The Remedy for a Sore Rump

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

Theodore Roosevelt



A few years ago, my team and I took the Strengthsfinder’s assessment by Tom Rath.  In a nutshell, it is a personality assessment that helps identify your strengths.  There were no surprises when I took the test other than one.  It put my “strongest” strength as Responsibility.  At first I thought it was way off until I started thinking about all of my behaviors.  The truth is that I take responsibility for pretty much everything around me.  Even if I have nothing to do with it.

So with the responsibility of the world on my shoulders, I am writing this blog to B^*&ch about the demise of accountability in the workplace and life.

I recently had the misfortune of having to pull one of my consultants from a client.  The consultant was not succeeding and it was evident that the project would suffer if they continued.  I’d love to say that I have a perfect record of picking strong, senior level resources, but no one’s perfect. (This story is a combination of a few similar situations over the last 27 years).   Here’s the difference though, my client didn’t tell us to pull the consultant.  They didn’t see the problems that we did.    We told them we needed to act.  We explained the reasons we were failing and how we would fix it.  I was reminded of the most important lesson from what happened next.   The client’s reaction? Gratitude and surprise.   They shared that they might have seen some of this but they overlooked some issues.  I even received a call from a client executive thanking me for the way that we handled the situation.  The executive said that in all their years, no other consulting firm had proactively taken action and pulled their own resource.  They’ve always waited to be told to remove someone. Once again proving to me that accountability is one of our most important differentiators.


And therein lies my issue.  When did accountability become such an extraordinary expectation?   Or maybe the expectation is being met but the expectations are too low. Everyone seems to use the term responsible in place of the term accountable. I believe that is an error that sets up a series of unfortunate consequences.  Why?  In my 25+ years of work experience, I have only met a handful of people that weren’t responsible.  (I’ve dealt with a few con artists unfortunately).  For the most part, people want to do the right thing and will put forth the effort to meet expectations. The number of people I have met who take accountability for their actions and their work has been far fewer but much more important to an organization’s success.

From frivolous lawsuits to finger pointing to blaming our woes on another group of individuals…why is it so difficult to take ownership for our own decisions?  If you screw up at work, don’t point the finger at someone else! I’m always amazed at the strength of an apology.  I learned a long time ago that problems don’t fester when someone apologizes.  I think it’s because no one expects an apology so they prepare for a fight and then are thrown off when they get an apology instead.  An apology often helps people move on so that I can focus on how to correct the problem rather than spend time discussing the past.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t make it a practice of accepting other people’s mistakes but it does come in handy when I want people to focus on fixing something rather than being stuck on figuring out who can be blamed.

Studies show that when we set higher expectations and give our children opportunity and support, they will rise to meet those expectations.  Shouldn’t CXOs be setting higher expectations for their employees?   Shouldn’t we all be setting higher expectations for ourselves?   Until that happens, I will be happy to uphold accountability as one of our company differentiators.






What do you do when your sponsor is an A-Hole?



Face it. You’ve been in that position before. That A-Hole may have even made you decide to move on and get a new job. Are there ways to play this to your favor? Absolutely. Will it make you want to eat crow? Possibly. But it will make you a better person if that’s any consolation.
Step One: Get to know them.
Everyone works off their own agenda. And don’t believe it when they say that they don’t have one. Everyone does. Whether it’s getting promoted, getting noticed, getting that corner office or getting wealthy enough to quit and work on their hobbies…there is always a driver for people’s actions. Figure it out. It means diving into developing a relationship to better understand that individual.
Step Two: Take them to lunch.
Although I am someone that prefers chocolate and desserts to an actual lunch…the concept is still the same. Food is way more powerful than most people give it credit. Case in point, bring donuts to a meeting and see who shows up. The meeting may be no less boring but you have donuts.
I digress…..There is truth in “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Invite your sponsor to lunch. It works. Repeatedly, we’ve used that technique on sponsors, clients, cohorts that weren’t playing nice. “Smother them with kindness” works.
Taking them to lunch gives you a chance to get to know them. It opens up a dialogue. It gives them a chance to tell you if there is something that you are doing that is part of the problem. It may not be fun but it will get better. It is hard to be an a-hole to a friend or someone that you know well. Get to know the a-hole better. They are less inclined to treat you poorly if they know you well. Build that relationship. It isn’t easy at the beginning but it will get easier as you build that relationship.
Step Three: Confront them on their behavior.
Some of the time it is safe to say that people doesn’t always realize the effect of their words. Tell them. Tell them when you are alone with them so that you don’t embarrass them (and if they are truly an a-hole, they won’t embarrass you when they respond back). It shouldn’t be done confrontationally but more like this….”I would assume this wasn’t your intent but when you called me out in front of the team, I was uncomfortable. Your message was accurate but can I ask that you discuss this with me one-on-one in the future?”
It isn’t easy to confront an a-hole regardless of their level. I have a whole support system around me. When I’m being an a-hole (or a jerk or insecure or overbearing)… support system will call me out. If the a-hole doesn’t know, they may not ever realize unless someone tells them. So you have a whole year before the next National A-Hole day (February 27th) but it’s never too early to think about what you are going to do next time.