Being accountable for one’s actions is indisputably a good thing. But what about your boss’ inability to properly communicate, or a flat tire? Are you responsible for the ramifications of your own bad luck?
Local readers may think my headline is in response to the painfully prolonged winter Chicago is experiencing, well into meteorological spring. Actually, this piece comes from two books I happened to read in succession that have two different answers to the accountability question.
In Success Under Stress (which I reviewed a few weeks back), Sharon Melnick argues that holding yourself accountable for things that are out of your control is just going to stress you out and make you less productive:
Every challenge can be divided into two categories—the 50 percent of factors we can control and the 50 percent we can’t. Factors we can’t control include macrolevel forces, such as market trends, technology developments, senior leadership decisions, reorganizations, traffic… Additionally, there are a myriad of microlevel forces we can’t control, such as someone else’s tone of voice or what they write in an e-mail.
Things that are out of your control attract your attention like a magnet attracts metal. However, by focusing on factors outside of your control, you’re setting yourself up for stress.
In Where Winners Live, a new book by Dave Porter and Linda Galliano, the authors argue that if you “adopt a mindset of 100 percent accountability,” then “chances are good that it will work out in your favor.” They compare the days of Vince (who is 100 percent accountable) to that of Katherine (who only accepts accountability for 85 percent):
Occasionally, Katherine reasons, circumstances beyond her control cause her bad results. Take the weather, traffic, the occasional flat tire, or a restless night that left her without enough energy for her day…
Back to Vince. It rains on his way to work as often as it does during Katherine’s commute. But he leaves his house so early in the morning that he has plenty of leeway to deal with weather-delayed slow traffic and still arrives at work on time. He experiences few flat tires and car troubles because he knows a few minutes of preventive maintenance now will save him from losing up to an hour later… He plows through the days when he feels sluggish or has the sniffles, because he knows each day will end at 6pm and he needs to finish his work by then.
When change comes to town, it seems to divide people into two camps: victims and villains. Those who precipitated the change are often the bad guys of the situation. And everyone else seems to be warily looking for their name on the chopping block. Change has the same effect on businesses, which is why mergers and other structural shake-ups can be so damaging to morale and productivity.
But they don’t have to be. While reading Sharon Melnick’s new book, Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident, and Productive When the Pressure’s On, I came across her seemingly stellar exercise for people who are going through this kind of flux. It’s called “WIN at Change.” While it is intended for the individual, I think that brokers, managers and leaders of all kinds could benefit from it.
The exercise is predicated on Melnick’s theory that if you take responsibility for your 50 percent of any given situation, your stress level will decrease, as you’re holding up your end of the bargain with the understanding that you can’t do it all. I think that’s a key component to this exercise, and I think managers would do well to mention that ideal as an introduction to the exercise. As Melnick says, “It’s tempting to comment negatively on other peoples’ decision or to be fearful of the uncertainty, but the way to stay productive is by managing yourself” (emphasis hers). If nothing else, it should quiet detractors long enough to get through the exercise!
So, here’s what you do. Gather all the stakeholders and hand them two pieces of paper. The first one should be split into thirds, and the second one blank. Here’s your script: Continue reading »
By Stever Robbins
The best-known books on personal productivity are The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, and Getting Things Done by David Allen. Tim’s book helps people build a financial engine to give them the life they want. David’s book helps achieve a peaceful, Zen-like mind by creating a system that handles everything in your life. The Get-it-Done Guy Book builds skills to make any pursuit less work. You can use it to work less and do more while building the financial engine that revolutionizes your life.
You can also use it to do your existing job faster and better. One step of the Get-it-Done Guy system involves clearing your mind and life of clutter, but it doesn’t address inboxes; it addresses physical clutter and streamlining job demands that can lead to information overwhelm such as having to track several projects at once. Task management has already been presented in Getting Things Done, which is the system I have used for the last several years.
The book’s nine steps build a foundation for streamlining how you get what you want out of work (and life). The material is based on ideas I learned or developed during my years coaching, both coaching tools and techniques to help clients work less and do more.
The Nine Steps
Step 1: Live and work on purpose
If you’re anything like me, a lot of what you call work has very little to do with getting anything important done in life. Like when I compulsively check my social media sites every hour. That kind of thing must go.
Step 2: Stop procrastinating
What is procrastinating except the very art of not doing the very stuff you know is most important? We’ll cover how to nip this in the bud, or at least arrange for someone to kick you into action when you’re delaying. And just in case you’re someone who claims being kicked into action doesn’t work for you, we’ll get out an Ostrich feather and tickle you into action instead. Continue reading »