Effectively Managing The Praised Generation

There is a generation out in the workforce today who do not regard, accept or handle feedback or criticism. Often when some of these young professionals run into opposition or frustration at work, they don’t always handle it well. If they don’t get along with a boss, many quit within weeks of being hired. They stay in a job less than two years compared to the average worker who stays in their job about 4.4 years (Bureau of Labor and Statistics). These employees belong to what is called the “praised generation.” Effectively managing the praised generation is a business necessity.

One problem with this generation is they have been overly praised by well-meaning parents. These parents have boosted self-esteem by telling their children how amazing, smart and talented they are. This form of praise, according to psychologist Carol Dweck, can create a fixed mindset that does not respond well to setbacks or opposition. These children are entering the workforce and according to Ms. Dweck, “…many can’t function without getting a sticker for their every move. Companies are reinforcing this behavior by shifting annual bonuses to quarterly or even monthly. Instead of employee of the month, it is employee of the day. Companies are hiring consultants to help them recruit, reward and retain this population.” I just attended an event where one of these consultants was giving my CEO peer group advice to better manage this generation. We have a workforce with too many that require constant positive feedback and can’t handle feedback for improvement.

Two things need to happen for this to change: 1. Managers must to own their behaviors and learn to be better bosses and learn to encourage better behaviors in their employees. 2. Younger employees must learn some resilience and learn how to deal with conflict and disappointment when things don’t go their way like they may be used to. It is important that we figure this out, because like it or not, Millenials (praised generation) are currently the largest generation in the workforce and will make up 49% of the workforce by 2020. They also have many tremendous talents and qualities that will benefit in our businesses.

So what do we do? Long-term: Parents must be willing to allow their children to fail. Help them feel the consequences of loosing a game occasionally, instead of a trophy just for showing up. They need to know when they do a great job and when they can do better. My wife and I have five children. Some of our children are grown and are doing well; they hard working productive members of society. They (mostly) took correction well and learned from mistakes. Some are still growing and learning. Our parenting is sometimes viewed as unreasonable and punishments are sometimes considered ‘mean’ and/or ‘crazy’. Our behavior is viewed as the problem rather than their actions being the issue. We, as parents, have had to be consistent and fair in order to develop responsible, productive adults.

My wife and I get feedback from other parents who say our children are well adjusted. It leads me to believe that many are not ‘leaning’ into the discomfort of teaching children discipline. It is not about being friends. It is about being loving parents. Part of my evidence about these parents comes from managers who are asking for my help with these praised children who work for them. More disturbing evidence of failed parenting comes from a conversation I had recently with a district judge in Las Vegas, where I live. He tells me that convicted felon’s always ask for mercy and don’t feel they deserve punishment for their crimes. He said when he gives the sentence, he is called ‘crazy’, ‘mean’, and worse things including threats. This judge knows the only way we learn is if we experience the consequences of our choices. Society it seems, must bear some of the burden of parenting deficiencies.

My question for you as a leader is-how well do you handle adversity? How good are you at taking responsibility for your actions and your failures? We live in a society where so many look to blame others for their failings. It seems most would do anything they can to avoid consequences. People with this mindset fail to learn and grow because they perceive consequences as negative. Many have the attitude that laws apply to everyone else and breaking the law is okay as long as you don’t get caught. Then if you do, it is because you are being treated unfairly.

So what can you do be more effective as a manager of this praised generation?

  1. Adjust your expectations:
    Realize that developing this praised generation into productive contributors in your business takes commitment and consistency. You cannot simply hope the problem will solve itself. Make employee development an integral part of your business strategy.
  2. Learn how to praise: 
    Ms. Dweck gives some great advice that I support which you can immediately implement. Change what you praise your kids and employees for. When they do something hard, praise them for that. When they stick with a project regardless of the outcome, praise them for their commitment. Praise them for the effort not the outcome. Instead of praising for a job well done or a brilliant performance or a great idea, praise them for taking initiative. Ms Dweck even says, tongue in cheek, “praise them for not needing constant praise.”
  3. Coach & Mentor: 
    Develop coaching and mentoring programs that focus on soft as well and hard skills. Have a deliberate leadership development program that identifies and advances high potential employees.
  4. Fail forward: 
    Create an environment where people have enough freedom to learn by trial and error. Encourage employees to take initiative and take risks within reasonable limits. Mistakes can accelerate learning.
  5. Increase conflict: 
    Learning how to normalize conflict and disagreement. With the proper training, managers can learn how to turn conflict into a positive tool for the organization. It will help employees learn to constructively give feedback and benefit from disagreement. Building these conflict muscles will help develop this praised generation and consequently, help older generations make better decisions and be more engaged and productive.

