Accountability

Freedom and Responsibility without Control

Randy Spitzer (Author) | Rob LeBow (Author) | Robert Lebow (Author)

Publication date: 07/10/2002

Bestseller over 20,000+ copies sold

Accountability
Using a wealth of real-world examples, this breakthrough book offers a new freedom-based management paradigm that radically improves every aspect of business-from how we hire, compensate, and motivate people to how we address quality issues, serve customers, review employees, and more. Accountability tells the story of Pete Williams, a hard-charging CEO, who meets Stan "Kip" Kiplinger, a retired businessman, during a cross-country train trip. Pete's manufacturing business is in critical condition; productivity is falling. He's tried all the popular management approaches, but he can't get his people to be accountable for meeting their goals.
Kip points out that every management system Pete has used is ultimately based on controlling people. Rather than encouraging people to be accountable, control-based systems discourage accountability by destroying people's sense of ownership of their job. Kip introduces Pete to a new way of leading people based on freedom-giving people the freedom to make their own choices and to do it their way. This doesn't mean anarchy; it means leadership expects everyone to act like an adult and take responsibility for his or her actions and their outcomes. Accountability details how this new approach yields a consistent flow of creative innovations and organizational improvements impossible under the old, coercive systems.
  • Coauthored by Rob Lebow, author of the bestsellers A Journey into the Heroic Environment (over 220,000 copies sold) and Lasting Change (over 75,000 copies sold)
  • Presents a more effective and humane alternative to "control-based" management practices-the only option that most organizations think they have
  • Real-life examples reveal the benefits of this new approach to management

Read more and meet author below

Read An Excerpt

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Overview

Using a wealth of real-world examples, this breakthrough book offers a new freedom-based management paradigm that radically improves every aspect of business-from how we hire, compensate, and motivate people to how we address quality issues, serve customers, review employees, and more. Accountability tells the story of Pete Williams, a hard-charging CEO, who meets Stan "Kip" Kiplinger, a retired businessman, during a cross-country train trip. Pete's manufacturing business is in critical condition; productivity is falling. He's tried all the popular management approaches, but he can't get his people to be accountable for meeting their goals.
Kip points out that every management system Pete has used is ultimately based on controlling people. Rather than encouraging people to be accountable, control-based systems discourage accountability by destroying people's sense of ownership of their job. Kip introduces Pete to a new way of leading people based on freedom-giving people the freedom to make their own choices and to do it their way. This doesn't mean anarchy; it means leadership expects everyone to act like an adult and take responsibility for his or her actions and their outcomes. Accountability details how this new approach yields a consistent flow of creative innovations and organizational improvements impossible under the old, coercive systems.

  • Coauthored by Rob Lebow, author of the bestsellers A Journey into the Heroic Environment (over 220,000 copies sold) and Lasting Change (over 75,000 copies sold)
  • Presents a more effective and humane alternative to "control-based" management practices-the only option that most organizations think they have
  • Real-life examples reveal the benefits of this new approach to management

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Randy Spitzer

Randy Spitzer is a master teacher with thirty years of experience in both the public school system and corporate America and is one of the senior associates at the Lebow Company, Inc.



Visit Author Page - Rob LeBow

Rob Lebow has built an international organization that serves companies around the globe, including FORD-Asia Pacific Operations, Pepsi Cola, IBM-Mid America Credit Union, ARAMCO Saudi Arabia, TRANE International, the US Government, and literally hundreds of other operations.

Visit Author Page - Robert Lebow

Rob Lebow has built an international organization that serves companies around the globe, including FORD-Asia Pacific Operations, Pepsi Cola, IBM-Mid America Credit Union, ARAMCO Saudi Arabia, TRANE International, the US Government, and literally hundreds of other operations.

