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Management begins with an A.

A is for accountability, appreciation, anger management and overcoming adversity.

Get those right and you’ll take giant strides towards success.

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Accountability can be confusing. As Ginty Burns explains in A is for Accountabilty, it is not the same as responsibility. Responsibility is an obligation you feel to act within an organization’s values. Being accountable means you can be called to answer for your own actions and, if you are a manager, for the results of your direct reports, since you determine their goals, provide their resources and monitor their performance. In an accountability-based company, she says, people understand what they and others are accountable for, and people get called to account if they do not meet expectations.

In a collaborative world, it’s vital everyone knows what they are accountable for, since it can be muddy. Some things can be hard to spell out. But you need to find some clarity.

You also need a starting point. Consultant David Dye recommends this script on the Let’s Grow Leaders blog: “I haven’t been the best leader in this area. Frankly, I’ve preferred being liked over achieving the results we’re here to achieve. I haven’t done the best job when it comes to accountability, but that changes today. I owe it to you and we owe it to one another and we owe it to our customers.”

He cautions that the word “accountability” will likely be scary to your team. So clarify your intentions. For example, he says, “accountability doesn’t mean beating people up for poor performance; it means we’re going to keep our commitments to one another. When we do, we will acknowledge it. When we don’t, we will work to understand why and what to do next time (or to make it right, now).”

He recommends starting small, building confidence. You might try a 10-day period to practise accountability, with everyone keeping their commitments to each other and, when that doesn’t happen, addressing it directly.

Appreciation can complement such an endeavour, making accountability less forbidding. It comes in two varieties. The first is recognition and rewards, an antidote to lack of engagement in today’s workplace. Recognition, ideally, comes soon after the event. It can be shared privately with the individual or be more public – my boss pulling me out of my office to announce to staff I had won a significant award was memorable, but to someone else it could have been mortifying. There are bonuses and rewards programs companies conceive but the key is to know the individual and what they might like. The amount of the reward need not be high to be meaningful: I still remember being told to have dinner with my wife on the boss’s dime (rather than put the cash he handed me in my bank) and the dinner extravagance is a warm memory decades later.

Appreciative inquiry is the second variety. It involves changing your managerial approach to a positive thrust. Rather than focusing on what’s going wrong, build on the strong points in the organization – people, programs and processes. You might fear organizational collapse if you fail to fix sore spots but proponents have found the appreciative approach catapults an organization ahead. “It brings out the best of people, encourages them to see and support the best of others and generates unprecedented co-operation and innovation,” consultants Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom write in The Power of Appreciative Inquiry: A Practical Guide to Positive Change. You also don’t have to spend your days as an angry sourpuss.

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Which brings us to anger. It can have positive effects, at times, but most of us know times when being angry has hurt us and others. Hiding our anger can lead it to detonate unexpectedly. So it’s important to manage our anger, particularly if it is a consistent presence in our workday.

Finally, adversity. You can count on it striking. In The Power of Presence, leadership coach Kristi Hedges says you don’t lose your credibility from failure but from how you handle it. Catastrophizing – imagining the worst, extending the reach of the negative adversity beyond its actual scope – can be a very serious mistake. (Dare I say catastrophic?) Take ownership, accept, move on and learn. Easy to say, of course, and harder to do.

But that’s true for all of the As discussed – and perhaps another reason for their importance. Not all management comes down to A. But it’s a good place to start.

Cannonballs

  • Consultant Alan Kearns says 80 per cent of your conversations, energy and time should be focused on identifying and encouraging the strength of your team members’ styles with the remaining 20 per cent on what needs to be changed.
  • To retain high standards, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos suggests asking these three questions with respect to potential hires: Will you admire this person down the road; will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering; and along what skill, perspective or other dimension might this individual be a superstar?
  • “The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is to not train them and keep them," legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says.

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