The solution takes persistence and commitment. Your efforts can yield great benefits. Despite some of the negative press the “praised generation” gets, they have a great deal to offer and they are the future of your business.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC.

Other topics that may interest you: Magnify Your Reputation; How To Make Yourself Instantly More Valuable;  Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionWhat Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You?Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?Cure For The CEO DiseaseWhen Being Too Smart Hurts You

The Problem With Pressure

Do you ever struggle with all you are required to do, balancing life and career? When things are overwhelming, you start to create patterned responses or habits of thought and behavior that can hold you back in effectively fulfilling your duties. The mind rebels and wants to keep you safe in a comfort zone. It gives in to fear and doubt, it deletes, distorts and simplifies information. When this happens it limits your ability to respond effectively, or to change your approach if necessary.

Put another way, our ability to think clearly is diminished under pressure. The brain will revert to behavior that is most comfortable. Some of you may become belligerent and aggressive. Others can’t stop talking and may become sarcastic. Others avoid conflict and procrastinate. Some become obstinate as their need to be right causes them to dig their heels in. These patterned responses may show up unexpectedly and at/or inconvenient times. Some of your patterned responses have been developed over a life time and are very strong.

The first step in taking more responsibility and control over your patterned responses is to identify your behavioral traits. The increased awareness will help you begin to make better choices. Take a few moments to complete a quality behavioral assessment of your choice. Or I invite you to complete ProScan, one of the best behavioral surveys available click here. The first one is my gift to you. To take this assessment, you must be willing to review the results with me. This allows us to discuss some ways you can reject your patterned responses which may be holding you back.

Choose your response for better outcomes!

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: How To Improve Your Leadership Under PressureLeadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science;

How To Solve More Problems As A Leader

7 Steps For A More Productive Team

One of the problems I see with leaders is they solve too many problems. Wait…you just said this article is about solving MORE problems, not that I am solving too many! That is right. Sometimes we get so solution oriented, and so bottom-line obsessed, we actually make more work for ourselves. You may be sabotaging your ability to be productive when your team members come to rely on your genius and acumen instead of developing their own. They pass the ball to you to make the game winning shot because they have confidence in you and also, because they lack confidence in themselves.

Many managers I know are overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities. They spend much of their time fighting fires or going from one crisis to the next. When they do spend the time to plan, they rarely implement those plans; instead they go hastily back to their frenetic problem solving ways. Worse, they spend very little time developing the capacity of their teams. They may abdicate employee development to HR or a training course. It is time to get off the hamster wheel of crisis management! To become more productive and efficient, start investing time to develop the skills and abilities of your team members.

One of the most important tasks of leadership is to elevate the leadership capacity and problem solving skills of our teams. Managers may intellectually understand this is true, however, the following may be some reasons they don’t change:

  1. Managers are addicted to being needed:
    There is something satisfying about being the “go to person”. Some managers believe that making themselves indispensable may provide job security.
  2. Managers don’t know better:
    They have been taught their whole life to take action. They have been told what to do by parents, teachers, coaches, professors, military leaders, past bosses and more. They may have learned habits of tell and do. Because telling or dictating is a poor way to get people to act, employees of today may fall short of the “dictator’s” expectations. This reinforces the manager’s belief that his people are incapable and perpetuates a vicious cycle.
  3. Lack of trust:
    When manager’s lack trust in the ability of direct reports to solve problems or take on greater responsibility, they actually stunt their employee’s growth. This leads to only assigning tasks they are “certain” they can handle. I believe people can accomplish much more than we give them credit for. By not challenging our people, we ensure their dependence on us and keep ourselves on the hamster week. I discuss the importance of giving your people stretch assignments in How To Prepare Your Next Generation of Leaders. Giving your team members opportunities to grow means getting out of your comfort zone and their comfort zone. Let me give you an example: My son’s both play volleyball for their high school. One plays varsity and one Jr. varsity. The Jr. Varsity coach has begun a rotation only relying on a few starters. In practice, he only focuses on starters. In tough games, only this group plays and they get tired after a while and make mistakes. However, since the coach does not have confidence in the ability of the other players, he only plays the same few. While this groups ability increases, the ability of the rest of the team begins to atrophy’. The coach’s dependence on the group of starters actually increases his dependence on them. At first this is great for the starters. But they soon feel tremendous pressure to perform and with very little respite, their performance begins to diminish.
  4. Control obsession:
    Managers may be controlling in how they want things done. When team members are given authority to solve problems on their own, they may take a different approach than the manager.
  5. Confused good boss syndrome:
    Some manager’s may actually think they are being kind by bailing their team members out. They may shoulder more work thinking they are protecting their team.
  6. Managers are busy:
    They think they don’t have the time to invest in their people. They hope they figure it out on their own. After all, isn’t that what you did? What worked for you and your generation, will probably not work today. There are to many options for our employees. If they do not get what they need and want from you, they can easily get it somewhere else. The revolving door of employees adds to the lack of time managers have to train and develop. Hiring new employees takes a lot of time. Not to mention the extra work required filling the vacancies of employees who quit or were terminated.
  7. Talent hoarding:
    According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, one reason some managers don’t elevate, develop and encourage some of their top performers is to keep them on the team. It is called talent hoarding. This natural tendency to hold on to top performers will back fire and hurt the business. If these employees are not given an opportunity to grow and develop with you, they will go somewhere else. You will be forced to replace them.

Whatever the reason you are not developing your team, stop it. You will only disengage your employees. People usually perform to the level of expectation. If your expectations are low, they are probably being met, though not to your satisfaction. You then will probably shoulder more responsibility until you become at least frustrated, or worse, exhausted and burned out. And finally you may take drastic measures like quit, or fire the people you feel are making your life miserable.

I am convinced the employees we hire do not take a job hoping they will be underutilized and hoping they will underperform. They join us with hopes and expectations of learning and growing and contributing. Here are some ways to help you enable your team members to be productive:

  1. Believe they can do more:
    Always believe in the potential of your employees. You just have to figure out how to enable their potential. That comes from taking personal responsibility for their development and not blaming them for your failure to support and train them.
  2. Refuse to solve every problem your employees encounter:
    When they come to you asking for help, ask them to come up with at least two ideas for how they would handle it. You may be surprised with the solutions they find. If the solutions are not good, give encouraging feedback. This is how they learn. Repeat the process often.
  3. Brainstorm together:
    This is an effective process when stakes are high and margin for error is small. Take opportunities to work on problems together. Make sure you give your employees space in these sessions to come up with ideas. Discuss the merits of ideas and come to a decision together.
  4. Praise your team members for their efforts:
    Let them know when they do well. Make sure they are not just hearing from you when they make a mistake. When you encourage them for initiative and perseverance, you will get more of that behavior.
  5. Be willing to let your people fail:
    People often learn the most from failure. If you trust your people are doing their very best, you know they do not purposely want to create problems.
  6. Take a close look at how you may be contributing to the problem:
    The culture of your team enables the results you are achieving. The culture of your team is a reflection of your leadership. Be willing to work on yourself. Learn how you may be getting in your own way as a leader. Learn how to ask better questions that engage and encourage versus being a teller or dictator. Learn how to create an environment of trust where people work to solve problems, go the extra mile and help each other out.
  7. Make time to teach them:
    In addition to your coaching and instruction, give them opportunities to develop their skills and talents through in house and external training programs.

The investment of time you make in developing your team will come back to you. You will see your direct reports shouldering more and more of the responsibility you now carry. As they do this, your trust in them will increase. As you give them more responsibility, their capabilities will grow. The only way for you to grow is to help others grow. As that happens, the ability of the team to get stuff done increases. What if one of the people you develop does so well, they get promoted off the team? Be happy for them. Change is part of life. Train their replacement and become known for the leader who elevates and develops other leaders.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not Intention; How To Prepare Your Next Generation Of Leaders; Increase Your Effectiveness As A Leaders With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change Today; Cure For The CEO Disease

 

How To Prepare Your Next Generation Of Leaders

Stretch Assignments in Succession Planning

Many business leaders are frustrated in fulfilling their succession plans. They perceive a lack of energy and voracity demonstrated by their designated successors. This perceived lack of motivation probably isn’t so much a demonstration of disinterest, but rather an illustration of limited developmental opportunities. How can we bridge this gap? The best way to develop successors is with stretch assignments. Learning through struggle and confidence building exercises will encourage the development of key skills and capabilities required to demonstrate their leadership readiness. By following the suggestions listed below, leaders can effectively stretch, develop and prepare their team to continue the leader’s’ legacy with confidence.

