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The 5 Hidden Enemies of High Performance

The 5 Hidden Enemies of High Performance

A low accountability culture doesn’t happen overnight. But as it evolves, the barriers to performance inevitably grow. Weak accountability permeates the culture, and leaders resign themselves to the fact that gaps and overlaps are inevitable.

Then, they rationalize that strong single point accountabilities aren’t necessary, or that they’re subordinate to some notional concept of better collaboration. And make no mistake this does nothing to improve performance.

There are 5 hidden drivers of this low accountability malaise. The first is lack of empowerment. People are assigned tasks, but they’re not given the empowerment to make the decisions and do the things that they need to do in order to successfully deliver those tasks. 

Other people feel quite entitled to chime in, even to the point of sabotaging the outcomes: not intentionally or maliciously, but just because they want their own thoughts implemented. And if the leaders above don’t support the individual who’s been given the task, it’s like sending someone in to fight 12 rounds with Mike Tyson with one hand tied behind their back.

The second hidden driver is a poorly executed and led structure. Every organization has a hierarchical structure, but if it isn’t made clear to people, who’s actually doing what within that structure, then confusion reigns supreme. Role clarity is critical.

The third driver is micromanagement. As soon as you step in to do the work of someone below you, or to make decisions on their behalf, you’re raising accountability up to your level, and it lets everyone below you off the hook. They can’t be held accountable for things that they don’t have control over.

The fourth driver is fear and distrust of management. If your people feel as though they’re going to be somehow punished if they get something wrong, they’re going to avoid making the decisions that put them in the spotlight. They’ve got to trust you to support them. And they won’t listen to your passionate urging to try some things and not be afraid to fail.

In all likelihood, they’ve been burnt before, so they won’t believe you until you show them that you can be trusted to react the right way in the face of a well-intentioned mistake. 

The fifth and final hidden enemy of organizational performance is lack of individual differentiation. Many leaders misinterpret the need for fairness and equity to mean that they have to treat everyone in identical fashion… regardless of their individual choices about how they perform or behave.

Everyone deserves to be treated equally, without exception. But that doesn’t change the fact that every individual must be accountable for the way they behave and perform… they’re making individual choices, and if you don’t differentiate between them, your best people will be dragged down to the lowest common denominator. Performance doesn’t live here!

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