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Table of Contents

PROLOGUE: A New Journey Begins

PART ONE: The CONTROL versus FREEDOM DILEMMA
1: I'm Pedaling as Fast as I Can, But It's Not Fast Enough!
2: The Courage to Make the Change
3: Which Would You Rather Work In—A Freedom-Based or a Control-Based Work Environment?
4: Do Incentives Really Motivate People? Or Are They Just a Quick Fix?
5: Is Job Security Related to a Corporate Culture's Bottom Line?
6: Do You Want to Be Controlled?
7: Can We Overcome Human Nature by Trying to Control People?
8: Three Activities That Establish a Freedom-Based Workplace

PART TWO: CREATING the TRANSFORMATION
9: The Transformation of National Stores: A Journey from the Old Control-Based Environment to the New Freedom-Based Workplace
10: The Wise Counsel
11: Creating the Right Conditions
12: Taking Personal Responsibility Is a Challenge for Everyone!
13: Transformation Begins with a Visionary Leader
14: The Freedom-Based Philosophy Is Adopted One Person at a Time
15: Owning Your Job Means No Excuses—The First Step to Freedom
16: Designing Your Job Means You Have the Power to Choose!
17: Finding Great People
Epilogue
Pete Williams: A New Journey Begins
The Freedom Survey(
TM)(FSTM)
NOTES
GLOSSARY
INDEX
ABOUT THE COMPANY
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
ABOUT THE AUTHORS

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Excerpt

I'm Pedaling as Fast as I Can, But It's Not Fast Enough!

11
The California Zephyr was at full speed when Pete verbalized the thoughts he was having about what Kip had just said. “I agree accountability is a big issue, but I don't think you can get people to be accountable without sensible controls in place.

“Kip, if you're suggesting in any way that I should ease up on my managers and staff, you're crazy. And I'm not saying this to be tough. I'm saying it to be realistic. I have no experience that suggests that giving up control will get me or my company to the finish line.” Pete realized that he might be coming on a little too strong, but he needed to let Kip know that he wasn't from the “let's all hold hands” school of leadership.

“Pete, at one point in my career I'd have agreed with you,” said Kip. “In fact, it literally took a heart attack to change my mind on the whole subject. Before that life-changing event, I prided myself on being a tough, but fair, boss. I thought leadership meant that you played the game like the legendary Lone Ranger—fighting the bad guys single-handedly. I was just fifty-three years old and the CEO of National Stores. Perhaps you've heard of them?”

Pete answered. “Of course I've heard of National Stores. We have one in the mall near our house.”12

Kip continued. “Like the Lone Ranger, I was playing the only role I knew how to play—the guy with all the silver bullets! I was the visionary leader with the white ten-gallon hat, full of my own self-importance. I was the main man.

“Pete,” Kip added with a smirk, “I was full of it! I was on top of the heap yet shaking in my boots for fear that the bubble would burst at any moment. I was secretly miserable and afraid to admit my fears, even to my wife until my heart attack.”

“What's this about a heart attack?” asked Pete with concern.

“Well, I'd been CEO of National Stores for about three years after a thirty-year climb to the top. I was working between eighty and one hundred hours per week and was on the road constantly. My wife and family had become strangers to me. I was missing the best years of my life and didn't even know it. When I wasn't visiting one of our stores trying to put out a fire, I was negotiating with our bankers to restructure our debt.

“Pete, I had so many balls in the air, I couldn't see the sky let alone smell the roses. I was out of touch and in a tailspin.”

“It sounds like more of a death spiral to me,” commiserated Pete with a laugh. He realized now that he was not alone and that Kip had survived the ordeal—maybe he would, too.

Kip didn't miss a beat. “Like you, I was under a great deal of pressure from our board to improve our company's slumping performance.” Kip recognized that what he was saying was having an impact on the younger man.

“Your story sounds all too familiar,” said Pete uncomfortably.

“Hopefully, this part of my story you'll never experience.” Taking a deeper breath, Kip paused. This was hard for him to talk about. “It was on a Monday morning, twenty-one years ago in early November. I was getting out of bed when I felt chest pains. It felt like an NFL linebacker was sitting on me—I was suffocating. I'd just had my company physical, and the doctor had asked me some pointed questions that I'd blown off.