Step 1: Identifying shortcomings:

There are two kinds of shortcomings you need to assess: 1) Individual skills gaps, and 2) organizational requirements. Development opportunities will illustrate a mix of organizational requirements (the company needs ‘X’ project to be done), and individual requirements (the individual needs to build/develop/practice ‘X’ skills required by this task to personally achieve new levels of performance.) Optimal organizational development opportunities might include shorter-term, high intensity projects that spawn into long-term impacts. Additionally, these tasks should allow for the individual to exercise authoritative/collaborative decision-making, and perform strategic decision making skills while working visibly with other key players.

Step 2: Provide tools, resources and basic instructions:

Discuss the stretch assignment with your team/employee. Be sure to illuminate the opportunity to “see what you’re made of” to both internal leadership and external customers. Describe the impact of the end product – what is your vision for accomplishing this task? Then, provide the tools, resources and basic requirements to the individual/team to get things done.

Step 3: Empower through delegated authority and accountability:

When providing a “stretch assignment”, it’s critically important that leaders enable the individuals to make their own decisions/assessments. As they are held accountable for their actions, the struggle and strife will help long-term learning occur.

Step 4: Step Back:

Although your leadership engagement throughout the process will be available, it should only be available from a mentor perspective – when requested, and even then – in a coaching, not consulting, capacity. When asked for help, leaders can provide strategic considerations, understanding consequences, and seeing second and third degree influences of actions while reaffirming the project vision. Ultimately, the goal throughout this assignment is autonomy – empowering people to step-up, take action, and figure things out by themselves. This may be challenging for highly involved managers, but the autonomy, authority, accountability and empowerment throughout this process will enable employees to truly demonstrate and stretch their skill sets while fulfilling an organizational need in the process.

Step 5: Celebrate the struggle, success and achievement:

Following completion of key project milestones or the final assignment deliverables, positive feedback on successes is critical. During challenging assignments, praise the perseverance and determination to overcome. Celebrate the successes to reinforce those skills that were demonstrated through the endeavor. Share this achievement with others to encourage additional positive reinforcement. This positive reinforcement solidifies the lessons learned through struggle, and further builds confidence that will be applied to follow-on projects.

Although this may sound like all optimism and theory, the actual stretch assignment will likely be a substantial struggle – making or breaking the individual. Failure is most certainly an option – but through careful guidance, encouragement and mentorship together you can create something truly great while building skills and confidence in the process. Why take the risk of failure? Because struggle sparks learning & confidence, further building candidates to fill the role and legacy you left behind. After all, if it was easy, anyone could do it. Is that the legacy you want to leave?

Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also be interested in the following articles: Increase Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change Today; Cure For The CEO Disease

How Asking Questions Strengthens Your Team

Effective Questions Help You Motivate, Coach, Mentor, Challenge, Engage, Discover, Understand and Improve

So often leaders feel they need to tell their employees what to do and answer all their questions. This can cause them to miss valuable opportunities to help teach and develop their people. By asking your people to come up with their own solutions, you let them struggle which causes greater learning and learning retention.  By asking questions and for input in meetings and on proposed initiatives, you get great feedback which may improve outcomes and avoid mistakes. You also increase engagement. Telling people what to do causes them to be less engaged. If what you tell them does not work and they are not bought in, they blame the leader instead of taking ownership.  Asking questions helps reduce emotions during conflict and challenging conversations by engaging the logic center of your brain. Learning the art of effective open ended questioning will help you be a more effective leader. Take time to learn this skill today!

Another really effective tool for getting the information you need is “help me understand…” or “please give me a specific example…” You can ask about thought process, how confident some is about a decision, how they made a decision, or why they took a specific action, etc. This is especially helpful when you are frustrated with someone and you want to ask “why did you do that?” Instead, take a calm and curious approach. You may find the the decision or action was exactly what was called for and you will maintain a professionalism the ensures the confidence and trust of your team.

One Reason a Healthy Culture is Essential

Are you having a hard time attracting the best talent? Here is one reason and one thing that will help.

Act As If…Today!!!

Experience the fulfillment and happiness of achieving your future goals, your new year’s resolutions TODAY!

