You Set the Ceiling

Some of the Leadership Teams I work with get frustrated with their ability to drive Accountability through their organization. I recently realized these Leadership Teams tend to be the same ones who struggle to consistently complete 80% of their Rocks.

This led me to a second realization: I have now worked with over 50 Leadership Teams and in that experience, I have NEVER seen an organization that is more aligned, accountable or healthy than its Leadership Team.

That is, Leadership Teams that struggle the most with their own alignment, accountability and team health are the same ones that have the most difficulty driving alignment, accountability and team health through their organizations. Meanwhile, the Teams that are strongest in these three areas have much more success with the organizations they lead in these same regards.

Based upon this insight, I have a new mantra I share with my clients:

“You Set the Ceiling”

That is, a Leadership Team can never expect more out of its people than it demands of itself.

If a Leadership Team wants to hold its people more accountable, it must first honestly assess how good of a job they do at holding each other accountable. If someone on the Leadership Team fails to live up to a commitment, do they hear about it, or do the other members of the Leadership Team let them off the hook?

For instance, if a ToDo isn’t ToDone, it is much easier to just let it go than to call someone out. “I know she’s busy”, we think. “The world won’t come crashing down if this takes another week.”

But the impact of the miss is beside the point. The fact that someone made a commitment to the Leadership Team and didn’t live up to that commitment IS the point.

If you fail to live up to a commitment, will you hear about it from your teammates? If one of your teammates fails to live up to a commitment, will they hear about it from you? This is a binary situation, there is no middle ground: you either say something or you don’t.

If you are a team that says something, then everyone on the team thinks “if I miss this, I’m letting the team down and I’ll hear about it”. If you are a team that says nothing, then everyone on the team thinks “I’ll do my best but if I miss it, they’ll let it go”.

It isn’t necessarily comfortable to call out a peer when they miss. But it is a choice every Leadership Team and every Leader must make. Do you hold yourselves accountable or don’t you? Again, there is no middle ground. You do or you don’t. Period.

Certainly, being a high accountability Leadership Team brings its own rewards. But the real stakes are even higher: your organization will never exceed the standard the Leadership Team sets for itself.

You Set the Ceiling.



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