Accountability was once a concept associated primarily with punishment and failure. However, today it has become much more than that—it’s seen as an essential part of any successful business. When practiced correctly, positive accountability has the power to create well-motivated teams who are actively engaged in their work and committed to success. It encourages individuals to take responsibility for their actions and practice good communication and collaboration skills. By creating an environment where everyone is held equally accountable, organizations can foster a culture of mutual respect and trust that encourages employees to thrive.
In fact, research suggests that when organizations get accountability wrong:Dr. Paige Williams, “Own it”
• 75% of team members see solving problems as ‘someone else’s
• 65% don’t see due dates as real commitments,
• 80% don’t seek and offer feedback often,
• 82% try but fail to hold others accountable (or avoid it altogether),
• 85% are unsure what the organisation is trying to achieve.
Dr Paige Williams is an author, researcher and PhD in Organizational Behaviour. A trusted advisor and mentor to senior leaders, she uses a potent blend of neuroscience, psychology and her own twenty-plus years of international business leadership experience to help leaders surface uncomfortable truths, see the rules they need to break in order to breakthrough and lead themselves, their teams, and their organizations to thrive. Her latest book is Own It! Honouring and Amplifying Accountability.
During this interview Paige and I discuss the following topics:
- 00:06:09 Conversation about accountability and expectations in organizations and everyday life. Wasted energy and confusion.
- 00:07:40 Accountability is often seen negatively but can be used for success if approached in the right way.
- 00:11:37 Confusion around language leads to concerns and lack of context around accountability.
- 00:17:26 Shifting power dynamics to create positive accountability with choice and voice.
- 00:20:41 Shift power dynamic from punitive to coaching to empower.
- 00:26:06 Team holds each other accountable in a normal, open, and honest way to avoid confusion and concern.
- 00:34:46 Accountability system with transparency and coaching conversations to ensure clarity, understanding, and consequences.
- 00:41:07 Burnout epidemic due to unpaid overtime from Industrial Revolution; new reset due to COVID.
- 00:42:26 COVID causing workers to demand meaningful work and reasonable leaders, clarity of expectations and quality of relationships as solutions to burnout.
- 00:47:59 Holding accountable by creating an autonomy supportive environment; reconnecting to expectations and making explicit that outcomes are not met; asking what the accountee’s part is and setting new expectations with consequences.
If you are interested in learning more about Paige’s resources be sure to check out the following links:
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The following is an AI generated transcript which should be used for reference purposes only. It has not been verified or edited to reflect what was actually said in the podcast episode.
Scott McCarthy [00:00:00]:
It’s episode 254 of the Peak Performance Leadership Podcast. And today, we’re going to speak to Dr. Paige Williams, and she’s going to tell you and teach you how to develop a sense of positive accountability in your team. It’s all about accountability today, folks. Are you ready for this? All right, let’s do it.
Scott McCarthy [00:00:29]:
Welcome one, welcome all to The Peak Performance Leadership Podcast, a weekly podcast series dedicated to helping you hit peak performance across the three domains of leadership. Those being leading yourself, leading your team, and leading your organization. This podcast couples my 20 years of military experience as a senior Canadian Army officer with world class guests to bring you the most complete podcast of leadership going. And for more, feel free to check out our firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott McCarthy [00:01:03]:
And with that, let’s get to the show. Yes. Welcome one, welcome all to the Peak Performance Leadership Podcast. It is your Chief Leadership Officer, Scott McCarthy. So good to have you tuning in to today’s episode, where we’re going to be focusing in on accountability. That’s right. It’s all about accountability today, ladies and gentlemen. And for this episode, went to the experts, of course, and I hunted out Dr. Paige Williams, and I brought her on the show because she’s literally written the book about accountability and how to basically instill it in our teams. And Paige isn’t just someone who wrote a book and is trying to promote it. Now, she has experience. She’s got over 20 years in international leadership roles, and not to mention, she has worked with organizations such as businesses, government, NGOs, education, charles Swab, Space Savers, Geelong Football Club, Magistrates, Court of Victoria, University of Melbourne. And I can just keep on going, because that’s what she brings to the table boatloads of experience and an awesome attitude to go with it. Now, when often people think of doctors, especially academic doctors, they generally think of nerdy type people. But I will tell you, Paige is full of life. She is animated, and most importantly, she is passionate about this topic. So this is not a boring show, let me tell you. And today we’re going to be getting into different topics, such as why accountability has gotten so bad in organizations in the first place. How to have a conversation about positive accountability. Why language is so important in it. How to shift the power dynamics of accountability. How to empower your team to hold itself accountable, which is what we want as leaders. That is the golden standard right now and so much more. This episode is jammed packed, folks. It is full of all kinds of great stuff. And at the show notes for this episode, and if you want to open the show notes early, because there’s a few different models that we get into, such as the Scarf model and the Racy model, I do have photos of them in the show notes. So the show notes for this episode in particular is leaddumpos.com. All right. And you’ll see those models in the show notes so that if you have the ability to do so as you’re listening and we’re talking about these models, you can quickly flash them up and have a look at them yourself. Anyway, that’s enough for me. Why don’t you sit back, relax, and enjoy my conversation about how to develop positive accountability in your team with Doctor Paige Williams. Welcome to the show. So good to have you here today.
Paige Williams [00:04:57]:
Thanks so much, Scott. I’m so pleased to be with you today.
Scott McCarthy [00:05:03]:
We are talking about accountability on the show today and we’re going to be hitting around your book, own it, which was awesome. Thank you for a copy, by the way. It’s really appreciate it.
Paige Williams [00:05:13]:
Scott McCarthy [00:05:14]:
And I want to start off with a quote out of your book. In fact, research suggests when organizations get accountability wrong, 75% of team members see solving problems as someone else’s job. 65% don’t see due dates as real commitments. 80% don’t seek and offer feedback often. 82% try to fail. Try but fail to hold others accountable or avoid it altogether. And finally, 85% are unsure what the organization is even trying to achieve in the first place. Well, I didn’t quote the last one because I really want to emphasize that last bit, but like, my God.
