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Accountability - Owning Your Outcomes

In today's episode, Tim and Junior continue the "Leading with Character and Competence" series by discussing the third cornerstone of character: accountability. Great leaders love accountability. They are not afraid of transparency and take ownership of their actions and outcomes. Their high levels of accountability help them avoid blame, denial, or excuses.

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Episode Show Notes

In today's episode, Tim and Junior continue the "Leading with Character and Competence" series by discussing the third cornerstone of character: accountability. Great leaders love accountability. They are not afraid of transparency and take ownership of their actions and outcomes. Their high levels of accountability help them avoid blame, denial, or excuses.

(02:30) Tim and Junior describe accountability through stories. The opposite of accountability is irresponsibility, which involves shedding accountability and entitlement.

(15:24) Leadership is not just about total transparency; accountability must be internal, not only forced externally. "And that all goes back to how much accountability you are going to take for yourself. Is it intrinsic? Or are you waiting for the control systems around you to keep you in line?"

(21:43) Tim and Junior share ways to improve accountability, including finishing what you start. "Urgency is a catalyst, but seldom a sustainer. It doesn't keep you going over the long haul. So you have to find some other source of motivation." They also emphasize avoiding short-term thinking, stating, "All the significant and good things I can think of, whether in an organization or in personal life, come from short-term sacrifice, not short-term gratification."

(27:45) Be intentional about the values for which you hold yourself accountable. "If you're not explicit about the principles to which you're accountable, then you're only accountable to your own self-interest."

(34:52) Accountability improves confidence. "The more accountable you are over a longer period of time, the more confidence you can have in yourself that you'll be able to do what you say you're going to do."

(37:28) Tim shares a story about entitlement using turkeys as an example. Entitlement is on the opposite end of the accountability spectrum. Organizations need to understand that "that which is consistently given is consistently expected." Individuals should also be mindful of this type of entitlement in themselves.

(40:28) Let achievement be its own reward. "Why are you doing what you're doing? Is it for others? Is the accountability to your goal externally driven? Are you doing it for fame, glory, and money? What can you do to shift that accountability to yourself?"

(44:55) Accountability to higher ideals lasts a lifetime. "Accountability to integrity as an ideal lives longer than you. It's an aspiration that you can have for a lifetime. Accountability to improvement, accountability to compassion, accountability to whatever ideal you choose."

Important Links
Leading with Character and Competence: Moving Beyond Title, Position, and Authority


Episode Transcript

0:00:02.4 Producer: Welcome back, Culture By Design listeners. It's Freddie, the producer of the podcast. In today's episode, we're continuing our Leading with Character and Competence series with the discussion on the third cornerstone of character, accountability. If you didn't listen to the previous episodes in this series, don't worry, you can start here. Today, Tim and Junior will talk about the leadership trait of accountability. Great leaders love accountability, and they're not afraid of transparency. They take ownership for their actions and outcomes and avoid blame, denial, or excuses. As always, this is a practical and actionable episode that can help you improve your culture by design. As always, links to this episode, show notes can be found at Enjoy today's episode on accountability, owning your outcomes.

0:01:00.8 Junior: Welcome back everyone to Culture By Design. My name's Junior, and I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark, and today, we'll be discussing accountability. Tim, how are you? 

0:01:07.8 Tim: I'm doing well. Looking forward to this one. Accountability's something that we can all relate to. This will be a good conversation.

0:01:15.1 Junior: Yeah, we've got some good stuff in here, some good stories. You've got a few tucked away that I'm excited to hear. I think we'll have a good conversation. I wanna start off with a quote, Abraham Verghese, "The key to your happiness is to own your own slippers. Own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don't. If you keep saying your slippers aren't yours, then you'll die searching, you'll die bitter, always feeling you are promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions become our destiny." It's a fascinating quote, I believe this, taking accountability, taking ownership, taking responsibility is the key. What do you think about that? 