Over the years I have learned a principle of success called “act as if”. Believe, think, act, dress, talk and feel like someone who has already achieved success. The idea is to begin to program your subconscious to find ways to help you achieve the success or goals you desire. William James considered by some to be the father of psychology said, “If you want a quality, act as if you have it.” The famous Jack Canfield writes about this principle in his book “The Success Principles”.

It is fascinating how powerful our thoughts are. I heard of a study that looked at why college students drink. Several students reported they drank so they could be more sociable, outgoing and fun. They thought the alcohol helped them to achieve these goals. The experiment divided students into two groups, one with alcohol and the other group were told they were getting alcohol when in fact the drinks where non-alcoholic. The first group with alcohol behaved how you might expect at a college party. The second group, surprisingly, behaved very much the same. Participants laughed and socialized and even behaved as if they were inebriated. The point is; they did not need the alcohol to be outgoing, fun and sociable. They just needed to think they were those things and they were.

If you want to get a promotion at work, start behaving in a way expected of those in the desired position. This will make it easier for management to believe you have the ability to do the job and may help you get the promotion. If you want to lose weight, behave like people who are healthier. If you see yourself as healthy, you will put down the doughnuts and begin eating better and exercising more. As a result, you will lose weight and be healthier. Visualize the success you desire and begin behaving today as if you had achieved the success.

Wayne Dyer wrote a book called, “You’ll See It When You Believe It”. Do you believe this or do you believe the more common maxim, “I’ll believe it when I see it”? If you prefer the scientific method to a principle of faith, consider how many people successful in business, sports, or life believed they would achieve before the evidence of that success appeared. Muhammad Ali said, “I am the greatest. I said that before I even knew I was.”

Perhaps you want more scientific proof that faith works. Within two decades of Einstein discovering his theory of relativity, Dutch physicists Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg made a similarly profound discovery. The units that make up the atom act in a much unexpected way. The mere act of observing atomic particles influenced the way they behaved. Meaning our thoughts influence matter. Thought is what the universe is made of. Matter and energy are two of the forms that thought takes. Everything in the world is made of Atoms. Atoms are made of energy. Energy is made out of thought. This has enormous implications for the power of your thoughts. Your thoughts determine your results in business and in your personal life. Napoleon Hill says “thoughts are things.”

The Heisenberg principle has been applied in psychology. We know that just observing people in test groups influences the outcome of the experiment. You probably behave differently when your boss is watching or your employees behave different when you are watching.

Acting as if, does not mean you have all the answers or know everything you want to know. It means you believe you will know in the future. Several years ago I was consulting for Larry Miller Theater’s in Salt Lake City. I was working for the late, highly successful businessman Larry Miller. He developed one of the largest car dealership operations in the country. He owned the Utah Jazz NBA team and other businesses. My office was right next to the Utah Jazz offices. I was hired to help provide expertise on the IMAX theater Larry was building at his Megaplex development in Sandy, Utah. This was a new venture for him at the time. Larry was very financially successful. I was a consultant with no such wealth. Despite our financial disparity, Larry wanted to learn everything he could from me.

I love the quote, “When you come to a point you have no need to impress anybody, your freedom will begin.” Larry did not need to impress me. He wanted to learn from me, which I believe helped him have more success in his venture. The characteristics exhibited by Larry did not begin when he was successful. They started before and continued on after.

Act as if you are already successful and you will see success come to you. Here are some of the behaviors successful people I know demonstrate. I will be working hard to “Act as if”, with these suggestions in 2016, WILL YOU?

  1. Acknowledge other people’s ideas and contribution:

    Successful people are confident enough to not be threatened by brilliant contributions of others. Always look to lift others up. This in no way will hold you back. Celebrate others successes. Recognizing others good work and contribution builds trust and respect. This will make it easier to get through tough times with team members it will also help them listen when you have to correct or discipline them.

  2. Apologize for offenses and mistakes quickly:

    Be willing to admit when you make mistakes. No one is perfect. Even the most successful leaders make mistakes. Hiding your mistakes will only make things worse. If you have caused offense, address the situation as soon as possible. You want as much help as possible on the way to your goals. Unfortunately, we are often our own biggest stumbling block. Showing humility will get you back on track faster than ignoring or covering up.

  3. Listen:

    When you are talking, you are not learning.

  4. Speak well of others:

    If you truly do not like someone, take advice from Abraham Lincoln who said, “I don’t like that person. I must get to know them better.” You cannot lift yourself by tearing others down.

