February 2009

I recently wrote about the opportunity for leaders to encourage and enable leadership from members of their teams – Leadership from Any Chair – added leverage for these unique times.

Accountability, of course, is another way to motivate achievement; driving it can be tricky. I’ve had two recent experiences to help me understand a powerful way to drive accountability – and to transcend top-down metrics and measurement in the process.

I was recently in a family theater production of The Music Man (in the wacky Barbershop Quartet ¬– The River City School Board). You might think a play is just a collection of individual performances; it’s actually the ultimate group project – each line must be executed to set up the next line and create a seamless and convincing scene. One person not coming through can create a total train wreck.

Of course, Community Theater does offer conventional metrics for success – there is an audience to satisfy and the kids involved need a good developmental experience. However, you can be sure that being the one that drops a line or misses a cue is a brutal feeling – the fear of letting down the other performers is a most powerful motivator.

This experience reminds me of another team and my “role” in membership development for the Forum for Corporate Directors (FCD), a premier group of Orange County business leaders. It may be odd to compare a committee like this with a theater production, but the team experience is really very similar.

Each FCD membership team member shares a common goal: attracting and retaining great people and companies to enhance the strength of the organization. Every individual has monthly action items to execute, and each person consistently comes through in a timely fashion. Yes, each person is committed to organizational growth, but another major motivator is not being the flake on the team that fails to pull his or her weight.

Our own businesses might benefit by creating more team experiences like a play and an FCD committee. To start with, think about whether top-down company objectives are effective motivators for your people. How do they translate into behavioral expectations for individuals?

And we all know that people generally enjoy working on teams. Along with the job satisfaction and loyalty that teaming generates, maybe we could create a culture where team members are the primary accountability motivator for each other? Maybe company objectives could be effectively broken down into team goals, and the teams can be empowered to manage their own accountability?

I personally find it a lot easier to flake out on myself than to let others down – I’m sure you know what I mean. Like you, I have a lot of responsibility, and when pushed for time, I know I try to prioritize commitments to others over my own projects. It seems that we respond better to challenges when we’re being counted on.

You never know, an approach like this might just put us out of the micromanagement business! From my own recent experiences, I see how it can work awfully well. I wish all of you as leaders the best toward more fulfilled and productive teams.

Thanks for sharing time with me. As always, I welcome your feedback and observations, and feel free to forward this along to others who you believe may benefit.

Stagelight Family Productions: http://www.stagelightproductions.com/
Forum for Corporate Directors (FCD), Orange County – http://www.fcdoc.org/


Jeff Black
Managing Principal Consultant, McDermott & Bull Executive Search
Cell: (714) 356-1949 Office: (949) 753-1700 ext. 310
2 Venture, Suite 100 Irvine, CA 92618