0:01:55.1 Tim: It's interesting because in this quote, which comes from his book, Cutting For Stone, think about what's the opposite of accountability. So if you don't own your own slippers, and who you are, and how you look, and your family, and your talents and everything, if you don't own all of that, if you don't own your life, what's the opposite on a continuum? Well, you're starting to move toward entitlement, and that's a very dangerous place to be. We'll get into that as we move through the conversation today. But I love the fact that you started with this statement. It's very powerful.

0:02:30.6 Junior: Well, I like the point that you talk about entitlement because a lot of people would say on the opposite end of accountability, you have irresponsibility, you have a shedding of accountability. Looking at it through the entitlement lens, it's interesting, we're gonna be talking about that. So this is part four of our, Leading with Character and Competence series. I've very much enjoyed it so far, and looking forward to today. Next week, we will have the final episode regarding character, and then we'll move into the four cornerstones of competence. So a lot of good stuff in store. I wanna read a section today from the book that hit me like a ton of bricks as I read it again. And so forgive me for the next couple of minutes. I'm gonna read verbatim about a story that I think we can all learn from and something that I wanna unpack with you, Tim.

0:03:19.6 Tim: Okay.

0:03:20.5 Junior: Go back with me to 1783 and let me introduce you to the most accountable man of his generation. It's a cold December day. You are standing in a crowded public gallery. Suddenly, your eyes meet the image of a stately figure entering the chamber. Silence ordered, this man of commanding presence bows, delivers a short speech, and then pulls from his military dress uniform, a document, and hands it to the ranking official. The visitor turns to face what has become a sea of swollen eyes and watery cheeks. He bows again, waves farewell, and then rides off to have Christmas dinner with his family. The place, Annapolis, Maryland. The setting, the US Continental Congress. The man, General George Washington. What just happened? You've just witnessed one of the most breathtaking acts of accountability in all of human history. The most powerful man on earth walked into the room, a man who strapped a fledgling nation to his back and led a ragamuffin army every day for six years, who waged war with the most formidable fighting force on the planet and won.

0:04:23.4 Junior: On that particular day, more than two centuries ago, the question on everyone's mind was, "What will this man do next? What should he do next?" In real terms, the general possessed absolute power. If he should make himself king of the new nation, it would be a very natural act, and it would be what every ruler of the day expected him to do. He could wear the crown, he could ascend the throne. But this man of quiet reserve, the tall farmer from Virginia did something more astonishing. He walked away. In a precedent setting act that reverberates to this day, this titan of the times held himself accountable. Rather than abuse power, he voluntarily laid down his commission as commander-in-chief. He stunned the world and went home. Can you picture him writing off to Mount Vernon? He would not even accept pay for his service during the war, just reimbursement for his expenses. What a story.

0:05:14.3 Tim: It moves me just to hear it.

0:05:16.6 Junior: What a story. I wanted to share that because it moved me too as I read it again. Not the first time we've heard this story, but every time I come back to it, it's amazing to me. I feel like I gleaned something new every time. So, why this story? What does this story have to do with accountability? What do you think, Tim? What's the connection here? 

0:05:38.9 Tim: Well, I think there was real clarity in General Washington's mind about what he was accountable for and to whom he was accountable. He was accountable to the Continental Congress. He was accountable to the American people. He wasn't confused about that. Even though, arguably he was, at that point, the most powerful man in the world, and he could reign with absolute power, he got on his horse and he went home. So he understood his accountability, he understood what his stewardship was, and he was true to that, right? I think it was the great portrait artist Benjamin Rush who was, I don't know, had an audience with King George in England at the time, and the king asked him, "What is General Washington going to do?" And he said... Or, "What did he do?" I guess it was soon after. And he said, "Oh, he went home to his farm." And the king said, "Well, if he does that, he'll be the greatest man in the world." He couldn't understand it, he couldn't comprehend it. How could someone do that? Someone that had absolute power, had just defeated the world's greatest fighting force, that was counterintuitive, that was almost unnatural. But that was accountability.