  5. Be honest:

    The most successful people I know have high levels of integrity. Always tell the truth. This does not mean we have to be harsh and critical as some popular politicians of our day. I have the most respect for successful people who tell it like it is with dignity and respect.

  6. Ask questions:

    This is one of the fastest ways to success. It requires you to think and listen, two habits of highly successful people. Click here to learn more about this.

  7. Be interested:

    Care about others. Most people are not successful by themselves. They mostly receive the help, mentorship, labor, effort and support of others. Show you care about others and they just might be willing to help you more.

  8. Be in the moment:

    Enjoy today while you are striving for future success. I have heard people say, “never be satisfied”. I believe a better approach is to be constantly improving. Too many of us miss the benefits of being happy with who we are and where we are today. A fear of complacency may be fueling this. Remember successful people, from our perspective, have arrived. They enjoy the fruits of their success. They also enjoyed it along the way. If your eye is always looking to the horizon, you never arrive. Worse, you miss what is happening in your life now. Enjoying today is not complacency. By all means, strive. Just remember to enjoy the ride.

Waiting until you are successful to demonstrate these behaviors will slow your efforts to achieve them. Start today. Act as if. Enjoy the ride!

The author Spencer Horn is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy these additional articles: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”, “The Power of Accountability”, “Silence Your Saboteur”

The Power of Accountability

5 Steps to Achieve the Outcomes You Desire Through Greater Responsibility

There is great power in being accountable, which means being responsible or answerable, to yourself, your family, your employees, your employer, your faith, your cause, etc. In this article accountability and responsibility are interchangeable. Being accountable will help you be more fulfilled at work and in your personal life. Interested? Often we think the key to being fulfilled is dependent on external circumstances. External circumstance may include: Being treated fairly by management, or ownership; competent direct reports; efficient systems and processes; and positive culture, etc.

Although these external circumstances are desirable and can help with satisfaction and fulfillment, they are not the answer. Fulfillment comes when we begin to take responsibility for all outcomes in our work and life. Each of us has the power to choose how we will think and act regardless of external circumstance.

Steven Covey said, “Responsibility is the ability to choose your response.” Recognizing we create outcomes, by choosing our response to the events in our lives, is empowering. Take a moment to look in the mirror and catalogue what you have achieved in your life so far. The results you are experiencing in your career, your happiness and the quality of your relationships come from the thoughts and actions of the person looking back at you! Sounds too simple? The concept is simple but difficult in practice.

One of the biggest reasons it is hard to be personally accountable has to do with how our brains operate. The brain is designed to keep us safe. Sometimes, it can interpret discomfort the same way as physical danger. Many of our life experiences conspire against us. How we were rewarded, how we were punished and how we react when a situation is overwhelming creates strong neural pathways in our brains. These then create patterned responses. These habits of thought and behavior that can hold us back. We may say things like, “this is just the way I am.” Or we blame our ancestry: “I am Latin”, or “I am German”, or “I am Irish”. In moments of tension or when we feel overwhelmed, the mind rebels and wants to keep us in our comfort zone. It gives in to fear and doubt. It will delete, distort and simplify information to keep us safe. When this happens we limit our ability to respond effectively.

We live in a society where avoiding responsibility and placing blame is deeply rooted in our culture. Science has proven that attitudes can literally catch and spread like a virus. This can infect all of us. Blaming is an infectious disease. Blaming is often associated with strong emotional feelings. Author Daniel Goleman writes, “…emotions are contagious. We ‘catch’ strong emotions much as we do a rhinovirus – and so can come down with the emotional equivalent of a cold.” (Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence) American Psychiatrist, Daniel Stern, says our minds are continually interacting through a type of neural WiFi. (Daniel Stern, The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life, 2004, p. 76)

 Parents blame teachers for low test scores, teachers blame parents for unruly children, employees blame their bosses when work gets too hard, and citizens blame the government for their economic woes.