Paige Williams [00:06:05]:
Yeah, I know, right?
Scott McCarthy [00:06:07]:
How and why makes sense.
Paige Williams [00:06:09]:
We’re having a conversation about this, would you not agree, Scott? It really is that fundamental. And as I came to write the book, I was quite blown away by how little attention we’ve given. Something that has such a profound impact, I mean, in our organizations. Because that’s kind of the world that I play, and I know you play in, and your listeners are in as well, but it does go wider than that. This is accountability and our expectations of ourselves and others show up in everyday life, too. But yeah, those kinds of impacts in organizations where we’re just kind of stumbling through a fog of confusion day to day. I think it’s something that as I’ve led organizations, as I’ve spoken to leaders and team members with the clients I work with, they feel really familiar around. Yeah, it just feels like no one’s quite got a grip on where we’re going, where we’re heading, and there’s such a lot of wasted energy and effort in that space.
Scott McCarthy [00:07:10]:
I mean, like, is it because when people say accountability, there’s often like a quote, unquote bad rap associated with it, right? Like accountability, no, accountability can be as simple as like, hey, do you got the TPS reports done? I need the TPS report. Is that done? That’s accountability. It’s not necessarily you’re going to get fired if you don’t get this TPS reported. Right along those lines.
Paige Williams [00:07:40]:
Yeah, as I did the research for the book and look through lived experience as well. And that’s what’s so lovely about this topic is all of us have had an encounter or have had experiences of accountability being missing, accountability going well, kind of this isn’t something that’s like rocket science to us, right? And the thing is, with accountability, if I were to say to you, hey Scott, let’s just go out for coffee and talk about your accountability, you’re not going to be jumping for joy. The prospect of us going out for coffee and talking about it and that’s because the way that we use accountability and the way that it’s been set up is we use it as a punitive measure. It’s used as kind of we start talking about accountability too late in the game. That classic thing of after the horse is bolted, right, we’re trying to lock the door. And that’s generally when accountability is kind of brought into the conversation and of course at that point there’s kind of very little that can be done often. And so it’s immediately a defensive conversation. It feels like people are being judged and made wrong when there’s little for them to kind of take in terms of remedial action. And so accountability from the get go has this, as you say, real bad rap. Certainly if it had an agent, I think accountability should sack its agent and I put forward in the book and certainly it’s what I teach as I work with senior leaders and their teams. We can use accountability for good. We can use it to set ourselves and others up for success if we know how to. And some of it is putting down our old beliefs about accountability and kind of rethinking and resetting it right from the ground up.
Scott McCarthy [00:09:26]:
Let’s burn it down, let’s build it back up then with that. I love how you were framing this. I love the direction we’re going. So let’s take all the bad stuff. We’re going to push that to the side. I like focusing on positive. You’re going to get more with sugar then you’re going to get salt. So let’s look at this whole show. I want to look at how we build accountability for the positive and how we use it positively in our teams and our organizations. Right? So first off, so for the leader out there and they’re like yes, you’re not listening to this. Yes because it’s great. And I’m going to kind of frame this a little bit with a quick side story. I’ve interviewed a number of former Special Forces folks on the show. Here me being as I was telling you, this is a side hustle for me. By day I’m actually a senior Canadian Army officer.
Paige Williams [00:10:24]:
Scott McCarthy [00:10:25]:
So I’m still serving in the forces. So accountability for us, obviously is huge. And I was talking to these Special Forces guys, navy Seals and stuff like this and I’m like no accountability. It’s crucial, it’s actually critical. It’s how we get things done. And exactly like you had talked about it, they brought it from a positive standpoint so just a quick little and stories. Like one of the guys I was talking to, John, he was saying they’re getting ready for a mission and he walked in and he’s like looking at one of these guys, is your stuff good to go? His aspect of the mission, his equipment and stuff. Now I’m falling behind and falling behind. Okay. All right, john, come. Joe, come. Let’s give Jim here a hand and get things squared away. And he’s like that’s accountability. It’s making sure that they were ready to go, helping them out where we needed to ensure that the mission is done. So I love this whole thing. So for you from your standpoint, how can leaders out there start the conversation? Because to me we need to start the conversation with our teams on how we’re going to start implementing positive accountability.
Paige Williams [00:11:37]:
Within the team for sure. And I love that story Scott, and that example because what that shows is perhaps an aspect of accountability or the issues that accountability creates that are almost like the symptoms of it. We wouldn’t think it’s accountability that’s the root cause of that. But accountability is upstream of so many of the symptoms that leaders deal with day to day. That kind of if we get accountability right, the downflow of it, everything kind of gets easier and there’s more ease and grace and there’s more flow, which is why it’s so connected with under or high performance. So the conversations I have with leaders start with what are these issues? Why have we got this fog around accountability? And there I reckon there are three issues that we need to kind of clean up and address and that gets us a hell of a long way towards resetting accountability. So the first is confusion and we’re not clean and clear in our language. We’ve got mixed understanding of what accountability means. We use terms like accountability and responsibility and ownership and we use them interchangeably as leaders. We’re not clear and clean in our language with our teams around what each of them mean and they can have a different meaning and it’s useful for them too. And what that means is that confusion leads to a second problem. And the second problem is that we’re then concerned about having conversations like we lack of confidence because we kind of go, well is what I think. Accountability is the same as that leader over there. And if I do accountability and I’m kind of quite robust around it, then I end up looking like the bad cop because no one else is doing it like that in this organization. And we know that we’re wired for connection and we know that we want to feel a sense of belonging and so we don’t want to do something that’s going to kind of put us in a position where we’re going to get pushed out of the tribe, if you like. And that then means because we have concerns, we don’t have the confidence to have the conversations. They don’t become a regular part of the context, right? So they don’t become part of culture about the way that we just do stuff around here. It’s part of the way that we work together to talk about accountability and responsibility in a way that means that we make progress and we get done what we need to get done. Even as you just highlighted so beautifully. It means that what we’re actually doing is raising a hand to go, hey, I don’t reckon I can get this done. This deadline that you gave me, XYZ, has happened and I’m not going to make that now. And I want to let you know as soon as I’ve realized that. So these three issues, confusion, concern, and a lack of context kind of layer on each other, right? And so the first thing we have to clean up is confusion around language. As I kind of speak and teach this with leaders and teams, I go, if you do nothing else, just do this one thing and we talk about the difference between accountability and responsibility and how we can then really be clear and clean about how we cascade accountability and responsibility through our teams and organizations.
