There is an uncomfortable, anxious pang that wells up in you when the halls have been empty for hours, and you know that you and the janitor are the only people in the building, again. You feel like maybe the fault is yours, that you aren’t quite working effective enough, that you could manage to get home at a reasonable hour if only you could better manage your time.
But you get sucked into tangential conversations all day. You find problems that need your attention at every turn. Every hallway conversation you overhear gives you the chills, fearing that people are going to act on the half-truths you hear spoken as gospel. Your only salvation (sigh) is that, for all the dis-information going around, little real action is being taken, so the many misunderstandings will remain just that. No one is responsible, no one is stepping up, and no one expects it.
You my friend are living in an No-Accountability Wasteland. (Alternatively, your expectations may simply be too dramatically out of step with the organization, in which case it will always feel like a wasteland, a sign that you probably haven’t found your right fit.)
I get how this happens. Status quo has been good enough for long enough. Change is viewed as rocking the boat. Challenging the norm is calling into question the environment that is in place, that is a reflection of today’s leadership. Many of those around you have a very real, vested stake in preserving the situation as it stands today.
Such wastelands are targets. Targets for acquisitions, targets for customer poaching by competitors, targets for talent scouts willing to take the last innovators out of your organization (assuming your not down to your C-stringers). Businesses operate in a dynamic environment, and must learn to flex with changing demands and competitive threats. If you still nuture a spark of aspiration and a hint of interest in furthering the lot of your fellow man, here are a few considerations for getting things turned around.
- Preach (and monitor) Accountability through SMART goals. No one likes management by acronym, but SMART goals are brilliant. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. Being the frustrated but brilliant leader you are, find ways to ensure that your requests and requirements meet the SMART formula without explicitly spelling out the term.
- ABS - Always be Shopping (not the brakes). Few love the perpetual state of recruitment, but if folks dodge tasks like the plague, you need to hit the streets. And your professional organizations; and your alumni network; and your past colleagues for referrals. You should always be looking to build a talent funnel - this is an exact parallel to the sales funnel, with everything from casual interactions to warm leads to hot candidates ready for offers. Human Capital Management - from prospecting through retention and development - must become as strategic a process as sales. If you want the best talent, you need to hire capable sales people into your HR organization, or continue to pay exorbitant fees to external parties to flood you with resumes that are meaningless.
- Start Chanting, “You See It, You Own It”. Setting expectations for such ownership and managing to them drives quality into a business, even as it makes it abundantly clear that the apathy of coasters and free-riders won’t be an integral part of the future.
- Keeping Brewing the Accountability Punch. No solo act goes unpunished for long, so broadening your base of change-agent constituents is mandatory. Remember that converts make the most rabid evangelists, so target a few key influencers within the organization with your Kool-Aid.
To be sure, few folks are actually charged with helping organizations change their cultural values, and it is the rare hiring manager that recognizes the important and time-consuming task that is influencing change. But if you are intent on building your career - and don’t want to be forging ahead alone - prepare to make substantial investments when you find no “there” there.