In recent weeks, during one of my CEO Peer Group workshops, I encountered a CEO (let’s call him Peter) who told me that the pandemic that forced people to work from home liberated countless companies of their B players. I asked, “What do you mean by that?”
Peter responded, “The B players either stepped up during this crisis to become A players or responded poorly, only to reveal themselves as C players.” In his mind, the crisis helped him identify the A-Team that will lead his company in the future. Assuming Peter’s assessment is correct, and that he purges the C-players from his company, how will he plan to lead his new A-Team and inspire them going forward?
This question can be answered by reviewing two previous articles I wrote for CEOWORLD: When in Doubt, Do the Opposite, and How Accountability Can Serve Peernovation at Your Company. Here’s a summary of what these articles will tell you about what Peter might consider doing.
When in Doubt, Do the Opposite speaks to a leader’s natural tendency toward seizing control, believing that the more accountability measures you have in place, the greater control you have of day-to-day performance, particularly in a remote work environment. We know this is a false construct. The reality is the more control you attempt to exert, the less likely your team will achieve its potential. We mistakenly buy into the control construct because we believe information is power when sometimes it’s just information. Of course, no one has a lens into how much productivity is lost because it’s invisible (at least in the short-term). No one measures lost productivity based on the time it takes to accommodate increased reporting nor the amount of energy it drains from human activity when employees feel like they can’t be trusted.
Imagine Peter telling his new A-Team that they have to be accountable for even more metrics, more often – or those dashboard meetings will now be twice a week versus once a week. Besides requiring them to spend more time preparing and reporting and less time actually producing (or just working more hours overall), there’s the high probability that you’re sending a message that you don’t trust them – A-Team or not.
Soon the A-Team starts feeling like the C-Team, primarily because you’re treating them that way. You on one side of the table (or Zoom call), with them on the other side, with employees playing defence more often and more intensely than during the height of the crisis. It doesn’t have to be this way. Am I suggesting that accountability is not necessary? Of course not. It’s crucial. Yet leveraging accountability as a force for good is all in how you structure it.
How Accountability Can Serve Peernovation at Your Company implicitly poses the question: What would happen if your employees felt that everyone, including the team leader, were all on the same team? Working together. Winning and losing together. A team whose members accept personal responsibility for bringing their A-games to the outputs responsible for producing the high outcomes that everybody wants for themselves, the team, and the company. And having a CEO/Team Leader who is publicly accountable to the team rather than someone who sits in judgment of others.
To do this requires a shift in leadership mindset. Too many CEOs consider themselves apart from the team, not a part of it. This is a mistake made by CEOs, leaders, and coaches alike. They see themselves as separate from the team, mainly because it’s the only model they know and a dynamic they feel is necessary because of their role as the leader. Time and time again, this has proven to be another false assumption that delivers the opposite of the intended result, leading us back to the first article’s advice.
Takeaways: Being an avid golfer, I’ve watched countless players who pay $500 for a new driver, only to hold it with a death grip that keeps its technological advances from being much use. A CEO who wants to exhibit that same “control mindset” to human beings will fare no better. That said, do the opposite. It would be best if you became one with the driver to unleash your true potential. Use this time of adversity as an opportunity to hit the reset button on your culture of accountability, where you’re all on the same side – where nobody is playing defence and where you can make your A-players feel like the A-team that they are.