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BREAKING THE ENTITLEMENT CYCLE

by: Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D.

(For individual use only, not to be reproduced or used in any way without permission)


PREMISE:

Organizations and leaders want less entitled employees:

  • I will always have a job until retirement regardless of what I produce.
  • This company owes me an annual raise and competitive salary.
  • I deserve a promotion because of seniority not demonstrated competence.
  • The leader is responsible for direction setting and decision making.

Organizations and leaders want more accountable employees:

  • My position is only justified as long as I contribute something of value.
  • In this organization, you earn what you get.
  • I am responsible for developing better ways to service the customer.
  • This is my organization and I feel responsible for what happens here.
  • If it's not right, fix it.

Moving toward more accountable employees just doesn't happen, it requires a continual effort to influence and change some deeply ingrained beliefs and behaviors about the role of employees/leaders and organizations. Our culture seems to be a breeding ground for entitlement thinking. If a culture of non accountability pervades within an organization, the manager has a tough challenge. The clear message is, it doesn’t happen by itself.

ENTITLEMENT IS THE ANTITHESIS OF CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

Entitlement is about security, bureaucracy, top down, status quo, rules, single skill, and looking good versus a continuous improvement climate where everyone is constantly seeking ways to eliminate, or improve, on their outputs. For some leaders, this is frustrating because people are not held accountable for meeting criteria of excellence. They are entitled, they don't have to earn their place. Good performance, poor performance, or no performance at all, are treated the same. Is this true of only rank and file workers? Evidence to the contrary is suggested when executives receive bonuses regardless of the company's performance.

An entrepreneur best captured the notion when she said, "I don't want to hire someone who has worked in a corporation for 10 years because they don't understand what it means to earn the job, they expect it." True only for business? Does a tenured college professor feel entitled or that they have to continually earn their job?

WHERE DO YOU START?

The easy answer is to fire everyone and hire committed employees. Although the selection process in many organizations could help the current dilemma, practically, firing is not a practical solution. What’s a leader to do? We suggest:

ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE OF COACHING

Regardless if you are a leader or team member, at the heart of breaking the entitlement cycles is coaching others. Yet, do we reward our leaders for the time spent coaching others? Unfortunately, the message in far too many organizations is "keep your eye on the ball, don’t lose focus and, oh yes, if you have some free time coach your employees". The coach must do the work of requiring work. Here are twelve things the coach can do:

  1. BE PART OF THE SOLUTION

    Don’t wait for the right people, the right manager, the right organization, the right time—make it happen! You can influence the attitudes your team members have toward work and personal accountability. There are countless managers leading high performing committed teams.

     

  2. MAKE THE PICTURE CLEAR

    A good coach clarifies direction, goals, and accountability even when this is resisted or others flee from evaluation. When we ask people to describe the "best" manager/coach they ever worked with, the responses almost always include:

    • They had high expectations for themselves and others
    • They encouraged risk taking
    • If people failed, they used it as a learning experience, not as a time to place or fix blame.
    • You knew where you stood

    Clear and high expectations are the starting point for accountability.

     

  3. BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME

    People will want to work on your team. It’s exciting, rewarding, and fun—word travels. Every reader can recall the one "best" manager they worked for and how fun, challenging, rewarding, and developmental this experience was. Why can’t we always work for "best" managers? Unfortunately, the norms seem to be 2-3 of these "bests" during our entire working career. The rest is spent working in conditions of mediocrity.

     

  4. TRUST THE TEAM, YOU’RE NOT IN THIS ALONE

    Should teammates coach others? Yes! Should you expect this? Yes! The following commonalties were present in high performing teams:

    • the performance goals were clear
    • there was mutual accountability
    • members had to earn a place on the team
    • the designated leader was more like a player-coach
    • high personal commitment to the goal and other team members
    • members were effective at managing the relationships between themselves

    In high-performing teams, teammates have a stake in the goal, they are accountable. Peers coach others to carry their weight, innovate, and develop the coach. Watch any championship team and you will see a lot of peer coaching—holding other responsible and accountable for their actions and pointing out how individual, and ultimately, team performance can be improved. Do you think Michael Jordan cares what and how his teammates perform—just watch the intensity.

     

  5. NO VICTIMS!

    Help people cope with change. Coaches help others develop the skills they need to cope with change, the discipline to persevere, the confidence to withstand uncertainty and the courage to initiate and innovate. Teams should be asking if they have the right skills to achieve their goals and if not, who or how can these skills be developed. As one leader aptly stated, "My job is to help others be a part of change, not a victim". NO VICTIMS!

     

  6. LOOSEN UP

    Share decisions and involve others in the decision making process. Making decisions fosters accountability. The power to make decisions needs to be pushed down so those most involved with the work can make decisions. The opportunity to shirk accountability is increased when I just wait to be told what to do.

     

  7. SHOW THEM THE "T"

    Display and discuss the "T", or the "+’s" and "-‘s" of being entitled. Make the costs, "-‘s" personal and specific not abstract and organizational. Make it relevant and uncomfortable to keep on behaving as an entitled employee. Change occurs when others are uncomfortable the with current situation—build a little discomfort.

     

  8. BE DECISIVE

    If people don’t fit the picture of an empowered workforce, don’t wait, make a move. Your actions will speak louder than your words. Be consistent.

     

  9. HELP OTHERS DEVELOP

    Helping others develop the skills to reach these expectations is also critical. High expectations are great, put the muscle of training and other resources in peoples hands to meet these dreams.

     

  10. REWARD, REWARD, REWARD!

    Evaluation, pay, and career decisions should be based on meeting or exceeding these high expectations. Base pay and other non tangible rewards on accountability for results produced and developed skills, not tenure or position. Don’t be afraid to customize your rewards to the individual’s situation—time off, dinners, presents, vacations, memberships, tickets, training,--whatever floats their boat.

     

  11. BE WHAT YOU WANT

    People will describe you by your actions, lead by example. If you want empowerment, accountability, responsibility—be empowered, accountable, responsible. Period!

     

  12. MAKE THE PICTURE CLEARER

    You can’t spend enough time making your expectations, your beliefs, your excitement clear. Communicate, in meetings, in one-on-one discussions, in whatever forum presents itself. One team fondly used to joke that in every discussion with the leader, somewhere, sometime the same theme of personal responsibility and accountability would be mentioned. Does your team know unequivocally what you want and stand for?

It’s easy to say "woe is me," if employees were like they used to be. They weren’t that much different, they just didn’t have the skills, choices, and opportunities of today’s employees. Where do you think those who want challenge and accountably work? For managers and organizations who expect and reward accountability. It’s your move!

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Contact Matt Starcevich at matt@coachingandmentoring.com
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