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  • Writer's picturePatrick Novak

How Can Management Accountability As a Service (MAAS), Empower Leadership?

Technology has made a tremendous impact on everything in the business world from better communications, improved customer service, and speed of delivery. The power to execute massive capability can fit right in the palm of our hand. However, the greatest asset a business leader owns - exists in the mind. This is the core processing center for all things executive decision making. In order to establish operational guardrails for this function that transcend the individual manager, every leader must craft a standard for the organization. Embracing a futurist mindset, we see tremendous potential for accountability to transform into a serviceable business model.

If you haven't heard of Management Accountability as a Service (MAAS) yet, don't worry - you're one of the first to learn about it! Trident Strategies recently developed this concept to address major mindset gaps not just of those in charge, but also for those leading the charge at our corporations. It's not another generic company methodology to throw a trademark behind, but it's more of a behavioral model that becomes strengthened through disciplined application.

Besides increasing sales and working hard to achieve top line growth, too many firms are ignoring key dynamics that are squeezing the bottom line. These are the less tangible actions of leadership that have a ripple effect into every sector of the business. For example, a culture where the leadership openly communicates that they're not beholden to the same standards as the rest of company because they're in charge - sends a very clear and destructive message. It tells program managers or finance staff that they too, should be exempt from responsibility. We've seen that management who take this approach are often keen to not establish goals, metrics, or performance reviews - because they must remain free from professional evaluation. Seems like an unsustainable practice, so what can be done to mitigate the damage?

Imagine your company as a living, breathing tree. Everything about how you take care of that tree extends out to the branches and into the leaves. Think of accountability as the root system. If it's rotten or damaged, the rest of the tree begins to show signs of stress and eventually stops growing. Major compounding issues where staff mirror poor management's behavior or mindset can create lightening strike events that permanently damage any hope for a firm to recover. This is the storm that every leader hopes to avoid - but some still unfortunately make their firms a lightening rod. Therefore it's vital to provide a strong culture of accountability to ensure your corporate objectives blossom into their fullest potential.

3 Key factors to initiate a MAAS framework in the workplace.

Corporate Conversations

These are often the most difficult scenarios for poor leadership to face, and yet conversely the most welcoming for those who are in control of their workplace. Control not being a term of managerial will, but rather an environment where staff are free to speak - at will. These open environments are critical spaces, where honest dialogue drives accountability. There are however, divergent definitions or perceptions of accountability. Deploying the proper perception is vital to ensuring that MAAS serves to improve, and not intentionally impede progress.

  • The first way accountability is perceived is through the proactive lens. This puts the organization and the staff in a collective place of responsibility to address concerns. This allows the observer of fact to take in all data points and then render a decision that has a fair and equitable outcome for all parties involved. If someone falls short in their responsibilities, it offers guidance on how they can streamline their activity to better bolster ownership of the conditions. By taking this approach, the organization is thus granted credibility and authority to make recommendations or critique of performance. When this approach is vacated, so too is any hope for legitimate managerial authority. The proactive lens is thus ordained a more effective tool for organizations that are balanced, competent, and fair.

  • The second way accountability is perceived is through a more sinister, reactionary, blame shifting or blame shaming lens. The organization that utilizes this approach is one that operates in a very flat and unilaterally controlled manner. There are no individual expectations in this model, nor is there guidance for how individual employees can contribute to the overall mission. The primary reason for this rests on the sad fact that there's only one person who's authorized to make executive decisions. This central point (bottleneck) of movement demands fealty and loyalty - vice integrity and performance. The end result is a chaotic orbit of unenthusiastic resources, unaccountable to any rational gravity or policy. When failures occur, the central authority often flees situational responsibility and sends other staff members to enforce an uncommunicated or impossible corporate objective. When questioned on the legitimacy of this approach, the outcome is often hostile and damaging throughout the organization. Fear-based firms lose big time when they behave this way.

If management is only around for the good times, company birthdays or hiring, but not the firing - what does that say about how they view responsibility? It says something very interesting to the organization, that's very difficult to be rectified once a certain code of conduct is codified.

"Managers have skewed perceptions about their openness to challenging news." Patrick Barwise and Sean Meehan

Transparent Agendas

As we've often heard, knowing why a company does something is one of the most important factors for staff to understand. This doesn't mean staff need to know every action, but they must know the spirit for which a company operates. The motivations and the goals must be made public, so a path of responsibility can be created for each employee to contribute. Firms that embrace this approach, quickly develop teamwork and cohesion. They effortlessly attract and maintain the best talent possible, because the environment is conducive to cooperation.

Firms that fail to communicate transparently, conversely maintain control through what we call the "Spider Hole." This method puts each individual staff or team into very narrow control portals where there's no ability for teams to operate collectively. This is done because the controlling executive knows that by separating staff, they can provide different messaging to different groups and thus limit cross matrixed communications. For the leader who micromanages and needs to keep company motivations cloistered, this method is effective for suppressing staff into a blind and disparate business model. This works for a short time, but the more often it's deployed - the more employees become annoyed. The end result is resignation and untenable attrition, which ultimately guarantees that they'll be no way to accomplish the mission.

Streamlined Feedback

Firms can elicit feedback in several ways. The first way is through simulated control and pressurized information gathering. This unimaginative management tactic tricks staff into believing that they're in control of the culture. Several methods include creating a "culture committee" or putting individual staff through an excessive amount of closed door meetings where the executives can manipulate them through managerial pressure. In each of these interactions - fear, intimidation, and isolation are the primary cudgels for control. The culture committee approach puts this effect into a broader context by placing key assets of management into the process to report back and steer the process, as opposed to actually engaging with an open and unfiltered ear for what's really going on. These approaches never work, not even in the short term.

So what can be done to make feedback an effective tool for accountability? To truly streamline is to admit what is true, and then adjust to the reality of anything that fails to serve you. It isn't about serving your needs or corporate objectives first - it's about keeping the ship level by listening to the crew. This doesn't mean doing everything they suggest, but it does mean processing available information in a way that serves the customer best.

"Chances are a difficult boss may not be open to hearing feedback about his or her failings. So try making specific requests to get what you need." - Mary Abbajay

Don't get out of the way. Become the way.

Often times we hear toxic leadership say that they "need to get out of their own way." What they really mean is that they "need you to get out of the way" they have pre-ordained in their mind. They have an established course they feel is best, but too many times it ends up failing the test. Certainly in these instances, there are narcissistic managers who push on knowing that they'll barely squeak by. Other times they get stuck in a very public and embarrassing scenario that could have been avoided by simply giving the Management Accountability As a Service (MAAS) methodology a try. Every company has a different model, but as long as they work together as a crew - there's nothing they can't do!


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