Scott McCarthy [00:14:45]:
I really love the whole beginning, what you talked about there in language, in making sure that everyone actually understood what the heck it is that we’re talking about. I’m Canadian, you’re Australian, but we’re a bilingual country, right? We have French and English as, but as A, as both official languages. So I remember speaking to a Francophone and he’s like, I don’t understand there. I’m like, which one? Spell it for me, right? We’ve always had a few different conversations like that. But it’s interesting because you mentioned the whole communication thing and understanding and making sure communication more importantly, sorry, let me rephrase making sure language is clear. So I actually had a former US. As I said us. Navy Seal on the show by the name of Larry Yatch, and literally most of that podcast was actually focused around as leaders, how we need to have our language to be clear and understood and defined so that our people actually understand what the heck it is we’re talking about. And for listener out there, you can listen that episode if you go to Leaddoboss.com 230, if you’re not subscribed, oh, by the way, you should subscribe anyway, so just go to Leaddoboss.com subscribe and do that anyways. All right, so back to what you were talking about though. So that’s why I love it, because we need to have that common understanding like, oh, we need accountability and what does that actually mean? Because accountability could mean multiple things to multiple people, as you’ve mentioned, right? And I host the mastermind community, the leader growth mastermind here, and that’s one of the things that we do is accountability. And I remember talking to one of our members and she was like I don’t want to be held accountable. I’m like what do you mean? She’s like well I’m scared you’re going to get yell at me or hold my feet to the farm? No, I’m just going to check up on you. I’m like hey have you done this? And it’s up to you. End of the day it’s up to you but you’re asking me for accountability in this area. I’m going to check in on you next week to see where you’re at. And every week you’re going to know, I’m going to check up on you and see where you’re at. And then once I explain accountability to her in that format, she was actually much more open respect to it. So that’s why I say in her.
Paige Williams [00:17:26]:
Context, even as you use the language, I’m going to check up on you, that has often for people like, I don’t want to get checked up on. And you can see them kind of respond and move back. And so it literally comes down to things like, I’m going to check in with you on how things are going. And it’s not a checking up, it’s a checking in. And I’m checking in with you. I’m not checking up on you. And so there’s this whole power dynamic to accountability that also we’re looking to reset as we kind of shift from it being punitive to something that’s positive. Because often accountability is done with a power dynamic of it being done to you, right? And you don’t have choice and voice in it and you can feel quite powerless and helpless to actually raise if there’s an issue or if something feels unrealistic or unreasonable. And certainly, as I kind of reset it through the course of the book, own it. It’s about shifting that power dynamic so that as an account or as someone who is asking and inviting accountability from others, we’re really kind of doing that from a power dynamic that’s alongside because we can’t force people to be accountable. As you’ve just said, it’s your choice whether you do this action or not. But I’m going to check in with you on how it’s going. So if you’ve chosen not to do anything, we’re going to have a conversation about that. And do you know, just that alone is enough to trigger action for people to be more likely to do what they’ve committed to do? One of the things that’s fascinating to look at is the psychology of how accountability hits our fight and flight and threat response and it does in so many ways we feel psychologically under threat when we feel we’re being checked up on or we’re going to have an accountability conversation. So some of this is actually about shifting power dynamics. And as you’ve said, language is such an important signal of what the power balance is, as we as leaders ask and invite people to accountability. And as we make clear what the consequences are, which is part of the psychological contract, if you like, of us cleaning up this whole situation around accountability.
Scott McCarthy [00:19:42]:
And look, the podcast host gets schooled on his own show. Not checking out. Someone is checking in with someone. There we go. I will fully admit that I am still very much a lifelong learner. And there we go. Thank you. This is awesome. Already.
Paige Williams [00:20:02]:
It was just a beautiful way to bring to life the point you were making.
Scott McCarthy [00:20:07]:
No, it’s perfect. It’s perfect. That will never leave me now. That will never leave me. The point has been made. But you did mention you talked a little bit about the psychological aspect of it, the fight, flight or freeze dynamics of it. I would love for you to go a little bit deeper because I think that’s so important because it’s almost kind of like the why behind it. All right? It’s really that deep psychological aspect. So if you can dive a little bit deeper in that for the listener, that’d be great.
