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That's Not My Job

ac·count·a·bil·i·ty (noun)

A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results: to See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It.

This year my team decided to start up a book club. Fortunately for me, so far they have chosen books from Justin’s personal library (what can I say, I’m an inspiration). I was most excited when the first book they chose was The Oz Principle. This concept of accountability is something very near and dear to me. My first encounter with it was many years ago when my mother gave me the book Winning Every Day by Lou Holtz. His formula is quite simple, “WIN” or “What’s Important Now”. I then grew my appreciation for the subject when I read the book QBQ! The Question Behind The Question by John G. Miller. They talk about eliminating victim thinking and how to ask the right questions for personal accountability.

As I continued to develop my repertoire in the leadership realm I encountered the sphere of influence, which is quite similar to Stephen Covey’s Circle of Concern in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I really like the sphere of influence though, because it describes the inner circle as the things you have ultimate control over, the next circle being those you can influence, and the outer circle the things that are in your area of appreciation (or things you have no control or influence over).

I used these concepts over and over in many of the classes I taught as this is really something that impacts all parts of our lives, from personal to professional. My favorite story is when I was teaching a class on Decision Making & Problem Solving. One of the first steps in the process was to ‘Clarify Issues’, where participants brainstormed everything on their plates and then organized them into their specific issues. I would demonstrate this by asking participants to give me their issues which I would write on post-it notes and place on a flip chart. We would then go back through them and group them into bigger issues and try to get clarity around them. Inevitably there were always a few issues that were outside of someone’s control and I could see it a mile away. I would pull one of those post-it notes off and ask the group if they felt the issue was clear. Sometimes it was and sometimes not, but I would always go back to the person who offered it and the conversation would always go something like this:

Justin: “Do you have control over this issue?”

Participant: “No”

Justin: “Can you in any way influence the outcome of this issue?”

Participant: “No”

Justin: “Then quit bitching about it!” -while throwing the post-it on the ground

One day, I ran into a participant who had taken this class a few months prior. I explained that as course manager I was looking at changes to the Decision Making class and wanted to know what she took away and what she might change. She responded that the class had actually changed her life! Now, I like to think I have moments of brilliance, but for someone to so boldly claim that a class I taught had changed her life, I had to know more. She reflected back on that first activity and she said she realized that not only at work, but in her personal life, she spent way too much time worrying and complaining about things she had no control over. She found that once she let those things go, she had much less stress and found herself to be much happier!

This brings us to The Oz Principle. A few years back while running the training team at BigMachines, we took the entire organization through the methodology as described in Change The Culture, Change The Game; the follow-up book to The Oz Principle. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my career.

Victim Mindset

The title of this post is quite purposeful: That’s Not My Job. For years, this has been my most hated phrase. I think it was first from Lou Holtz that I picked up how poisonous these four words are. Without going back to cite his exact words, the phrase I usually use in response is: Who’s signing your paycheck? Now, I want to also take this out of a work context: Who’s life are you living? If there is something in your life that isn’t working the way you want it to; it’s your job to change it or stop bitching about it! When it comes to the victim mindset, I always go back to the story I referenced earlier. What can I do to change or influence the outcome? If the answer is nothing, all you’re doing is bitching.

Staying Above The Line

The Oz Principle uses the concept of Above The Line and Below The Line to depict when we are demonstrating a sense of accountability. When we’re Below The Line, that’s when we’ve entered the victim cycle. One caveat I always like to give is that it’s not necessarily bad to be Below The Line. Often times we need to vent and get our frustrations out. However, what we have to realize is that it’s ineffective to stay Below The Line.

To avoid plagiarism, I’ll let you investigate the book to read their steps to staying Above The Line. But in the meantime, ask yourself what you can do to change or influence the outcome, as in the section above. It’s your job, your life to have ownership of and make an impact. The important piece that you should think about though, is How do I know when I’m Below The Line? Once you know that, you can move above it.

Accountability for Results

The other day, I was walking through reception out to the elevator bank. Our Office Manager wasn’t at the desk (perhaps in a meeting or the restroom, it really doesn’t matter) and there was a guest at the front waiting. Now, I’m not directly involved with the day to day business in my local office, rather I really just take up space as I support the organization on a national basis. However, that guest has no idea what my function is. I could be the janitor or the CEO. But to him that really doesn’t matter, what matters is that he is waiting and no one is helping him. I stopped and asked him if he was here to meet someone, I then went back into the office to notify the person he was meeting that he was here. This is what Connors & Smith refer to as Joint Accountability. We all have a responsibility to uphold the reputation of the organization. How many times have you been in a business and had several people walk by and ignore you while you were waiting to be helped? How did it make you feel about that business? I don’t feel I’m above helping anyone, IT IS MY JOB to ensure we are providing the best experience possible to all of our clients, to achieve the desired results of our organizations. What more can I do to achieve desired results?

I encourage you to check out some of the books I referenced throughout this article. Each one of them has had a major impact on my career and enhanced my commitment to personal accountability. It’s also something I continue to struggle with and strive for every day. For now, ask yourself the three questions above and move yourself closer to less stress and greater results.

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