0:07:02.9 Junior: One of the things that I thought about as I was going through this story again, was the difference between the beginning of the story and the end of the story. So, at the beginning of those six years, you have this fledgling nation. You are beginning the fight and you set forward these ideals of independence, of republicanism, of freedom. And so what did Washington have to gain at the very beginning? Almost nothing. Almost nothing. And what did he have to gain at the end? Everything. A monarchy that could have been completely under his control, and yet he held fast to those ideals that he had at the beginning. And so I've been thinking about this, that you can lay forth some ideals at the beginning, but eventually those will be tested. And for him, the nation was his for the taking. I will set up a monarchy and will live out the rest of my days at the top of this thing.

0:08:12.5 Junior: But instead, he held fast to those original ideals. And so the accountability here is what's striking to me, as you said, to whom are you accountable and to what are you accountable? I think that he was accountable to, we talk about integrity in a prior episode, how it's accountability to the unenforceable. And I think that he displayed that. He was accountable to himself, he was accountable to the people he represented, and he was accountable to the ideals that he held all the way from the beginning. And those things didn't change as the stakes changed, they stayed the same the entire time. And so that I think is most striking to me about this story as I go through it this time, is the difference between the beginning and the end. And those ideals stayed the same the whole time and informed his behavior the entire time.

0:09:02.7 Tim: Yeah, I love that, Junior. One time, he said, I walk on untrodden ground.

0:09:07.1 Junior: That's for sure.

0:09:09.1 Tim: And so the implication was, I know that everyone's watching me and I know that what I do is going to set precedent. And he had a very real sense of that. He was acutely tuned into the influence that he had, that reverberating influence that would pass into the future. Pretty amazing.

0:09:30.4 Junior: Well, I think about... You mentioned precedent. Think about the peaceful transition of power. Did that characterize most governments before this time? 

0:09:40.8 Tim: Yeah, great question.

0:09:41.6 Junior: No.

0:09:42.9 Tim: Not at all.

0:09:43.6 Junior: No, not at all. Peaceful transition was not a thing.

0:09:48.6 Tim: No, it's not a thing. If it ever happened, it was an exception.

0:09:52.0 Junior: Exactly. And so it, it makes me think about that, setting precedent. I think he saw what the future held, and if he couldn't do it, it would probably follow that no one could do it. And so the amount of responsibility and setting precedent for peaceful transition of power alone is really interesting. So serve your two terms and that's it. John Adams, here's the baton.

0:10:17.3 Tim: That's right. Well, and even, let's keep in mind, even at the time the Constitution did not have a two-term limit on the presidency, he just went home.

0:10:28.5 Junior: All done. So what an amazing way to start. I appreciate this and it's something that I'm going to be unpacking after today's episode. I've been thinking a lot about it. Okay. So why then are we not all perfectly accountable to those we represent to ourselves, to the ideals we hold? Because there's temptation not to be, there's incentive not to be, there's incentive to not take responsibility, in an effort to do a number of things, preserve our image, our standing, to avoid paying the required price of something, we shirk the responsibility, we don't take ownership and we try to remain unaccountable. And there are many things that incentivize that type of behavior. Tim, in the book, there's a story about your freshman year at playing football.

0:11:16.2 Tim: Yeah.

0:11:16.8 Junior: Can you tell us about that? You know what I'm talking about? 

0:11:19.4 Tim: Yeah. I do know what you're talking about. [laughter] Okay. I'll share it. I guess I'll share it. So when I was 18, yeah, I took a football scholarship out of high school to play at a division one program. And I remember, vividly, an experience I had. Well, first of all, I went out... So this was... We arrived early on campus for summer camp before all of the other students arrived in the fall. And, I'll never forget, I went out onto the practice field, I think it was probably maybe even the first day that I arrived on campus. And there was a big tower, this big metal tower standing in the middle of the practice field. Now, I know this'll date me a little bit, but I turned to an upperclassman and I said, "What is this tower?" I didn't know what it was. I'd never seen that. I'd just come out of high school. And he said, "What do you mean? It's a video tower." And I said, "A video tower? What's a video tower doing out here on the practice field?" He looked at me in kind of disbelief. He said, "Well, because we video practice." And I said, "What? You video practice?" He said, "Yeah, every day, we video practice." Now coming outta high school, we videoed games, but we never videoed practice. Now I know they probably do that today, but they didn't when I played in high school.

