About Peaks & Valleys
The Peaks & Valleys podcast is a series that looks at the unique challenges of running a seasonal business. Although interview guests run agribusinesses, the discussions are applicable to any seasonal business. Each episode ends with tips and best practices related to the given topic.
About the Episode
In this episode we welcome Scott Morin who talks about the importance of accountability in an organization. During the conversation, he also discusses the signs of poor accountability, how to get clarity and the benefits.
If after listening to this podcast you’d like to talk to Scott about accountability and hismethodology, you can reach him at bytownventures.com
For more information on the podcast or to suggest a speaker or topic, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you ever been in a situation where things are going awry and you’re not sure who’s doing what? If so, listen in. I’m Lisa Courtney Lloyd and you’re listening to the Peaks and Valleys podcast where we talk about the challenges of running a business.
Today’s topic is accountability, and our guest is Scott Morin.
As the principal of Bytown Ventures and a certified EOS implementer, Scott has helped many companies work through accountability issues.
During the conversation, you’ll hear Scott referred to EOS, which stands for Entrepreneurial Operating System and is a methodology for running a business.
Lisa: Scott, it’s great to see you again.
Scott: Great to see you, Lisa.
Lisa: Thanks for coming on our podcast. Scott and I have worked together for many years, off and on. Do I dare say decades, and most recently, you’ve come in to help with our portfolio companies. So today we’re going to talk about accountability, which is something that I know you’re passionate about and it’s where we’ve seen some great progress when you’re working with us. So, let’s start at the beginning. How do you define accountability?
Scott: In its simplest sense, accountability is taking responsibility. Ensuring that the buck stops – sounds like a cliché, it is a cliché – but basically the buck stops with you.
You’re taking responsibility. And at its simplest sense that would be my definition of accountability.
Lisa: I’m just going to play that back a little bit because I also have lived in a world where we talked about RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed), where you have responsible and accountable. Is it fair to say that in this case you’re saying that accountability is the person who ultimately has the monkey on his or her back and like you said, the buck stops with that person.
Scott: And you know, a little bit of this could be because I’m an implementer of a system or methodology for running a business that is very simple by design. We like simplicity. The system is called EOS or the Entrepreneurial Operating System and we look at accountability very simply, whereas RACI, which I love as well and have used in the past, takes it to that next level: you have people who are responsible for something and then accountable and then consulted and then informed. What you’re doing from my perspective, our perspective, is you’re adding a little bit of complexity to the accountability model. That said, for larger organizations with more complex processes, RACI is an awesome way to determine who’s doing what. But we look at it real simply. You know who’s accountable for this particular role. And there can only be one person accountable. You cannot have multiple people accountable.
Lisa: OK, excellent. If you’re in an organization and you haven’t systematically/intentionally looked at the accountability, are there any symptoms that you see; where you go into a company and you say, “we have to stop and have a conversation about accountability”?
Scott: Yeah, I mean, I always go back to a gentleman by the name of Patrick Lencioni who wrote a book called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In the book he argues, there’s a kind of pyramid, a Maslow hierarchy of needs within an organization and at the very bottom, you’ve got trust. Trust enables you to have conflict, healthy conflict, professional conflict, where the best scenario wins, and you do want to be looking at all the different scenarios. From trust and conflict, you will get commitment and then ultimately from commitment you get accountability.
If you reverse that, the converse of each of these scenarios would imply that there’s not great accountability within the organization. If there’s poor commitment, if you’re waffling on things, if the conflict within your organization does not exist, so you’ve got a bunch of yes-men, yes-women, if you will, or, if the conflict is not healthy and there’s some bullying going on, then ultimately on the trust side, there’s a lack of trust.
One of our hacks, if you will, in getting trust happening quicker within an organization – because trust is not handed out, it needs to be earned, if you will – is just the idea of being vulnerable. Leaders need to be vulnerable with their people. The more vulnerable they are, it’s human nature, the more that their people will lean in and start trusting them a little bit quicker maybe than would have normally happened.
Those three areas: if you’ve got the converse of commitment, healthy conflict and great trust would be harbingers or symptoms that maybe accountability is not the best within an organization.
Lisa: Well, that, I’m sure many organizations can relate to. So you could also look at those as benefits of accountability: that you’re building trust, earning trust, as you say, and commitment. Are there other benefits that you see when an organization has clearly articulated the accountability?
Scott: Outside of the obvious one, which is results, generally speaking, in organizations that have good accountability there is increased feelings of competency within those organizations. Employee commitment, higher creativity and innovation happens more easily if you will. And in general, there’s higher employee morale. Those are all the side effects or benefits of an organization that has high accountability.
Lisa: And you yourself go in and help companies understand how to look at accountability and assign it.
Scott: Yes, and this is going back to the EOS model, which I teach. The very first thing that we do when we go into an organization — and we do this even before we get into core values discussions, before we get into marketing strategy or even strategic planning — is we build their accountability chart. And, we call it an accountability chart intentionally because a lot of organizations will come to the table with an org chart. We burn the organization down to the ground at the leadership team level and build it back up with the primary functions identified, such as sales and marketing, operations and finance. Do we have a visionary and an integrator. Integrator is our nomenclature for, more often than not, the CEO and the President. Then when we build the accountability chart, not only do we identify the major functions, but also the three to seven roles and responsibilities, and it can really be no more than seven for each one of these major functions. And so, there’s always discussion.
Inevitably, there’ll be a job description-type discussion where we’ll list everything that this particular function does, and then we have to keep, kill and combine that list down to ideally 5 roles and responsibilities. When those roles and responsibilities are clear to the individual that is accountable for that function – crystal clear and then also clear to their peers – then it’s easier to call them to the table if, in fact, one of these five roles and responsibilities is subpar. They’re not going to fight that necessarily because there’s clarity on the primary roles and responsibilities.
