Recognizing, accepting, and moving on
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest
and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown.”
By F. Scott Addis, CPCU, CRA, ACRA, TRA, ASA
John Wooden, nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood,” was arguably the greatest basketball coach in history. According to his biography on Wikipedia, in a 12-year period as the coach of the UCLA Bruins, Wooden won ten NCAA Championships, including a record-setting seven in row. He gained lasting fame with UCLA, winning 620 games in 20 seasons, including four perfect 30-0 seasons. Within this period, his teams won an NCAA men’s basketball record of 88 consecutive games. Wooden was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (1960) and a coach (1973), the first person ever to be enshrined in both categories. In 2003, Wooden received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush.
When Wooden arrived at UCLA for the 1948-1949 season, he inherited a little-known program that played in a cramped gym. He had immediate success, posting a 22-7 record in his first year and transforming the program into the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) champion. The year before Wooden’s arrival at UCLA, the program posted a 12-13 record and had won only two conference championships in the previous 18 seasons. The most successful leaders skip the blame-and-complain game; they make things happen despite major obstacles.
Not only was Wooden successful on the court, but he also influenced the lives of countless people in all walks of life. He was beloved by his former players, among them Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton, to name a few.
Born in 1910 in Indiana, Wooden grew up on a farm with no electricity. Every day, early in the morning, he would milk the cows and do other chores before going to school. His father was one of his most important mentors and had a significant influence on his values. Wooden played basketball with his three brothers using improvised homemade materials. In high school, he led his team to win the Indiana state championship in 1927. Enrolling at Purdue University, Wooden had a distinguished career in his chosen sport. In his senior year, Wooden was considered the best college basketball player in the country and his team was voted national champion. Although he became famous for his coaching prowess, his playing career was also notable, including time as a professional player.
What made John Wooden so successful? What made him such an influential figure on and off the court? Accountability!
In an article on Sports Tales (sports-tales.com/john-wooden-coaching-philosophy), it is evident that throughout his 99-year life, Wooden demonstrated that being accountable to himself, his teammates, players, family, and friends produced outstanding results. Not only did Wooden have an enviable work ethic, but he also had a seven-point creed, which he read every day:
- Be true to yourself.
- Make each day a masterpiece.
- Help others.
- Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
- Make friendship a fine art.
- Build a shelter against a rainy day.
- Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.
Wooden’s simple motivational sayings are applicable today and are known as Woodenisms. “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
From his early days on the farm in Indiana, Wooden searched for the meaning of success and how to achieve it. If he were here today to give us one nugget of wisdom, it would be that we must be accountable for ourselves and stop making excuses for falling short of our expectations.
Accountability vs. responsibility
Diffen.com explains that accountability means being held responsible for the results obtained after one has performed an activity. Accountability means being answerable for one’s actions or decisions. In ethics and governance, it involves answerability, blameworthiness, and liability. The main difference between responsibility and accountability is that responsibility can be shared while accountability cannot. Being accountable means not only being responsible for something but also ultimately being answerable for your actions. Accountability is owned by you.
How do you hold someone accountable?
- Be clear.
- Follow up regularly.
- Share the brutal truth.
In the process of holding someone accountable, you have three choices: repeat, reward, or release. If you feel the other person lacks clarity about the task, repeat. If the task has been accomplished to your satisfaction, reward. If the person is not capable of demonstrating accountability for a task, you have the option to release.
Accountability cannot be accomplished through edict. Rather, it is best taught through example by leaders who practice the principles they want their team to follow. While most business leaders preach the importance of holding employees accountable for their actions, far too many do not apply that same standard to themselves. The most successful leaders skip the blame-and-complain game; they make things happen despite major obstacles. They follow through on their promises and remain committed to their own performance as well as that of others. Why? They want to meet or exceed organizational goals.
At Ollis/Akers/Arney, a Big “I” Best Practices Agency headquartered in Springfield, Missouri, Kevin Robbins, chief sales officer, says this about the importance of accountability: “It is the super sauce that builds mutual respect and energizes everyone on the team. It is exciting to be part of a culture of accountability where everyone works together to improve each day, overcome obstacles, and achieve personal and organizational goals!”
What is culture, and what does it have to do with accountability? Corporate culture is a set of values and principles that show up in the everyday behavior of your people. In many ways, culture is like personality. Culture is the outcome of a set of rules for working together and is so powerful that it shapes your work environment, business relationships, and ultimately, how you serve the customer.
In today’s competitive marketplace, it is essential that accountability be a fundamental principle in your organization’s culture. You and your colleagues must understand where you fit into the firm’s strategy for achieving results. This involves understanding the organization’s vision and mission, your role within the firm, and the specific tasks or actions for which you are responsible. A culture of accountability can be shaped and molded. It is evidenced by the behaviors, beliefs, and values of every member of an organization.
In the May 2020 issue of Rough Notes magazine, I wrote an article titled “Accountability Scorecard: Tracking Progress Toward Goal Actualization.” I suggested that you embrace the concept of a scorecard as part of your accountability plan. Much like a scoreboard in a stadium, an accountability scorecard is a visible indicator that measures and monitors the results of your game. As a growth-minded industry professional, is it fair to say that you embrace a culture of accountability as well as a desire to measure and benchmark organic growth, customer engagement, retention, cross-selling, prospect pipelines, referrals, quality at-bats, new business hit ratios, and more?
Matt O’Neill, chief experience officer of Beyond Insurance, said this about the importance of accountability scorecards: “An accountability scorecard is an essential element for achieving success in the business of insurance and risk management. Why? Because it serves as a means to measure the impact of your actions, behaviors, decisions, and, ultimately, performance.”
If you are interested in creating producer and agency scorecards, I encourage you to reach out to Matt (firstname.lastname@example.org). Of interest, he recently engaged Smartsheet (www.smartsheet.com) to build prototype dashboards for both producer and agency performance.
Creating a culture of accountability: the winning formula to take your firm to the next level!
Scott Addis is chief executive officer of Beyond Insurance and an industry leader. His agency was recognized by Rough Notes magazine as an 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 about Beyond Insurance, contact Scott at email@example.com.