Just Put Your Hoof Down

“We’re building a culture of accountability, trust, and togetherness. Entitlement will not be allowed.”
~ Brad Stevens

Here on the Kenai Peninsula it’s moose calving time. So one evening last month when I pulled down our driveway toward my parking spot, I spied Mrs. Moose in close proximity. I mean so close that unloading my CRV was going to be a little uncomfortable — for both of us.

For those of you unfamiliar with moose etiquette, it’s wise to give wide berth. As in, let the moose have her own way. So I parked closer to the house. Neither me nor my case of soy milk was interested in a stomping.

As I unloaded the car with one eye on the cow, all of a sudden I noticed a little head pop out of the grass below. And there it was — a tiny, gangly, wobbly surprise. A wide-eyed calf. And in a blink, up sprung another little head. Ahhh, twins.

No matter how many times I see this miracle of nature unfold up here, I am always in awe. It’s magical. It’s a marvel of nature. It takes my breath away.    But of course, there’s a backstory.Moose Family_160710

About a month earlier in our meadow, the same Mrs. Moose, the pregnant one with twins was shooing her yearling away. And yes, the yearling was her little guy born last spring. We know she’s got to ditch him. So . . . she ignores him, chases him away, and stands her ground.

Needless to say, the yearling still wants Mama. But Mama puts her hoof down.

From her perspective, she has fed him, protected him, and nurtured him. She’s also trained him well in the art of stripping the leaves off of my husband’s birch tree and munching my sacred perennials.

Mama knows her mission is accomplished. Junior is out on his own.

When I saw the meadow scene this year, it came to mind that Mrs. Moose could make a great CEO. OK. If she could talk, text, and fit into a desk chair. But stay with me here.

In the past 3 years, I’ve witnessed a resounding theme. Whether I’m consulting with a small business, a nonprofit, or coaching a manager or executive, the theme has been the same.

Accountability. Or really? The lack thereof.

I’ve pondered about why accountability has gone missing. Perhaps it’s because Facebook only has “likes.” Or Baby Boomers have raised conflict adverse children. Or no one can get clear on roles and responsibilities because we are dopamine-swamped by the next text or tweet. Or we are lacking high standards for work. Or leaders are just too afraid to call out bad, unprofessional behavior. Or . . .

The list of hypotheses is endless. But the fallout is the same. Underperforming staff, internal organizational confusion, troublesome work relationships, and less-than-desirable organizational results. That part is clear.

So what makes accountability go missing? Two simple human ingredients. Clarity and courage. Hmmm.

The first is clearly naming and defining things that contribute to the organization’s well being and letting everyone know. Clarity with such things as job responsibilities, relational norms or the way we are going to treat each other and our customers, organizational values, the operations, how we are going to lead and supervise, policies, timelines and tasks, goals. Putting these together takes a herd.

And then, the second ingredient is courage. Basically, the confidence and guts to kindly call out things, people, and even yourself when the clear standards set aren’t being met. And there’s more, which takes the most energy and empathy: offering correction, a change in the system, coaching, resources, training. With no stardust available.

Yes, I know the workplace is complicated. And we both know it gets even messier without accountability.

So when you note that messiness, be sure you summon up your clarity and empathy, call forth your inner courage — and take it from a wise mother out in the meadow. Just put your hoof down.