Sunday, September 30, 2012

Autonomy & Responsibility vs Scapegoating

People dislike the word accountable, probably because they associate it with blame. That shortsighted, glass half-empty perspective can hold you back. Autonomy, the freedom to make your own decisions, continues to rank among the top desires of people in their work life. Accountability is not, “Who's to blame?” it's “Who's responsible?” When you're responsible for something but decide not to act, that’s called abdication, which is a fancy word for quitting.  Autonomy without accountability is kind of silly.

I was once engaged to help on a project that had gone awry. I asked the team who was accountable for various parts of the project and told them it was their responsibility to find ways to fix the errors within their purview. I wasn't blaming them I was reiterating their duties. Senior management was skittish and said, “Don't you think you're being too rough? We’re all in this together.” That’s great, but it was false. They permitted autonomy but not responsibility. Kind of silly, right? 

On a separate occasion, the same organization had another project that it’s leadership had abdicated. I didn’t know any of the particulars when I was called in, other than their customer was ticked off. I took over the project and asked the role of each stakeholder. I told everyone I was the one ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the project, but they were responsible for their individual roles. Most people were relieved, because the target was off their back, and they had a new person to blame if things continued to go wrong. I held regular progress report meetings and when something stalled, the causal was evident to everyone. 

During the first few meetings, the client was still angry, and they took it out on me. I didn’t take it personally. Instead, I let them continue to vent their frustrations, which allowed me to learn their core frustrations. I took their blame head on because I assumed accountability for the entire project. Some people called it falling on the sword. The status meeting communication was frequent and thorough, so everyone knew who or what truly hampered progress. As we worked closer with the client they began to share in some blame and by the end of the project they were singing our praises. We moved from the cusp of being thrown out, to being named their provider of choice, because we chose accountability over scapegoating.

Being accountable isn't easy, which is why so many people shirk it. When you accept accountability it's empowering, and things do get easier. You have a choice. If things are not going well in your relationship or your finances, your current skill set, your health outlook or any other area of your life, are you going to use the government, the economy, the weather or your parents as a scapegoat for you? Blaming gets pretty boring. Taking responsibility, now that's exciting. You can actually do stuff. 

Pick one or two things you’ve blamed on others and ask yourself, “For what part of this problem am I accountable?” Show some leadership. Accept responsibility and get to work on improving what’s within your power to improve. You’ll be pleasantly stunned by what you can accomplish.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Nerdy Way to Polish Your Writing

I geeked out and created a tool in excel to help me polish a piece of writing. I know with the mention of excel, I’ve lost half of you, while the other half has pitched forward in giddy excitement and I’m not sure which is more alarming.

Anyone who has read my work knows there’s no danger of me becoming a slave to grammar ... (so many rules, and so few who care). Nonetheless, as a writer, it’s imperative to continuously improve and hone the craft.

At some stage in my writing, generally toward the end, I begin to worry about the things English teachers and the well-educated tell me are important. I’ll call this the polish stage. Admittedly, the amount of polishing required sometimes turns into a major rewrite.

Rational for which words to eliminate or use sparingly to make your work stronger can be found tucked inside scores of writing guides. I try to keep them in mind, but if I dwell on them too early, my creative flow suffers. That’s why I wait until the near end of a project before I scrub it clean of grammatical maladies.

I look for particular words or phrases that fall into seven buckets. It isn’t all exclusive, but it’s a good start.

  • Eliminate Clutter
  • Omit and Explain
  • Define Indefinites
  • Reduce Redundancy
  • Minimize Telling Words
  • Passivity
  • Prepositions

I run a word search for each of the words to see where I have a disproportional amount of ... fluff.

I populate a spreadsheet and turn each category into a percentage based on my total word count for the project. Then, I use the 80/20 rule with a quick glance to see where I’ve gone overboard. It doesn’t mean I’ll eliminate every, this, that was and like, but I do go back and reduce the population.

A caveat: I typically leave my dialogue alone. The last thing I want to do is make character dialogue grammatically correct.

If you want a copy of the excel spreadsheet, you can get it here. CLICK HERE FOR FILE There are two worksheets; The sample with formulas, and a blank one. Mess with them as you see fit. 

Let me know your thoughts and what you’d add.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Playlist for "He Loves It When She Smiles"

Here's a Spotify Playlist to get you in the mood for my next novel, 
"He Loves It When She Smiles" 
which takes place in late 1980's Boston.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

He Loves It When She Smiles - Trailer & Free Chapter

Get Chapter One FREE at the end of the trailer, or click here

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hug More

Hug more.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Your Accountability Partner Questions

Over the past few weeks and months, I've posted about publishing, leadership and personal accountability. My primary focus is helping leaders, artists and entrepreneurs find the aha within, on the way to achieving their great goals. My writings, fiction and non-fiction alike, aim to support that goal, but it is most directly impacted via one on one Accountability Partnering.

In an effort to continually improve, I’d like to hear from you. Having received access to a variety of communication vehicles like this blog, my website, and my Facebook and Twitter feeds, to name a few, I’d like to know what question you have about Accountability Partnering. Some might be answered in the guide to getting the most out of an Accountability Partner Agreement I put together, (Available Here) but you undoubtedly have other questions. If you’re curious or skeptical, are currently experiencing a challenge or think you have everything figured out, I’d like to hear from you.

People who have worked with me know that I have a thirst for making a difference in the lives of others. Using insightfulness and creativity, I’m happiest when I can lead and inspire others to maximize their strengths and continuously improve themselves, their organization or our society, by bringing the powers of vision, passion and action together. I believe, in some small way, this helps positively energize our nation and contributes to greater peace, prosperity, fun, understanding, responsibility and liberty in the world.

Please send your questions by posting them in the comments section of this blog. Your questions will help build a comprehensive education package I’m putting together over the next few weeks.

Thank you for your ongoing support. May you always advance confidently in the direction of your dreams while helping others along the way.