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Six Business Mantras for the Accountable Leader

As I was reviewing my clients’ progress from 2011, several sayings jumped to mind. Together, they sum up the important mindset shifts my clients had to make in order to move forward, improve their leadership skills and get better results from their people.

Along with the essential principles of accountable leadership I identified previously, these mantras will help you snap out of the negative behaviors that get so many leaders into trouble.

So find a quiet place, take a deep breath and repeat after me:

1. They’re not you – All too often, I see leaders getting all stressed out, and at the same time they’re stressing out the people they lead. What’s behind it? “Why can’t they just do what I know they should do?” If this sounds familiar, read carefully: They are not you. Tie a string around your finger, tattoo it to your forehead, or do whatever else it takes to remember that people have to come to things on their own terms and with their own understanding.

2. Your performance is based on the performance of your people – Sure, you know this, but are you practicing it? This goes hand-in-hand with our first point. No, they’re not you, but each person on your team has his or her own special gifts, skills and perspectives. Show them that you see this, and that you appreciate what they do well. It’s easy to forget this one and let it slip, but think for a moment about how your business would run if it weren’t for all those people making their contributions. P.S. If all you can think about right now is how much your business/job/team sucks, I’ve got news for you: It’s not your direct reports who are the problem. Be sure to read the next point, and you should probably give me a call – now!

3. When you be right…it be right – My good friend Tony Brown in Chicago gave me this one. Way too often, people blame everything and everyone else for their own problems. If you’ve always got a long list of complaints about what and who isn’t right in your life, it’s time to take a closer look at yourself. When you’re solid, everything around you will be solid.

4. What you say is not necessarily what someone else hears – A woman I was dating once stormed into my house to scour through my closet for a green sports coat. When she had suggested I wear it and I told her I didn’t have one, she argued with me. She was 100% sure of what she’d heard me mention it, even though I’d never said it. That’s why recapping is such an important communication tool. Unless you put everything on the table and specify what each person said and heard, you’re at risk of creating confusion instead of clarity.

5. A small change in your behavior can make a big difference in your results – All of the checklists, templates and systems in the world won’t help if you keep reverting back to your destructive habits. Yet when you make just one small change and stick with it, you’ll be amazed at what can happen. Best of all, even the tiniest change can spark momentum and motivation for yourself and the people around you.

6. The buck starts here…with YOU, right now, today – U.S. President Harry S. Truman was famous for saying, “the buck stops here.” He even had it put on a sign for his desk as a constant display of his commitment to responsibility. This concept is just as important to today’s leaders. I like to say that the buck starts here, as a reminder that it’s up to you as the leader to be proactive in addressing whatever is stopping or blocking you and/or your team from getting new clients and growing your business. Whether there are issues with communication, productivity, time management or something else, they’re not going to go away if you just keep tolerating them.

Repeating these mantras to yourself is a start, but it won’t automatically translate into a change in your behavior. What is one small action you can put into place that would make today turn out a little better than yesterday? If you need help making that change, Alan M. Dobzinski provides executive consultation for leaders and managing partners in accounting firms, legal firms and other professional services organization. Contact him today to get started.