Paige Williams [00:20:41]:
Yeah, sure, I’d love to. So one of the things in shifting the power dynamic is moving from either doing accountability to people where they feel disempowered by it and kind of there’s a threat response or as leaders, the other pattern that we often fall into is we kind of do it for people. And by that we can fall into a pattern of micromanaging or of swooping in when things appear to not be being delivered as we want them to be or as we expected them to be and kind of saving the day. And either one of those, whether we are a power dynamic of two or a power dynamic of four, they’re both disempowering, right? Because they’re not enabling and allowing people to live into the accountability we’re asking from them and actually feel the consequences of however they choose to show up to that. So it’s this shifting dynamic. And the reason we need to do that is because there are a number of different ways that we can get triggered in a threat response. Right? And I love Dr. David Rock’s. Work on this. He has a model called the Scarf model, which is Scarf. And each of those letters speaks to a way that we can be triggered in terms of kind of fight or flight or the threat response. And what happens when we’re triggered is we move away from whatever that threat is. So the S stands for status, the C stands for control, the A stands for autonomy, the R for relatedness and the F for fairness. Right now, when accountability is done in a very kind of punitive, punishment based way, when it’s done to people, it can actually hit all five of those kind of hotspots or triggers. We can feel under threat in terms of status because we’re made to feel stupid. We can feel that we’re having a sense of control taken away and certainty taken away. Because we feel under threat, like there’s an if then kind of dynamic going on and so we feel that we’re going to get punished. We can feel that autonomy is being taken away because we’re being told what to do and not giving any choice in how we do it. We can feel relatedness being threatened if we feel like we’re under attack from other team members or from our leader. And we can have our fairness button triggered if we feel like we’re being treated differently than other members of the team in terms of the accountability that we’re being asked to deliver on. So accountability is a pretty hot potato when it comes to this kind of threat avoidance response if we do it in the traditional way. And so that’s why this whizzing this idea of doing, of shifting the power dynamic from what I think of as a figure of eight, which is kind of top down and shifting that to an infinity sign where we go side by side and do what I call partnering in an accountability process. That means that what we do is we become coaches for accountability. So we’re very much about asking questions and drawing accountability from the conversation rather than ramming it into the conversation.
Scott McCarthy [00:23:58]:
Absolutely love it. Thank you for mentioning the David Rock Scarf model. Actually took a note of that. And for listener, I’ll put a copy of this graphic I’m looking at into the show notes for you so you can check that out because it’s definitely interesting. I’ll have to dive deeper into that and who knows, maybe reach out to David and try to get him on the show here because it looks like a very interesting model. I like the last bit that you talked about though, the eight to the infinity symbol, which is super interesting to me. And when you talk about that to me, what I see immediately is what I want today. I lead a team. I lead a small middle sized team. I’ll call it 24 folk. By far not the largest team I’ve ever led, but still 24 people. Pretty dynamic, pretty complex working environment and stuff like this. A lot of things going on and things change. Literally no notice some days. And when you talk about that infinity symbol to me as the team lead, what I’m hoping for is that I as the team leader there, come out of the accountability equation altogether. Well, not altogether, but mostly because what I’m hoping, and I shouldn’t say hoping, what I’m trying to achieve is that my team members hold each other accountable and they take care of each other. So that I don’t go and check in with someone, not check up on them, but check in with them to see how the TPS reports are going, but rather, the team members are checking checking in on each other to see how it’s going. Yeah. Do you see something similar or how do you look at that. And then if yes, the following question is how might we as leaders start instilling that in our team so that we can take that step back and look and think strategically?
Paige Williams [00:26:06]:
Yeah. So it’s beautiful, Scott, because what you’re speaking to is so we talked about the three issues with accountability being concern sorry, confusion, concern and context. And what you’re speaking to in terms of the team holding that infinity sign with each other is that context piece, right, where having accountability conversations with each other is so normal that we don’t just have it with the leader. We’re in this system of accountability where it’s perfectly okay for us to talk about how things are going in a really clear, in a really open and honest way, even when we might not be hearing what we’d like to hear around things, how things are going. Right. Because we know for sure as leaders that we want to know as early as possible if something is kind of going off the rails. Right. We don’t want people sweeping it under the carpet and kind of plastic fantastic in the meetings around, yeah, no, everything’s fine. Yeah, no, it’s great. And we hear right at the last minute that it’s all gone down the drain and it’s nowhere close to where we need it to be. And then we’re in front of a client or a senior leader or whatever that is in terms of a public facing situation where we’re having to then speak to where things are actually at rather than where they should be at. So this idea of normalizing it in a group culture and in a team culture is exactly where we want to get to. And cleaning up that confusion gets us builds us the confidence so that we don’t need to feel concerned around having the conversations. And then there’s a coaching style where we’re asking questions and we’re being transparent about what the accountability and responsibilities are with the team and within the team means. That actually what we’ve got is I often encourage leaders with their team to create an accountability responsibility map right. Just to go back a step or two so we clear up the language and we talk about accountability as the buck stops here. Right. And so if there were going to be kind of we have something over in Australia called the Royal Commission and when something needs to kind of be brought to accountability, we’ll have a Royal Commission into XYZ. And the way I frame accountability is the buck stops here. So whoever is on the stand in the Royal Commission, they’re the person whose shoulders ultimately the accountability sits on. And as a leader, that is often us. Right? That’s the reality. But we don’t do all the doing, right? So the responsibility is the arms and legs of what needs to be done. And look, these terms are taken from a project management framework called Racy because when I wrote the book and I did all the research, that was the most pragmatic, applied, easy to get your head around. So the Raci framework, the R and the A stands for Responsibility and accountability. And that’s how they pull those two things apart. So buck stops here is accountability. Work is done, here is responsibility, but it stops there, right? And I went, no, that’s not enough. Because as leaders, if we are delegating responsibility, we then also need to make clear what’s the accountability that goes with that. So I talk about we’ve got the buck stops here, we’ve got the doing of the work. And then as leaders, we need to make clear what does it look like for that work to be delivered, right? What are our expectations? When can our team members know they have delivered these expectations to meet the accountability that we’ve asked of them? And so that’s how we get this cascade. And as a team, if you’re then mapping who’s got responsibility for what, are we clear on what the accountabilities are, what the deliverables are for each of those, then you end up with this kind of accountability network map where everyone’s super clear who’s doing what, what the accountabilities the deliverables are for each. And if you do that across teams, this is where you start to get rid of this fog of confusion, where you’ve got maybe lots of double handling, maybe lots of finger pointing when things aren’t done, you’ve got gaps that are being missed. And when you’ve done this work, this is the thing where I say, if you do nothing else, just do this. Get clear in your language. You can create a map and a cascade and it just cleans it all up. And once you’ve done that, then the team have got sight of who is doing what and they’re able to support each other and they’re able to have those conversations around, hey, you know, that deliverable that looks like it’s slipping, I could do with some help here. It doesn’t always have to come funneled back up through the leader for that to be a pinch point in performance and progress in the team.
