By F. Scott Addis, CPCU, CRA, ACRA, ASA
ACCOUNTABILITY AND EMPOWERMENT … LESSONS LEARNED IN THE LAND OF OZ
Begin the process of reaping rewards by accepting responsibility for your attitude and actions
The Wizard of Oz is a story about self-awareness, accountability, and empowerment. While the characters of Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow see themselves as victims of circumstances, they gradually learn that they possess the power within themselves to get what they want. Initially believing that they were victimized by their shortcomings and powerlessness to change their situations, they set off on a journey to find the Wizard. Surely the “great and all-powerful” Wizard would grant them what they needed to deal with their uncertainties.
However, upon arriving in the Emerald City after a treacherous journey, Dorothy’s dog, Toto, drags back the curtain to reveal the powerless Wizard whose only talent is pulling levers and blowing smoke. It is not until the end of the story that these lovable characters realize one of the most important lessons in life—fulfillment and success are not in the hands of some magical source; they are within oneself.
The Land of Oz has come to represent how individuals and organizations are paralyzed until they demonstrate high levels of trust and control over the issues at hand. In The Oz Principle, authors Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman convey the importance of taking ownership to achieve desired results.
So, why has The Oz Principle been one of the top-selling books in the leadership and performance categories since 1994? Because people are in search of a yellow brick road leading to the magical Land of Oz to solve their problems.
Accountability is doing what you say you’re going to do and executing the task to the best of your ability. Being accountable is taking ownership of something and not blaming others if your performance does not produce the desired results. Accountability shines through when you are the one who critiques your own performance. Accountability takes two forms—personal and team.
Personal accountability is about taking ownership of your thoughts, decisions, actions, attitude, communication, and relationships. It is rooted in the belief that you are the controller of your life. Accountability should not be seen as something negative. Just the opposite. It is about self-empowerment. It is about being the captain of your life, instead of the passenger at the mercy of others. What do you see as the traits of someone who is personally accountable? Resilient, resourceful, energetic, disciplined, and honest.
Now, let’s consider the opposite. When you view a person with a low level of personal accountability, what do you see? Broken promises, missed deadlines, excuses, and a victim mentality. Often, this person is not capable of recognizing or acknowledging his or her mindset.
The Land of Oz has come to represent how individuals and organizations are paralyzed until they demonstrate high levels of trust and control over the issues at hand.
Team accountability is a process by which two or more members of a team agree to be held responsible for the commitments that they have voluntarily made to each other. It highlights the importance of teamwork directed toward the achievement of a mutual goal.
In an organizational setting, team accountability has proven to have significant benefits including, but not limited to, personal growth, productivity, enjoyment, and shared values leading to a high-performing culture. Pat Summit, the legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach, had this to say about team accountability: “Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership. And a sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organization can have.”
Hitting the wall is one of the worst feelings, especially at work. Do you sometimes find yourself frustrated because you possess the potential to do more but lack the authority, resources, and/or voice? Working in this state leads to demoralization, reduced productivity, and disengagement.
So, what is empowerment? And why is it so important? It is having the authority, autonomy, ability, and control over your day-to-day activities. This includes having a voice in strategy, tactics, solutions and, ultimately, outcomes.
There is a direct correlation between empowerment and job performance, satisfaction, and commitment to an organization. When you feel empowered, you:
- Go the extra mile for your team and organization
- Take ownership of your work
- Generate creative ideas
- Find meaning and purpose at work
- Take prudent risks to take your organization to the next level
- Become a brand ambassador for the firm
- Feel more motivated and engaged
Partners in Leadership, a training and consulting firm, conducted a work-place accountability study of more than40,000 business professionals. Study results document that workplace accountability and empowerment grow revenues and profitability, reduce costs, improve operating efficiencies, and serve as a catalyst to implement new initiatives. The survey data confirms Partners in Leadership’s 30-plus years of observation that employee engagement derives from a sense of ownership over one’s work and a clear connection between an employee’s actions and the organization’s results.
Existing Above the Line
In The Oz Principle, we learn that there is a thin line within every organization that relates to accountability and engagement. Below the Line are those employees who have a victim mentality evidenced by excuse-making, blaming others, confusion, and an attitude of helplessness. Above the Line we see a sense of reality, ownership, commitment, solutions to problems, and determined actions. While losers languish Below the Line, covering their tails, pointing fingers, and/or ignoring problems, winners reside Above the Line, powered by a commitment to hard work.
In The Wizard of Oz, it is apparent that Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow spend most of their journey Below the Line, avoiding accountability for their situations. They are stuck in the victim cycle …the blame game.
So, how can you improve your circumstances if you are living Below the Line? Consider the following:
- Invite candid feedback from those who know you best
- Acknowledge reality, including all of its problems and challenges
- Realize that you own the circumstances and results, even when they are less than desirable
- Do not waste time or energy on things that you cannot control or influence
- Give 100% to any task that you are given
- Recognize when you drop Below the Line and act quickly to avoid the traps of the victim cycle
- Continually ask yourself, “What else can I do to operate Above the Line and achieve desired results?”
When you accept responsibility for your attitude and actions, you will begin the process of reaping the rewards of accountability. In The Oz Principle, we learn that one must climb four Steps to Accountability: 1) See It; 2) Own It; 3) Solve It; and 4) Do It.
Would you agree that one cannot move upward unless he or she recognizes and acknowledges the full reality of a situation, accepts responsibility, finds solutions to the problem, and commits to taking action? The four Steps to Accountability have a profound impact on corporate culture leading to enhanced employee engagement, customer loyalty, team performance, creativity leading to innovation, growth, and profitability.
How leaders instill accountability leading to empowerment
When leaders fail to address performance and behavioral issues, it undermines the entire team, leading to lower quality and weakened organizational cultures. And it sets a dangerous precedent as people start to learn that there are no real consequences for poor behavior or performance.
Astute leaders value the fact that there is nothing more important than instilling a culture of accountability and empowerment in the organization. That being said, it is a leadership skill that is lacking in so many organizations. Why? Because there is often uncertainty and discomfort about how to address it most effectively.
Simply put, there is no playbook or process. The good news is that leaders need only implement a few strategies to elevate accountability leading to empowerment. Let’s see below:
- Create a shared purpose. Accountability flourishes when there is alignment with a mission, vision, and values. It is a purpose-driven WHY that creates a bond.
- Walk the walk. Employees respond to leaders who lead with actions over words.
- Define results and set clear expectations. Set clear standards, expectations, and targets. When people understand and embrace results, accountability follows.
- Continuous improvement. Welcome helpful ideas, thoughts, and creative means of improvement from all team members.
- Feedback. Team members desire check-ins at regular intervals. Feed-back demonstrates value and respect.
- Recognition. Celebrate and recognize improvement and successes … even if small. Personal and team recognition creates goodwill and fuels one’s fire.
Self-awareness, accountability, and empowerment … lessons learned in the Land of Oz!
Scott Addis is CEO of Beyond Insurance and an industry leader. His agency was recognized by Rough Notes magazine as a Marketing Agency of the Month, he was a Philadelphia finalist for Inc. magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award, and he was selected as one of the “25 Most Innovative Agents in America.”
Beyond Insurance is a consulting firm that offers leadership training, cultural transformation, and talent and tactical development for enlightened professionals who are looking to take their organization to the next level. Since 2007, the proven and repeatable processes of Beyond Insurance have transformed agencies as measured by enhanced organic growth, productivity, profitability, and value in the marketplace.
To learn more, contact Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.