The language of accountable management

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 Joe Watkins 0 Comments

“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” Rita Mae Brown

Doctors, lawyers and engineers have distinctions created in language that allow them to reliably produce outcomes. Distinction provides power because it has you see the world differently, so you see openings for action that you couldn’t see before.

Why not the same for accountable management? The language your organisation uses to manage the tasks and relationships required for it to function tells you where your management think from and therefore where they are predictably going to end up. ”One in every two managers are terrible at accountability” claims a HBR article, so empowering accountable language and behaviour should be a leadership focus in today’s organisations.

What kind of language (culture) sustain the following behaviours? 

  •  Say yes when they should say no.
  •  Delegate or accept a delegated task without a deadline or not really being clear of what’s required.
  •  Do not check diaries before accepting deadlines.
  •  Accepting a task with a deadline with having no intention of meeting that deadline.

One reason is that the organisation has not created a language (culture) of accountability that gives people distinctions in accountability so that they can behave in ways that are accountable. Here are some examples so you get a sense of what I mean –

A PROMISE is an agreement to complete a specific ‘what’ by a specific ‘when’.
A REQUEST must be ACCEPTED, DECLINED or COUNTEROFFERED and must include a specific ‘what’ by a specific ‘when’.
A COUNTEROFFER involves offering a different deliverable and/or timeline.
I’LL TRY or MAYBE or I’LL GIVE IT MY BEST SHOT or WE’LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS or…IT DEPENDS… are not the same thing as a promise.
WOULD YOU MIND or IF YOU GET A CHANCE or WITHIN THE NEXT WEEK or GET BACK TO ME WHEN YOU CAN are not the same thing as a request.

To have accountable management you need a language of accountability and an agreement to use that language in the organisation.

 


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