Scott McCarthy [00:30:58]:
I had a COVID moment there where I was about to talk and realize I wasn’t unmuted.
Paige Williams [00:31:06]:
Scott McCarthy [00:31:08]:
Yeah. Keep it real here. Anyway, I got another so for listener, I’ll drop the ricey model into the show notes as well. These show notes are me huge, but it’s super interesting. So I’ll give you like an actual anecdotal personal story and back to COVID. So one of the good things of COVID was that it forced the Cane forces to adopt teens for video conferencing and stuff like this. So our culture is face to face, is it? We shall do face to face meetings all the time, so on and so forth. Obviously with COVID that kind of forced us down the rabbit hole of video conferencing. And teams came about. It talking with one of my coworkers at work, and we were trying to wrap our head around task management, how to best, better do task management and stuff like this. And I took some of his advice, tweaked it myself. And what we ended up doing was that we use the team’s task manager. It’s built into the actual app, right? Yeah, but for the team. But it’s for the team, so everyone sees it. It’s a global view. If you’re in the team, you can go ahead and you can see it. But I would go in there and I built buckets and all this stuff, and I’m actually an agileist at heart. So it’s like, oh, this is very similar to Agile Kai bond theory and all that stuff. Okay, I can get down with this. But what ended up doing was like, okay, all of our tasks are going here. There will be no tasks that will get assigned via verbal. Well, they will still get assigned verbally, but they’re still going to go here. Everything’s going to go here. One of the reasons why I did is due to the nature of the work we do, is that the unit I currently work at, we’re a high risk unit. So me, my team members, we get sent away literally almost no notice. Like, two days you’re gone and you don’t know when you’re coming back type stuff, right? But a lot of these tasks still have to get done, right? So they still have to get done, we still have to get worked on. So I’ve really been honing in on, okay, let’s put the task up there, let’s do updates in there. Let’s assign the people who’s responsible for them will get assigned in teams, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I said, Listen, guys, all this is due to the event that should someone have to go away at no notice, at least we have 70, 80% understanding where we’re at, what’s been done, what’s the next steps, and so on and so forth. We’re having a bigger meeting at work one day, and one of my sergeants, who a non commissioned officer, one of the lowest ranks we have working, fantastically individual. And she brought up, she’s like, we’ve been doing this thing with teams and blah, blah, blah, actually. And she’s like, and I love it. And I was like, Excuse me, I was sitting there, I was listening to her. But for the exact reasons is that it enables her to understand where all the tasks are at, who’s responsible for what, and then she can go and for her little parts here and there and wherever she can check in on it or have it understand when someone goes at the door, where they’re at, and if she can help out. And I was just like, wow, you’re speaking to my heart right now. But it all goes to the whole aspect.
Paige Williams [00:34:40]:
So what, it comes back.
Scott McCarthy [00:34:41]:
I was going to say it goes to the whole aspect, accountability within the team.
Paige Williams [00:34:46]:
Yeah. And what it speaks to is if we come back to the Scarf model, right, the C of that was certainty, the A of it was autonomy and the R of it was relatedness. And having this kind of transparency and people understanding what the moving pieces are and who’s got what moving pieces, it helps them be confident to dial in to what’s theirs to own, understanding how that is in a spider’s web of accountability within the team. Right? And so this is one of the things when we have conversations and I talk about having coaching conversations for accountability and in the book I include kind of coaching ladders of questions that you can ask, that you would ask in the course of an accountability conversation. And one of them is what are the consequences of things not unfolding as we’ve agreed here. And this is about the person understanding that there are ripples that come out of whether they do or don’t do what we’ve just agreed to, like the choices that they make have consequences coming out of our conversation for others. And then at some point, and I make this really clear as I work with leaders and teams around, this is not every accountability story has a happy ending, right. That’s the reality of it, right? There is not a fairytale ending to every accountability situation because sometimes people are not prepared to pick up the invitation for accountability that we’re laying down as leaders, no matter how compelling we make the case, no matter how clear we make the consequences. And so sometimes the consequences are not just outward, the consequences are for the individual involved. And we need to make that equally clear like that’s part of our responsibility as a leader is, if it comes to that, to go. Actually, do you know what, we’ve had three conversations around this now and there are going to be consequences for you individually if nothing changes again. And so there’s almost a thread of integrity around this resetting of accountability because it means that we’re cleaning things up, hearing things up. There’s an agreed understanding of what is being committed to here and what the expectations are and there’s an invitation to dialogue around what’s reasonable and realistic and what’s relevant right now. Because certainly one of the things I hear a lot in organizations is with our matrix reporting structures, accountability can kind of be invisible or opaque because people have multiple reporting lines and each of those reporting lines is asking for accountability. But only the individual themselves has the horizontal view of all of those accountabilities that they’re being asked for. It’s opaque to the people that are asking for it, right. To the various leaders that they report into in this matrix structure that’s so common in workplaces now. And so this is again coming back to that infinity sign dynamic because the conversations are as much about an accountee, someone who’s being asked to deliver something saying, hey, look, to give you full transparency, I’m also being asked to do Xyzab and C, and that’s all in the next three weeks. So I’m going to ask all of the people asking me to do all of that and you to come together and agree on what the priorities are because I’m not going to be able to do all of that in the time frames that you’re giving me. And so, again, as accountors, as leaders, we kind of have to be willing to hear sometimes information and conversation we might not want to because it’s not giving us exactly what we want when we want it. But in the larger accountability system, it’s kind of understanding where the priorities are and being able to work to that so that we don’t burn our people out.