So how do we overcome our own physiology and social influence to start being more accountable? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Power in Purpose:

    The first step of being 100% accountable is to get clear about what is important to you. What do you value?Values represent our guiding principles and influence our attitudes and how we act. I used to think identifying values was just a good idea. Then I learned what happens when behavior is truly aligned with what we say we want. There are several processes to help you determine your values. A good coach can help you identify these.Take responsibility for the things that are most important to you. How does this give you power? If you allow life to happen to you, it will fill up with trivial activities. I hear others and myself from time to time say, “I am too busy!” Make time for the things you value most. It will energize you. It will force you to be more efficient and effective. You are practicing taking back power over your life.If you believe family is important, schedule family events first. Twice a week my son has volleyball games at 5pm. I want to be there to support him. That means I schedule time to attend his games and adjust work hours earlier.

    Having a purpose in your life gives you power. As you look back at your days and weeks you have made time for the most important things in your life. You will have a greater sense of satisfaction as you exercise more power and control over your life.

  2. Be the Cause:

    Forget blame. Be accountable even when things that go wrong which are not your fault. Recognize you make mistakes. When you are willing to shoulder more responsibility, more opportunity will come your way. Be the cause means you recognize your results are caused by your actions. It is the law of the harvest. You reap what you sow.

    The Newtonian physics law of cause and effect is very applicable in our lives. What is cause and effect? I can’t say this enough…you are the cause. Believing this gives you power. Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”The truth is that no matter what challenges or stimulus we experience, we have time to choose our response. When we have created conditioned thought patterns, that space is milliseconds, yet there is a space.Viktor Frankl lost his entire family in the Nazi concentration camps. In the camps, everything was taken from him, EXCEPT the one thing he and you and I have that can never be taken, choice of what we think.

  3. Fail Forward:

    learn from your mistakes: I haven’t always made great decisions. At one point, I started a business without having done my due diligence. Four years later, we had depleted our savings and our home was in foreclosure. In the end, we were forced to give it back to the bank. This was devastating. It was not the bank or the government that caused me to lose our home. It was a consequence of my choices and actions. I changed direction with my business, we found a nice rental house, and life continued.I know first-hand how painful it is to lose a home. But blaming others for our predicaments only hurts us….we give away our power to change. If we believe our problems are generated externally, we may think we have no choice. If we think nothing we do will matter, we may choose to do nothing. This will cause us to remain stuck in our current situation. The more we think like this, the less power we have to change our circumstances.This thought from Viktor Frankl applies: “When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change our selves.” This is the heart of accountability.

  4. Learn up:

    Learn from those who have the ability to teach you something. Kids in school often would rather listen to their classmates and friends rather than to the teacher who could help them learn up. A great example of this principle is John Wooden, the most winning Basketball Coach in NCAA history. He won ten NCAA championships in 12 years at UCLA. A record, which has not been broken yet! He began winning in his late 50’s!!! He said “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” This is a man who understands we are never finished growing!

    We have all heard knowledge is power. I believe taking responsibility to increase our abilities to act and then taking action and being accountable for those actions is power. Think about the cost and impotence of being ignorant. Alvin Toffler said, “The Illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Can you afford to not be responsible for your constant learning and development? Find mentors, experts and coaches who can help you learn up.

  5. Choose your thoughts wisely:

    David O. McKay said, “Your thoughts are the architects of your destiny.” What you read, watch and listen to will create positive or negative thoughts leading to positive or negative patterned responses which will lead to outcomes.Everything in the world is made of Atoms. Atoms are made of energy. Energy is made out of thought. This has enormous implications for the power of your thoughts. Your thoughts determine your results in business and in your personal life. Napoleon Hill says, “thoughts are things.” Sounds nice, but do you believe it?Perhaps you have heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy. The science behind the self-fulfilling prophecy is intriguing. Dutch physicists Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg discovered the mere act of observing sub-atomic particles influenced the way they behaved (Heisenberg Principle). Meaning our thoughts influence matter. Thought is what the universe is made of. Matter and energy are two of the forms that thought takes.The Heisenberg principle has been applied in psychology. We know that just observing people in test group’s influences the outcome of the experiment. Your employees probably behave differently when you are watching. You may behave differently when your boss is watching.

The power of accountability is about recognizing that choosing to take responsibility for the results in our lives gives us power. It gives us power to take more responsibility, which gives us more opportunity. Choosing to be accountable causes us to avoid making excuses and blaming external circumstances. When we blame external circumstances for the results in our lives, we become victims. When we think the cause of our problems is external, we may not change and grow to get a different result. We don’t have power to change the economy, our boss, our partner, etc. We do, however, have power to change ourselves. When we understand this, we have the power to change our circumstances and results.

The author Spencer Horn is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”, “Silence Your Saboteur