The Oz Principle – Roger Connors, Tom Smith, Craig Hickman
Getting Results Through Individual And Organizational Accountability
The Oz Principle: The Premise
It’s a lot easier to preach accountability than to practice it.
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Accountability is, if not a magic solution to everything, certainly a solution to many things. Business books are full of examples of companies that hit serious difficulties because people refused to take the steps to be accountable.
People don’t see what they don’t want to see and miss the cues in the early stages, leading to million dollar fiascos later on.
To discern when you or your organization are slipping below the line between achievement and a dead-end, ask yourself:
- Do you feel that you have little or no control over your circumstances?
- Do you listen when people tell you that you are not doing all you could be doing?
- Do you blame other people? Are you defensive?
- When discussing the problem, do you talk more about why you can’t do something instead of finding solutions?
- Do you avoid situations that require you to report on your responsibilities?
The Six-Stage Victim Cycle
- Companies ignore or deny the problem.
- They dodge responsibility.
- They blame others.
- They wait for some higher power to provide orders.
- They focus on protecting themselves and ‘covering their tail’.
- They adopt the wait-and-watch approach and see if the problem will go away on its own.
At many organizations, “accountability” really means “blame.”
People only hear about accountability when something sinks, blows up or crashes. When everything is great, no one asks who’s accountable for the success. It is a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results. Accountability includes success, not just failure.
All too often people view unhappy circumstances as accidents of chance; yet when they find themselves in more pleasant circumstances, they automatically take credit for a job well done.
The Spirit Of True Accountability
People who are imbued with a spirit of accountability will:
- Ask for constructive criticism and candid feedback.
- Demand the truth even when it hurts and face facts, no matter how scary or nasty.
- Don’t waste time or energy on things you cannot control or influence.
- Commit yourself 100% to what you are doing, and if your commitment begins to wane, strive to rekindle it.
- Take full ownership of their work and its results.
- Enjoy responsibility for what happens.
- Always ask yourself, “What else can I do?”
The First Step: See The Problem
When people lack courage – think of the timid lion in The Wizard of Oz – they don’t fail to see problems; they deliberately refuse to see problems out of fear. What they can’t see, they can’t solve. Therefore, in their cowardly minds, they are not responsible or accountable. Now, think how laughable their evasions and excuses really are. Instead, do as the cowardly lion did: Get some courage.
The Second Step: Own The Problem
People in an organization who see a problem and take responsibility for fixing it are golden. People who reject accountability do nothing. If you have ever seen yourself as the victim of a terrible injustice, reflect on that experience.
- What did you know to be true and that you simply closed your eyes to?
- If you were in the same circumstances again, what would you change?
- What warnings were flashing?
- What did the experience teach you that you could have used but did not?
- Why were you responsible? What did you commit or omit?
The Third Step: Solve The Problem
How do you know a problem when you see it? The most dangerous unresolved problems organizations face are poor communication, people development, empowerment, misalignment, entitlement, work and personal life imbalance, poor performance, senior management development, and cross-functional strife.
Exercise your leadership, wisdom, and prudence to distinguish what needs to be done from what does not.
The Final Step: Do It
Leaders must apply these principles to themselves and to their organizations. Intervention, itself, is risky. Leaving the team to figure things out for itself is important, but it can also be a way of shirking leadership responsibility.
- Act accountably, the way you want your staff members to act.
- Tolerate occasional “below the line” statements. Recognize that your team members sometimes have to deal with frustration.
- Know a dodge when you see it and an evasion when you hear it.
- Make people accountable in order to empower them.