This was an article I wrote for my last newsletter. It sparked some great feedback so I thought I'd put it on my blog as well.
It is inevitable. You can't avoid it. You've either experienced it. Are currently experiencing it. Or will experience it in the future. What is "it"?
"It" is something going wrong on your project, your team, with your performance or in achieving your business (or personal) goals.
Whenever something like this happens, you only have two options in how you respond. You will either respond Above the Line or Below the Line. The decision you make will be critical to how successful you will be in moving forward from the situation to seek a resolution.
One of the best business books out there is The Oz Principle: Getting Results through Individual and Organizational Accountability by Roger Conners, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman. Based on the concept of accountability, the authors challenge anyone dealing with "it" to respond Above the Line.
The dictionary defines accountable as "subject to having to report, explain, justify; being answerable; responsible". Beginning with the words "subject to", this definition implies that there is little choice in the matter and that accountability is confession oriented - viewed as a consequence of bad performance or something going wrong.
Now, check out the authors' definition of accountability: A personal choice to rise above one's circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results. If you accept and act on this definition, you are Above the Line. What does that mean? Take a look:
How to react Above the Line:
How to react Below the Line:
Wait and See
Cover Your Tail
Confusion/Tell me What to Do
It's not my job
In other words - the blame game
How does this play out? Here are two examples:
An employee has several meetings with his supervisor about his poor performance, lack of planning and timeliness, and inability to be proactive. When this reaches the critical stage where the employee could lose his job, the employee begins to explain the real issue: his boss isn't giving clear instructions. Other departments aren't providing the needed information causing him to miss deadlines. Also, one of his co-workers has it out for him and has not been very helpful in providing the data needed to complete his reports.
An employee has several meetings with his supervisor about his poor performance, lack of planning and timeliness, and inability to be proactive. When this reaches the critical stage where the employee could lose his job, the employee begins to explain his next steps: he will be sure to follow-up on each stage of all projects to make sure he is following instructions. He will meet with other departments regularly to ensure they work together to get the information needed so that deadlines would be met. Finally, he would set aside personal feelings about co-workers and focus on building a working relationship based on respect and the common goal.
Can you guess who reacted Above the Line?
What about you? When something goes wrong - whether it's in your professional life or your personal life - how do you respond? Does your actions line up with what's Above the Line or what's Below the Line?