. You cannot hold people accountable to something that's vague that people don't understand. So spending time making sure you have definition and clarity, every minute of that time is time well spent. And then tip number two is using positive language. You know, we all have a tendency as human beings to want to please each other. And if somebody doesn't do something, by a certain date or by an agreed upon timeline, we say, oh that's okay, you know, I'll work with you, we can make a change, it's all going to be okay. No, and I'm not suggesting you bring out a big stick and you start beating people with it, and you bring out the command and control no far from it. You know, I don't believe in command and control. But we have to hold people accountable. So we have to make sure that when people buy in to taking on a goal or an action item that they are truly committed, and that they use positive accountability language. So we can't say things like, Oh, I'll try my best. Do you know somebody told me many, many years ago, in fact, I will, I will tell you who it is. His name is Paul Toschinsky. And I had just moved into program management. And I was tremendously excited because I'd moved out of purchasing into at the time, it was a manufacturing program management position. And it was for Allied Signal, which then became Bosch. And it was in the rear disc brake world. And it was machining of anchor brackets. And Paul told me, when I was running my program management meetings with the teams, he said, Do you think it's okay that people say they're going to try their best? And I just looked at him and said, Well, yeah, of course it is. And he said, Let me tell you something, Jan, you can't ship effort. What? You can't ship effort. So when people say that to you, you have to remind them that that's nice, but you can't do anything with that. What does that mean? I'll try my best. Does that mean it's gonna happen or not? When you're running a business, or you're making a commitment and taking ownership, that kind of language just doesn't work. So you have to start to train the team and it starts with you on using positive accountability language. So you no longer can say things like, I'll try my best or, and here's another one. We hope to get that on time. Okay, there's another story coming up here. This is way early on in my career, I had just started at BorgWarner Kenfig, in South Wales in the transmission plant, and I was a materials expediter. And the plant manager, his name was Gary Tommy. And he looked at me and he said, When are we getting the main cases in, young lady? Because that's how you talk to people back in the day.Jan Griffiths:
And I said, Well, we hope to get them in by whatever the date was. And he looked at me and I can remember this, like it was yesterday. And this has got to be 35, 30, maybe 40 years ago, a long time ago. And he looked at me and he said, hope is for church. This is a business we're running, will the main cases being on time or not? Whoa, another lesson learned for me. So again, it's the language that we use as leaders, but that we deem acceptable with our teams, those kinds of statements are not acceptable, you can't do anything with it. You don't know if if somebody's going to own it and actually deliver on time or not? Positive accountability language sounds something like this. Yes, I understand the task, I will have it done by x date, September 1, it will be done by four o'clock Eastern Standard Time, because remember, we're all in global companies these days, well, for the most part, but we're dealing with people from around the world. And you can't use Well, something that's my favorite I use all the time close of business. That's just a bad habit that I've picked up along the way that I have a hard time breaking. But I am working with a client right now driving an accountability lab for their strategic objectives. So I have to catch myself to make sure that I set the example. And I don't say that close a business, to me, in the US in Detroit is different to close a business in California, is different that close a business in Germany, you get the point. So be very careful about the language that you use positive accountability language, that people can actually understand what it means and they commit.Jan Griffiths:
And the next tip, is that commitment, it's ownership. Do people really own that action item? Or are they just sitting in the meeting nodding and saying, Yeah, I'll take care of that. Uh huh. But yet they know that there's probably no follow up. Maybe they're relying on you to follow up as the leader Oh, that's a problem. So do they really own it? Do they feel the ownership and you can tell that just by looking at somebody just by looking at the body language, the way they eyes role of the eye contact that you have, you can tell if somebody feels ownership or not. And if you get if your gut tells you that somehow they don't feel that ownership, or they're a little uncomfortable, you have to peel back that onion and understand why they do or do not understand and really feel the ownership for the task. And it's up to you, as the leader, to get people to feel inspired and excited about these strategic objectives. So that people want to be a part of it, they want to own it. That's what leadership is all about. And it's not easy. We all know that. So driving ownership, and again, back to this point of, is it up to you as the leader to follow up? And the answer is, No, it isn't. If you've inspired a team of people, they clearly understand what they're responsible for. They feel ownership for the task, then the task, it's going to happen. And then if it isn't going to happen, surely as responsible adults, they feel.. we know things happen. But do they feel that they can come back to the team and say, You know what, I've got a due date, that's two weeks from now. Something happened, I don't know, maybe supply chain broke down, it was a logistics problem. There was a plant burned down, who knows. But something catastrophic happened and they cannot make that date, they have to come back to the team, not to you, the leader to the team, to say that they are not able to do that, but they have a recovery plan. Once we start to allow people to come right up on the date, and then miss the date and then as a leader again, as human beings, we try to be nice, and we say Oh, that's okay, that'll be fine. Just let's just do it a week from now. No, we can't do that. We have to all be either in on this idea of ownership and accountability or not. And I would recommend that you always talk to your team about this exactly what I'm talking about right here right now. In this episode, how are we going to drive ownership in this team? How are we going to hold each other accountable?Jan Griffiths:
Then, tip number four is fear and failure. Often, we like to play it safe. And we stand back. And I've done it. Come on, we've all done it. Because we all want to look good. We all want to show that we're on target. And we can accomplish our objectives. But when we do that, we sort of dumb it all down, right? So we're not going to be able to stretch ourselves and really reach for those moonshot ideas, and really push ourselves and challenge ourselves if we always play it safe. But one of the reasons we play it safe is because of this fear of failure. So talk about that in your team. I really love to do this with program launch teams, because there's an awful lot of fear of failure. And if they fail on a certain action or a certain task, there are immediate repercussions and consequences. But understanding what has happened in the past and why people fear failure is an important part of creating psychological safety on the team, so that the team will feel comfortable in taking a more aggressive approach, maybe take a riskier approach, and not fall into this trap of playing it safe so that everybody looks good, every action item is reported green. And the PowerPoints look great. And it's all dumbed down. That's that's not the way that we're going to transform this automotive industry. So talk about what could go wrong, what has gone wrong in the past, with this particular project or objective that you're working on and talk about it? And what are you going to do? What are you going to put in place now to make sure that failure doesn't happen again, creating a safe environment is something that Google talks about with Project Aristotle. And they determined that the number one, number one success factor for a high performance team is psychological safety. And it's up to you as the leader to make sure the team feels safe in that environment.Jan Griffiths:
Then the last point is metrics and tracking. You have to agree as a team on the metrics and how you're going to track your progress. And I've recently been exposed to the OKR objectives and key results system, which is very much sort of California TECH CULTURE type management system. And I got to admit, I kind of love it. And I'm gonna go deep deep into OKRs. I'm already through one of the books, it's called measure what matters and I will be doing an episode specifically related to OKRs. I've done have worked through every possible management tool and system for metrics and tracking of goals and objectives. And they've all got pros and cons to them. But I've never been able to find one that simple, that doesn't require a lot of follow up or a lot of really hard work of people inputting data into systems. And OKR really relies on simplicity, and leadership, and really galvanizing the team around the goal.Jan Griffiths:
So more on that in a future episode. But the team has to agree on the metrics and tracking and they have to agree on the cadence of follow up meetings. And then if you have all of these things in place, the accountability will get better and better and better. And then you end up in a situation where you'll evolve into peer to peer accountability, so that you as the leader, you don't feel like you have to monitor and check and follow up on all these action items, because then you're dangerously close to micromanagement, and nobody wants that.Jan Griffiths:
So those are five tips on how to improve accountability with your team, which is the next logical step in the journey after you've defined your strategic objectives. If you want to go deeper into accountability, please check out my interview with Brian Moran. He is the author of the book and common accountability. And after this episode, we're going to close season three and take a break. And we'll be back on September the 22nd.Jan Griffiths:
Now, there's a couple of reasons why we need to take a break. First and foremost is I need a break. We all need a break. And the second is it's really important to stand back away from the business which the business right now that we're talking about is the podcast and look at what's working, what's not. What is the audience like, what are they not like, what resonates, what doesn't. And then we're going to come back on September the 22nd. With a complete rebrand and a new name, and a tremendous guest lineup. I'm already working on lining up the guests. So let me tell you a little bit about the rebrand when I started in and this is, this is me falling on the sword here, but I'm always telling people to be vulnerable and how important that is and to be authentic. So here it is, when I started the business, as most of you know, Gravitas Detroit. Gravitas is the hallmark of authentic leadership. And Detroit is known for its hustle and bustle and muscle and hard work. Detroit isn't necessarily known for gravitas. So I want to drive a different leadership model in the automotive industry. I want to drive it away from Command or Control into authentic leadership. And that's why I came up with the name, Gravitas, Detroit. And then when I decided to launch the podcast, I asked for all kinds of input on the podcast name and Finding Gravitas came up. And I thought, Wow, that's great. You know, that's kind of a cute name. Okay, rule number one with podcasting. Don't go for the cute name. And here's why. Nobody knows what it means. And I've had to do some soul searching myself in my business. Because when I started the business, I said, Oh, I want to help leaders everywhere in every business, which sounds great, right? Leadership is leadership. Aha, people told me time and time again, go niche and go to where your knowledge and expertise is the strongest go to your your background, you know, where you have credibility, where you have deep, deep, deep knowledge. And I resisted saying automotive. But you know what, I love this industry. My clients are automotive. I live in Detroit. Everything about me is automotive. So I have to give it up and say, I am all about automotive. My business is about automotive. I am on a mission to change the leadership model in automotive from command and control to a more authentic leadership model. And so we're going through a rebrand for the podcast. Now podcast search engines, as you know, when you go into your podcast app, you can't put in Finding Gravitas and know that that's the automotive leadership podcast. It's not Google, it's not YouTube, you have to actually call the podcast the name for the podcast has to be exactly what the podcast is all about. Otherwise, people won't be able to find it, they won't know what it is.Jan Griffiths:
So I'm going through some suggestions right now for the new podcast name and then 90% there as to what I think it should be. But that will be out by September the 22nd. And I am very, very excited about it. And I hope you will stay with the podcast, it won't you won't have any changes to your podcast feed the RSS feed will be exactly the same. So if you're subscribed right now, nothing will need to change on the on your end. It'll all be on the back end. It'll all be on me. So with that, I wish you a wonderful summer. Have a great time. Read the automotive leadership books that we've recommended for you along with the podcast interviews that go along with the authors of those books. I think you will find them insightful and it will inspire you and it will want you it will make you want to change the way you lead into a different more transformational inspirational type of authentic leadership. So stay strong, be true to yourself. Be true to your teams and be authentic and be you. And join me on the quest for Gravitas and season four.Dietrich:
We love feedback. Email Jan directly at email@example.com to tell us about your journey into authentic leadership. We want the show to be meaningful to you. So leave a comment on what you thought of today's episode and let us know if there's any topics that should be covered in future episodes.