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Accountability Starts With Trust

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Mar 26, 2012

Here’s what I’ve learned about the people that have been taking care of me.  A nurse’s son got hit by a vehicle that didn’t have any insurance, totaling his car and delaying her arrival by 4 hours.  He’d just gotten his first vehicle two weeks ago.  Another’s wife works as a minister in a community several hours away and they see each other only on weekends. He loves to fish and is a very good cook.  (His desserts are terrific!) 

Another nurse is into video games.  His focus is on the social significance and consequences.  He’s curious to discover whether anything can be learned from the gaming process to improve how people communicate.  If so he’d like to develop a game to improve communication skills.  Another nurse married late and has a five-year-old son who is very musically inclined, similar to her husband.  She’s 48 and her husband is 51.  Having a child at this age has really changed their life.  They are both enjoying and sometimes struggling with the aspects of nurturing their son’s development. 

Today I start my second month in the hospital.  Observing the nurses here over this time has been very humbling and confidence-building.  It’s confirmed the importance of building trust in an organization.  Patrick Lencioni’s book on the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and the manual on Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team are frequent exercises we as Gazelles coaches conduct with executive teams to build the accountability pyramid describe the image
and increase focused results within an organization.

Executive team members often bristle when asked to reveal something personal in the good news portion of the agenda in the Daily Huddle and Weekly Meeting Rhythms.  Why should I reveal something about myself personally?  Isn’t this about business?  What does my personal life have to do with getting results in business?

Very valid questions. 

As a patient, I’m in a very vulnerable position.  I need to trust the people who are working on me and with me to recover my health.  Trust is all about vulnerability. 

Lencioni’s premise is that people who are willing to admit the truth about themselves won’t engage in the kind of political behavior that ends up wasting everyone’s time and energy.  Do you know people like that?  Have you experienced that kind of wasteful gamesmanship that occurs and prevents things from getting done in your organization?

In building trust, the first exercise in Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team is the Personal Histories Exercise.  Questions include:

1. Where did you grow up?

2. How many siblings do you have and where do you fall in the sibling order (oldest, youngest, etc.)?

3. What was the most difficult, important, or unique challenge of your childhood – of being a kid?

Answers to these questions help the team to learn about why the person acts the way they do.  It provides a means for them to become vulnerable.

When we know something about the people who care for us or the people who work with us we understand them much better.  I feel a kinship with my family of nurses.  I understand them much better.  I believe by knowing them, and by their sharing their personal stories I am getting better care.  I can tell you that every act of vulnerability they offer helps me to trust them more.

In your business is your company results oriented?  Is there a high level of accountability?  If not, focusing on accountability may be the wrong place to start looking for different outcomes.  First, consider how vulnerable your team members are.  Is there an unwillingness to have conflicts? 

An air of vulnerability leads to trust which leads up the pyramid to ultimately achieving results. 

Tomorrow I will get the results from my third biopsy to determine how effective my latest chemotherapy is.  It’s living the Stockdale Paradox that Jim Collins describes in Good to Great.  My results and the lesson of General Stockdale is my next blog.  

Topics: Accountability, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, employee performance, Patrick Lencioni

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