So that’s how we start. We always start with the accountability chart and inevitably, when a client calls me six or 12 months later and there’s some sort of issue, or some sort of problem that they’re struggling with, the very first thing that I will do is say, “let’s go back to the accountability chart and make sure we’re good there”. And if we’re good there, then we can start problem solving by looking at other angles, but I’d say about 70% of the time there’s a problem with understood roles and responsibilities.
Lisa: Let’s pretend that you went into an organization, you had these sessions, the participants walk away feeling really great because they know what they’re accountable for and it’s just been a wonderful day. There’s lots of energy and six months down the road, it starts to get a bit fuzzy on the accountability. Are there any tips that you offer them so that it’s more instilled in them? So they can be more intentional in their day-to-day in thinking about accountability.
Scott: The tools that we use are: let’s revisit the primary objectives, the primary issues, and write down what we call rocks – the 60-to-90-day, outcome-based statements – around what will be true around a role or responsibility. We also beat the drum in terms of meetings, as we’re problem solving or as we call it, “IDSing”, a particular issue, and there’s some to-dos that come out of that problem solving, we’re going to make sure that these to-dos are one week in length and we’re going to check back and make sure that these to-dos are done. You want to be aiming for 80-90% to-do completion.
But I will say that we want to create a culture that is open enough to say that if your to-do is not done by all means you can embrace the fact that it’s not done. But, maybe there should be a follow up action there and people do feel to a certain extent that that they owe it to the team to follow up in the next week and make something happens. Just making sure you follow up, making sure that you embrace these mistakes, if in fact they are mistakes, there’s got to be consequences. Reward wins. Make sure that when lots of stuff gets done, it’s viewed as a positive thing. And at the leadership team level also you want to make sure that you walk the talk. Not only the functional leads, but the CEO and the President of the organization/ the visionary and the integrator, they need to be doing the same thing.
Lisa: It sounds like when you have accountability in an organization, you actually are really helping the communication and clarity on who’s doing what and what you’re trying to achieve. And in addition to improving communication, as you said earlier, you’re building trust, you’re building commitment and ultimately, you’re getting the results that you want in the rocks or objectives and sales or what have you.
Is that a good summary?
Scott: Yeah, yeah, and ultimately, and you know, this assumes … you and I when we worked together initially, we were in the startup world and when you’re in startup, sometimes your market is not clear and you’re pivoting and so some of the results that are not achieved have less to do with people not being accountable and more to do with did you make the right strategic decision on a particular product or price point or what have you? It [accountability] becomes a lot more powerful and effective in established markets where there is a certain market out there, there are competitors and, really, it’s a performance and execution thing that gets you to the next level. That’s where a focus on accountability will really, really help an organization.
Lisa: Oh, great. Well, thank you. You’ve taken a very complex topic and simplified it for people and given us a few thoughts on how we could go about it, or maybe we just pick up the phone and call you. Do you have any final thoughts to leave with us?
Scott: I do, but before I do, I have a couple of stories, a couple of real-life stories, that I want to share with you. I was thinking about this in advance, how to make this a little bit more real.
One story has to do with the organization I belong to, which is EOS Worldwide and while I haven’t been given permission to share this information, I don’t think that they would mind. We essentially created a software platform to help manage our customers’ EOS instances and this is a software platform that has been available for about six or seven months, unofficially available for maybe a little bit longer, and we missed the mark on it. We got together in an annual session and our CEO got up and he literally fell on his sword with regards to this particular platform and my respect level… I’m paraphrasing him, but basically, he said that we were too ambitious. We got out of our swim lane in terms of what is our primary core competency. And so we’re going to go back to the drawing board on this one. And my respect level for him went up significantly when he admitted this to us as opposed to him putting some sort of spin on it. He took accountability and the buck stopped with him. What that enabled me, as an implementer of the system, to do was to move past it. I still support the software platform moving forward, but I’m not bitter and twisted about it.
And here’s a real simple sports example. A quarterback drops back into the pocket and they miss their receiver who is wide open. Some quarterbacks will just sort of shake their head and head back to the huddle. Other quarterbacks will point right to their chest and to their receiver and say, hey, that was on me. And again, that’s a quarterback taking accountability and the converse is that the receiver might drop a ball that is easily catchable, and they say, that’s on me.
In scenarios like that, I see teams getting closer together. Those are just some simple, practical examples of people taking accountability that I just wanted to share with you.
Scott: In terms of final thoughts, you know what I would say is a lack of accountability is rarely intentional. More often it’s the result of an underlying issue, such as unclear roles and responsibilities, and that’s why we start with the accountability chart. Sometimes it’s limited resources, sometimes it’s poor strategy or unrealistic goals and that’s why leaders sometimes get frustrated, and they default to a plea for accountability. But they’re hitting a wall, and they even get more frustrated. So a better strategy is to approach the issue with the leadership mindset and here are some steps that you can take:
Start the conversation, identify the real issue at hand and solve it. Get to the root of it and solve it.
- First check in with yourself to make sure you’re not part of the problem, because sometimes you are.
- Second, find a time to discuss the issue with the other person and begin the conversation by asking them their perspective.
- Next, acknowledge their perspective and share your own.
- Finally, draft a plan of execution and agree on a way to measure success and then check in on that measurement.
- Rinse, wash and repeat.
If you do that every single time you feel that there’s an accountability issue within your organization that should make things better.
Lisa: Thank you. I always enjoy chatting with you, Scott. I always come away with some new knowledge, some things I want to implement when I get back to the office.
So thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today.
Scott: My pleasure, Lisa. Always awesome chatting with you.