March 31, 2014
Biz Books

Accountable leaders set right corporate culture

"Culture Without Accountability WTF? What's the Fix?" by Julie Miller and Brian Bedford (Criffel Publishing, $13.99).

Accountability (n.) — "a personal willingness, after the fact, to answer for the results of your behaviors and actions." Being accountable builds character, trust and respect. It's all about the difference between right and wrong. When wrong choices are made, the people involved often play "Blame Game," or try to cover things up. Why? They're afraid of the consequences. That fear overcomes their knowledge of right and wrong.

It also overcomes their fear of the truth — which comes out eventually. Watergate caused the resignation of a President, and prison terms for 43 members of his staff. The Penn State scandal damaged the university's reputation and its costs include $6.5 million in legal fees and over $70 million in fines — all because coaches and senior administrators put football ahead of doing the right thing.

The wrongs of Watergate, Penn State, Enron, WorldCom and Tyco all started at the top. That's precisely where organizational culture finds its roots. People look to leaders to set the tone. "Every time leaders make decisions, they signal what is important to the organization." Their words and actions define and reinforce corporate values.

"What's the Fix?" The authors cite the following as a leader's accountability behavior: Always tell the truth. Do what you say you'll do. Provide honest feedback to whoever needs to hear it. Fess up to your mistakes. Don't make excuses, or let others make them. Don't dodge issues; deal with them quickly.

When judging performance, employees need to know they will be accountable not only for results, but also how they go about their work. Managers, as frontline accountability role models, have the responsibility for communicating the need to do the right things the right way.

Bedford's saying, "As above, so below" captures another of the authors' WTF message — Why They Follow.

• • •

"Reset — How to Beat the Job Loss Blues and Get Ready for Your Next Act" by Dwain Schenck (Da Capo Press, $16.99).

Schenk, once a communications executive at a Fortune 500 company, received his pink slip a few years back. In "Reset," he chronicles his journey back to employment. Like most people, he defined himself in terms of his job. His identity was tied to his workday roles. Without a job, his self-worth and self-confidence hit rock bottom; he lost purpose.

What he discovered, with the help of family, friends, networking contacts and career coaches, was self-examination and self-determination. He acknowledges that his first mistake was not recognizing that unemployment wasn't just his problem. Financial issues aside, it's a family affair because unemployment emotionally affects the wife and kids, too. They have to deal with a husband and father who believes he's failed them. They need to be included in what's happening — the good and the bad.

Then came some interviews. Schenck thought he aced them; the companies didn't call back for round two. Peter Bell, an executive search recruiter, told him: "It's not the best person who gets the job. It's about the connection that is made." It's like dating; you know when there's a connection.

With failed interviews on his mind, Schenck began questioning his job-search tactics. While he had "shovel-ready" versions of his résumé, he hadn't tapped into social media. Because HR often looks at social media for information about candidates, he began to view LinkedIn as a personal branding tool. It also connected him with networking opportunities through groups sharing common interests.

Where did Schenck end up? Not with the job he thought. He took a freelance communications job and decided he liked it. He developed other freelance opportunities.

Key takeaway: "Unemployment is a wake-up call, and what you choose to do with it is up to you." It's an opportunity to explore your "I"dentity and build a foundation for plan B from it, not a job's roles.n

Jim Pawlak is a nationally syndicated book reviewer.

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