Scott McCarthy [00:38:50]:
So many great things in there. I don’t even know where to start. I actually know where I’m going to start. I’m going to start with I’m holding reserve for the last story of the podcast because you talked about way back there, you talked about how not every accountability session ends in a happy ending. So I got a story about one that didn’t end in a happy ending. Or did it? Wait and see. But there’s so many good things in there and the matrix, wow, we could go down a rabbit hole here. Accountability in the matrix, it is a very common workplace system. The one thing I’ll offer as a leader so as a leader and you have employees or you have team members and you’re working in a matrix system where I actually have members right now, where it’s quasi a matrix system, like, they’re responsive to others, but they’re responsible to me. I’m their supervisor. However, they are responsive to some of my coworkers. I guess the one thing I’ll offer up is some days you need to check your ego at the door. Actually, every day you need to check your ego at the door, but in some days you need to check it even more so in that you know what, what you think is the most important thing isn’t actual most important thing. Yeah. And the amount of work that can get done is a pie chart. It ain’t a bar graph. It’s a pie chart. People can only do so much. They can only do so much within that 40 or 50 or however, whatever number of hours they have a week, a day, year, whatever it is, they can only do so much. And it’s a pie chart. It’s not going to get bigger. It’s not going to get smaller. Sure, there’s ways to be more efficient and blah, blah, blah. But in a day, it’s still a pie chart. It’s still the same amount of time. So your slice of that pie may have to get smaller.
Paige Williams [00:40:45]:
Yeah, and suck it up. It’s super interesting. Scott, because I’m sure it’s true. It’s true in Australia, I’m sure it is in Canada and the US as well. But there’s been a lot of reporting around the levels of burnout in workplaces and organizations. Yeah, right.
Scott McCarthy [00:41:04]:
Huge. Yes, huge.
Paige Williams [00:41:07]:
The great resignation we had, the great reset we’ve got now, the epidemic of burnout. There are a couple of things I want to kind of speak to into this that relate to accountability and relate to expectations. So I reckon one of the things that’s coming out of COVID is a different great reset than the one that was written about about six or eight months ago. And I think fundamentally a part of the business model that has prevailed since the Industrial Revolution has inbuilt embedded in it a degree of unpaid overtime. And that shows up in people feeling that they need to be there for long hours to show dedication. And that’s what commitment to the company looks like right now. That was already on pretty can I.
Scott McCarthy [00:41:53]:
Pause you for a second?
Paige Williams [00:41:54]:
Scott McCarthy [00:41:55]:
Could we just hit pause? Literally conversation in my mastermind community, I believe it was the mastermind community, it’s one of my clients for sure, who’s on holidays, wondering if she should check her phone.
Paige Williams [00:42:09]:
There you go. Because otherwise she won’t feel committed to the organization. Right.
Scott McCarthy [00:42:15]:
Thinking the organization yeah, thinking the organization would think less of her if she did not check her phone. I was like, empower your team, take your holiday, say goodbye. Exactly.
Paige Williams [00:42:26]:
Right. So it was on shaky ground before we went into COVID. And then the kind of the great reset that’s been talked about in terms of people understanding work life balance. And we’ve got a generational shift in this as well. Coming into workplaces through workplaces as Gen X’s and I’m, gen X and work as the centerpiece of life was what we grew up with. And that’s changed with millennial generations, but built into the business model. And this is kind of not just the small business, the meta big business model is unpaid overtime. So the great reset I think that’s coming out of COVID is workers saying, no, no more. I don’t want that. I want meaningful work. I want reasonable leaders and I want organizations that are not kill this planet and there’s going to be a reset around how much. And I heard the term the other day, one of my clients used the term and it was discretionary effort and I just called them on it. I went, Are you talking about unpaid overtime? Because if you are, you got to strip that out, your business model, because expecting your work, your employees to do that is no longer reasonable. It never was. And so you need to let go of that. And it comes down to this idea of clarity of expectations. Right. And if as business owners or senior leaders, we’ve got an expectation that the business model has whatever degree of unpaid overtime built into it. Our expectations are flawed from the beginning and so we’re always going to be asking people for things that they’re not prepared to give us. So that’s one thing that kind of speaks to accountability. The second thing is this epidemic of burnout. Done some research and it’s actually been in Canada and Australia and the UK around what is it that people are experiencing at work that is most contributing to burnout. And the two top things were unreasonable job demands and toxic workplace relationships, right? So there are about 66.8% of people saying they’re experienced burnout and this was 1000 Australian workers. And we did this research in the last three months and of those 266 odd percent, most of them said it was unreasonable job demands and toxic workplace relationships. Pause. When I did the research for accountability, the two things that mean that we can set up accountability for success are clarity of expectations and quality of accountability relationships. This idea of partnering, right? And so when you look at those two things if we focus on accountability, if we get clear on our expectations, if people are not carrying things that are not theirs to own, if people are not stressed by a fog of confusion around who’s doing what, being called on last minute to do things, then the unreasonable job demands and the toxic workplace relationships that are most contributing to people experiencing burnout dissolve. So accountability is, like I say, that it’s actually going to impact things in our workplaces that we might think are symptoms of something else. But if we do this most foundational work around accountability, we’d be amazed at how much it’s just going to flood through the system and flood through our teams and other things that we thought were due to something else are going to be cleaned up in the process.
Scott McCarthy [00:45:52]:
Wow, that’s amazing. And those things on burnout does not surprise me one day, to be honest. And yes, it’s a huge epidemic that’s going on right now. But as you said, I think we are in for a great shift. I think things are definitely changing. I think leaders out there, you’re either on the bus or you’re going to get hit by the bus. Pick one.