“Looking back, I can see he was asking me if I needed help, but I didn't hear him—I wasn't listening. My test results were marginal. That's another way of saying, ‘Hello, you're on thin ice.' The numbers indicated that I was a middle-aged guy whose body was showing the effects of a lot of stress. But I thought I was Superman.”13

Pete knew exactly what Kip was talking about. “Yeah, my wife is always on my case about taking some time for me. I used to love to run, but since my knee surgery, it's been hard to find the time to work out.”

Kip nodded and went on. “Well, that morning my wife, who normally would have already been on her way to work, was still home. She must have sensed something. I insisted that it was just indigestion, but she called 911 anyway—thank goodness! I don't know what would have happened if I'd been in some lonely hotel room or the only one at home that morning.

“Lucky for me, the attack was a mild one. But before I was released from the hospital, my doctor was blunt. No, he was brutal. He said, ‘Either change your lifestyle or plan on an early grave.' That got my attention!”

“I imagine it would,” said Pete with a grimace. “I must admit that I'm beginning to be concerned with my pace and whether I can keep it up forever. Sometimes I'm not sure I can pedal any faster.”

Kip nodded in understanding and went on. “The business depended on me, or at least I thought so at the time. And frankly, I didn't see anyone on my staff who was ready to take on my responsibilities, let alone the pressures. More important, I wasn't ready to let go because I loved being in charge. Yet I knew if I didn't give my staff the freedom to help me carry the load, the job would kill me. I knew this, but I had no alternative. At least, that's what I thought at the time.

“Pete, something had to give, and it was me. My heart attack had forced me into a dilemma: Either hold onto control and face the consequences to my health, or give my staff the reins.”

“So what did you do?” asked Pete.

“Well, first, I went through the denial phase,” explained Kip. “Then I got angry, like it was the darn doctor's fault. But I eventually realized that if I had problems, it was me who would have to change. So here's what I did. About a week after I got out of the hospital, I called my executive team together at my home and explained my situation.14

“I told my staff things needed to change, and, more important, I needed to change. I said that the biggest changes needed to come from me, not from them. Frankly, Pete, at that point, I had nothing to lose; I was already losing my business, I was losing my health, and, worst of all, I was losing my family. I admitted that I didn't know if I could give up control. I admitted my vulnerabilities to the men and women who had depended on me.

“Every one of them reacted in a way I hadn't expected. They already knew! I mean, they knew I was in a death spiral. The only surprise to them was that I had lasted as long as I had.”

For some reason, Pete thought this was funny and laughed. “Kip, I couldn't help but laugh. If what you are telling me wasn't so serious, it would be funny.”

Kip nodded and smiled. “You're absolutely right. Looking back on the whole mess that I had created makes me want to laugh and cry. But at the time, I was taking myself pretty seriously.

“I asked my people why they'd never spoken to me about it. And do you know what they said? They were afraid of me. They were afraid of my anger and afraid of being fired.

“They knew what needed to be done at work and knew how to address many of the recurring problems, but they were afraid to share them with me. At that moment I realized that I was both the problem and the solution.

“The problem was my controlling behavior, and the solution was to let go of control. But letting go of control was totally alien to me. My challenge was to trust the people around me, something that was not natural for me.

The problem was my controlling behavior, and the solution was to let go of control.

“Of course, that's what should've happened years earlier. But I had learned from my boss, and he had learned from his. The only role models I had were control freaks. And I was the best control freak you ever saw.”15

“Funny you say that,” said Pete. “That phrase keeps coming up all around my company. Our people take pride in being control freaks. I think it's kind of crazy, but it seems to be the rule.”

Kip nodded in understanding. “Pete, we would literally have gone out of business, not because we didn't have the talent or the creative ideas. No, we'd have gone out of business because of my stubbornness.”

These last words cut deep into Pete's heart. He resonated with these words and didn't like where they led.

The sun shone high overhead and reflected off the carpet of snow into the train compartment. Compartment 417-C had become a confessional as two strangers shared their innermost secrets, their vulnerabilities, and their fears. The wheels of the train clacked along the tracks. The steady rhythm supported the conversation by filling in the pauses.

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