In our last post, we offered the ROAAR™ model as a way to understand how real work gets done, and provided a ROAAR™ Root-Cause Analysis tool. Here we offer:
Ways to Tell You Work in a Fear-Ridden Environment
Check any that apply:
◊ “cya” by email is an evolved and widely practiced art.
◊ Managers are expected to know micro-details of every project on short notice.
◊ The word “accountable” is used often.
◊ The phrase “I messed up” and its cousin, “It’s my fault” are heard rarely.
◊ People initiate and respond to emails after 11:00 pm.
◊ Employees in different departments are considered competitors.
If more than 2 apply to your workplace, you probably work in a high fear zone. If you are the boss, we should talk…soon.
Don’t despair. The situation is reversible. Here’s a list of action you can take to lower fear and increase the IQ and overall effectiveness of your organization.
To-Do List for the Courageous Leader
How to create a blame-free work zone where problems are surfaced early and people do their best work.
- - Evaluate your beliefs and behaviors about risk, blame, leadership, and emotions (see the Confidence and Ego Assessments in our e-book, Conversations for Brilliance).
- - Apologize for acting like a jerk.
- - Strike the word “accountable” from your vocabulary. It’s been ruined and only creates a witch-hunt mentality where people scramble to avoid blame.
- - When you discover problems, quickly and publicly admit your contribution. Use active voice and speak in first person: e.g. “I messed up.”*
- - Calibrate your expectations and illusions of perfection: accept that if you are to have any chance of creating outstanding products and services, then mistakes must happen, and despite such imperfections, you and your customers will most likely survive. Share this belief with others.
- - Invite people to disagree with you. When they do, don’t debate. Instead, ask “What else?” or ‘How can you tell?” or “Say more about that.”
- - Thank the messenger.
- - Take a deep breath, and remind yourself of who you want to be and what you want to create.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
- Philo of Alexandria
“I don’t recall…Mistakes were made.”
- U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez in testimony to the Judiciary Committee investigating the firings of eight US Attorneys.
“The person who can describe reality without laying blame will emerge the leader.”
- Susan Scott, best-selling author of, Fierce Conversations and Fierce Leadership
*This advice pertains specifically to American, and potentially other, high individualistic cultures.