Paige Williams [00:46:17]:
It’s so true.
Scott McCarthy [00:46:21]:
You know, and you know your employees are going to vote with their feet and then if you can’t go ahead and fill the jobs and fill the role your business can’t or organization can’t fill it fulfill its mandate and then it’s eventually going to cease to exist.
Paige Williams [00:46:39]:
It’s so true.
Scott McCarthy [00:46:40]:
Paige Williams [00:46:41]:
It is. Not every story has a happy ending.
Scott McCarthy [00:46:44]:
Prepare to get hit by it. Right? Before we go into the story, I got a last question that’s burning in my head before we kind of start to wrap this up. You mentioned it a few times, I know I’ve read it in your book. But I’d love for you to give a breakdown of a coaching session for the leaders out there so that they can have a good understanding of what this needs to look like for them as they do this positive accountability holding for their team members who’s struggling or who’s not meeting expectation. Now, I would caveat this with the leader has already ensured that they’re not the problem. And why that? I mean, is they’ve done everything they can to make sure that they have set clear expectations. They’ve done everything that they can to make sure that the person understands what’s expected of them. They’ve done everything, communicated with them all this stuff, did everything in their power. Because I find around 97% of the time problems actually stem from the leader, not the individual. So that’s your start point.
Paige Williams [00:47:59]:
Excellent. I’m so glad that you made that so clear, Scott, because you’re right. One of the things that I talk about is we don’t have the right to ask for accountability unless we’ve owned what’s ours to own. And the things that you talked about there this have I made expectations clear? Have I checked in, have I given support along the way? They’re the things that are ours to own as accountors, as leaders, right? And if we haven’t done that, then we kind of don’t have the right to be asking others for accountability. But we’re assuming that’s been done. And so then the start of this conversation then, and as I say, it’s really about putting on a coaching mindset. And the reason for this is we want to create what’s called an autonomy supportive environment, right? So this is where the person that we’re speaking with really feels like, yeah, it’s their decision to make. They have a lot of voice and choice in what comes out of this conversation. So the first thing in the first section of the conversation is called reconnect and make explicit. And what we’re reconnecting to is those expectations that we’ve already said have been made clear and have been checked in with and support has been offered. So we’re reconnecting with what already has been discussed and we’re making explicit that where we’re at right now is not okay. This is not an okay conversation. This is a conversation where we’re highlighting something around these expectations is not being met and how we’re going to move forward. So we might ask questions like what have we been working towards? And this as much is to bring into the room. Okay, so from the accountee, from the person we’re having the conversation with. Okay. So we were working towards the project deadline being next week and at that point I needed to deliver XYZ so that we could do ABC. Now, unlikely it’s going to come as easily as that, right? Because we know that this is going to be an uncomfortable conversation for the accountee because they are having to say that they haven’t delivered on something that you’ve discussed with them previously again. Which is why, as an accountor, we have to go into this with the right mindset, which is curious, open to possibility, out of judgment, but very clear that this is not a letting off the hook conversation. This is a conversation where we’re getting down kind of the facts and realities about where things are at. So what have we been working towards? What’s the purpose of this? So this is them to ask them, so you get what we were doing. Do you understand why we were doing it? And it should be a reconnecting to conversations you’ve had before. Right? And so if the accountee is not forthcoming in the answer with an answer, or is not correct or not accurate in what they’re saying, the possibility for you as an accountor is to go is to say, hey, do you remember we had that conversation a week ago? And at that time we discussed that the purpose of this project is XYZ. And if you remember, in our kickoff meeting four weeks ago, I made that clear to the whole team. So what you’re doing is kind of creating a breadcrumb trail of, no, we’ve talked about this before. We’re reconnecting to things that have already been discussed. How have we progressed? How do you reckon we’re going with that? And depending on where you’re at, if this is your first reconnection conversation or it’s your third, depends on what you’re drawing on in terms of an answer to this. So have we progressed? How are we going towards that? But ultimately what we’re getting to is that we’re not where we need to be or we’re not where we should be. And whether they are forthcoming with that or whether it’s a case of as an account or you’re kind of having to actually encourage them to own. Well, if you remember, we agreed that that would be delivered two weeks ago. And as far as I’m aware, unless things have changed in the last 24 hours, I don’t think those things have been delivered yet. Correct me if I’m wrong. So there’s this nature to the conversation which is, I’m willing for you to kind of step in and give me evidence that what we’re talking about here has changed. But on that basis, we’re saying, no, it’s not been delivered, and we’re moving forward on that. We then come to what was your part in this outcome? Tough question, right? Because we’re actually saying to the person, what have or haven’t you done that’s brought us to this point? What did you do that helped and hindered the outcomes that we now have? And again, this is really dialing into their personal ownership. And so as I talk about the whole of this conversation with leaders, I go, this is the most gristly part. This might, in terms of time, take kind of 70% of your time in this, because once you’ve got through this and you’ve kind of gone, what were we meant to be doing? Where are we at? And basically, what’s your part in the gap? Right? And where are we now? And so you want to get to a landing point or we get to a landing point where we go right? Okay, so let’s summarize where we’re at now. We needed to deliver this two weeks ago and we’re now another two weeks before where you said it’s going to be deliverable. So we’re now four weeks out from where we originally said we were. You can see that XYZ has impacted that externally. But also you’ve acknowledged that your part in this is ABC, okay, that’s where we’re at now. How will we move forward? And then there’s a series of questions around what goals are we going to set, what timing are we going to put to it? And so we’re creating those clear expectations again. But from this basis of we’re not where we needed to be, there’s a gap here that needs to be filled and we are reassessing what good looks like as we go forward and what we do as we do that we say to them. We ask them questions like what might you do differently this time? What’s your contribution going to be to resolving this going forward? And so it’s very clear that we’re not sweeping things under the carpet. We’re not pretending things are okay, but we are absolutely making clear where the gap is. We’re asking them to take ownership for their role in it and then we’re setting clear expectations going forward and outlining the consequences. This is where that consequences piece is super important because we need to then say, do we understand the consequences of this not unfolding again, as we’ve agreed here, and hear what their response is. And as a coach, we ask first. But if what they’re saying back to us, like, one of the questions is when should we next check in? And if the accountee is saying two weeks time and that’s clearly too long away, then as the account. Or we can absolutely kind of bridge that gap by saying, well, hey, I reckon in the next 48 hours would be a good first touch point and then why don’t we go from there? But the invitation is always for them to kind of put something into the space and then we take that and we pick that up and we mold and shape it to what we need it to be or we co create something together to what we need it to be moving forward. So that’s kind of a high level outline. There’s more detail in the book. It would take a long time for me to go through each section. But yeah, we reconnect and make explicit that things are not where they need to be as we kind of redirect and get things back on the rails with an accountability challenge.
Scott McCarthy [00:55:40]:
And my experiences, this goes positive. People don’t wake up and go, how am I going to mess things up at work today?
Paige Williams [00:55:52]:
Scott McCarthy [00:55:55]:
Generally speaking, people generally don’t wake up and go, how can I make things horrible at work today? How could I mess up this project? How could I not do this deliverable? So when it’s done in a positive way, it gets met with positive vibes, positive reception, and positive outcome most of the time. So I love how you kind of frame the whole coaching, the coaching conversation. And I would offer conversations because there’s definitely more than one in there for him to get the right result in the end.
Paige Williams [00:56:35]:
Scott McCarthy [00:56:36]:
And the individual.
Paige Williams [00:56:38]:
Yeah. And this whole thing around the partner is critical.
Scott McCarthy [00:56:44]:
Yeah, for sure. So to wrap things up, the story before we really wrap up this is not my story. This is one of my former Insubordinate story. He had someone working for him who just wasn’t cutting it, would show up late, not do the work, et cetera, et cetera. So through the whole process, longer story short, fired. Sorry, it’s just not working. You are not working out here. And they were friends, like, outside of work. Okay. So they say the friendship got rocky. Right. They didn’t really talk for much longer. Flash forward a couple of years, ran into each other after obviously not having talked, and he said, thank you. Thank me for what? For firing me. I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s what I needed because I realized if a friend of mine can fire me, I am obviously doing something wrong.
Paige Williams [00:57:54]:
Scott McCarthy [00:57:54]:
And then he completely changed his act and actually got into a higher level job than what he was working at and said he was much happier. So, yes, in the end, negative. However, the final outcome was actually quite positive for that individual.
Paige Williams [00:58:13]:
Yeah. Sometimes we can be in kind of a victim mentality, and it’s very hard to step into accountability when you’re in that. And as an accountor who is coaching for accountability, we look to move people out of that kind of victim mindset and into what I call in the book, an awful mindset where they’re willing to own and take action for what’s theirs to own. And, yeah, sometimes we need something to jolt us out of that victim mindset and to realize that actually, do you know what, we create the reality that we live in, and we create our opportunity, and we can only make progress for ourselves. So, yeah, that’s a happy ending in the end story.
Scott McCarthy [00:59:02]:
Absolutely. All right, as we wrap up, I do got two last questions for you. Okay, we talked about this before we hit record. All right? The final question of the show, according to you, Dr. Paige Williams, what makes a great leader?
Paige Williams [00:59:22]:
Someone who listens, who listens to themselves, and who is aware enough to have kind of that internal compass, if you like, that internal dial. So someone who listens to themselves, and who listens to others, who hold space for others to grow into their greatness.
Scott McCarthy [00:59:46]:
Wow. Would you not believe that the content that we are going through this month in the Leader Growth Mastermind is all about active listening and listening to others? Not necessarily the first part of that you talked about, but the latter part that you talked about. Yes, there we go.
Paige Williams [01:00:01]:
Scott McCarthy [01:00:01]:
And then the final question. And the final question show how can people find you, follow you, be part of your journey. Shameless plug. Have at it.
Paige Williams [01:00:09]:
Yes. So fabulous. My website is Drpage. Au, and on there you’ll find all things about own. It about my first book, becoming Antifragile. I have a whole ecosystem, leaders ecosystem of work that talks about accountability, antifragility. It talks about partnering. It talks about uncomfortable truths that we need to face and to move forward. So, yeah, just go explore there. There’s a hub of resources you can join, and you can sign up for my newsletter and blog that I send every couple of weeks. So I reckon that’s the place to go.
Scott McCarthy [01:00:48]:
Awesome. And for you to listen, as always, it’s easy. Just go to leaddumboss.com. 254254 Paige. Again, thank you for taking time. This has been a fantastic conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and no doubt the listener, too.
Paige Williams [01:01:03]:
Thanks so much, sky. It was a real pleasure being with you.
Scott McCarthy [01:01:10]:
And that’s a wrap for this episode, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening. Thank you for supporting the peak Performance Leadership podcast. But you know what you could do to truly support the podcast. And no, that’s not leaving a rating and review. It’s simply helping a friend. And that is helping a friend by sharing this episode with them. If you think this would resonate with them and help them elevate their performance level, whether that’s within themselves, their teams, or their organization, so do that. Help me help a friend. Win win all around. And hey, you look like a great friend at the same time. So just hit that little share button on your app and then feel free to fire this episode to anyone that you feel would benefit from it. Finally, there’s always more there’s always more lessons around being the highest performing leader that you can possibly be, whether that’s for yourself, your team, or your organized nation. So why don’t you subscribe? Subscribe to the show via movingforwardleadership.com subscribe. Until next time.
Scott McCarthy [01:02:21]:
Scott McCarthy [01:02:22]:
Don’t, boss. And thanks for coming up. Take care now.