0:12:51.6 Tim: So, to me, this was a new concept, and let alone this big very high video tower. So anyway, I forgot about that, but probably, I don't know, a week or so later, I'm sitting in my team meeting with my position coach and my teammates, and I played defensive end, by the way. And I'm sitting in the team meeting and my coach, he says to me, "Clark, you lost containment in practice yesterday three times."

0:13:25.9 Junior: You let someone get around you.

0:13:27.8 Tim: Yeah. That means you let the offense, you let someone get around you with a ball. Right? They went around you. And my job is don't let anyone get around. That's my job. And I said, "No, I didn't. I only lost containment once." And as soon as I said that, he smiled. And he smiled as if to say, "I'm going to enjoy teaching you a lesson now." And he said, "Let me teach you a lesson, and here's the name of the lesson. Here's what it's called, The eye in the sky never lies." And then he proceeded to pick up the remote, push the button, and we all watched the video in living color of Clark losing containment. Not once, not twice, but three times. And so there I was on the receiving end of that lesson.

0:14:27.2 Tim: That is a lesson in accountability. The eye in the sky never lies. Now, the difference, Junior, and we can talk a little bit about this is that, when you're playing a sport, or maybe it's the performing arts, there are some arenas, some environments in which there's total transparency when it comes to your performance. We can see everything. Well, football was that kind of experience. If you made any kind of mistake, it was there. If you did anything good, it was there. You could see everything. Total transparency. In some environments, that's not true but in football, it was. Wow, that was the lesson of a lifetime. The eye in the sky never lies.

0:15:11.8 Junior: I love that story and I appreciate you sharing it. I can imagine what that must have been like watching that in front of all of your teammates.

0:15:19.3 Tim: There's nowhere to hide, Junior. There's nowhere to hide.

0:15:22.8 Junior: There's no way to hide.

0:15:24.0 Tim: Yeah.

0:15:24.7 Junior: That story makes me think about this idea of transparency, and I think it's something that I'd like to bring up and discuss for a second. At the beginning, in many domains, especially when we're young, the accountability, the environments of the accountability are very transparent. And I think that they become more obscure as time goes on. As we get older, as we go into new domains, at the beginning, the infrastructure provides the accountability so you think of the systems that provide accountability. You did your homework or you didn't do your homework. On the field, in your case, you either maintain containment or you didn't. And they're kind of binary issues. You did the thing or you didn't do the thing. The environment knows, you know that the environment knows. And it seems to me that the journey over time largely is shifting that accountability mechanism from something external to something internal. The reason I say that is because you mentioned some environments aren't as transparent, leadership is not performed in total transparency. It's performed without total transparency. Think about the transparency that exists inside most organizations, most institutions when it comes to leadership, how much transparency is there? 10%, 15%. Certainly not a hundred.

0:17:03.3 Tim: No.

0:17:03.9 Junior: And so in environments where there's not a lot of transparency or not total transparency, there exists incentives to hide, to blame, to deny, to excuse. And to me, that's really interesting. So the logic is, if there's not complete transparency in the environment, then you can assume that there are incentives to hide. And I think that that's one of the biggest things that we need to overcome. As leaders, that's a long journey. But it's shifting that accountability, as I mentioned before, away from external to internal. What do you think about that? 

0:17:41.9 Tim: Well, and that's what we need to do. Right, Junior? Think about organizational life. Organizations provide a partially transparent performance environment. It's not transparent, it's partially transparent. And as a consequence, what do we see? We see people, especially in large complex organizations, who if they don't want to be accountable, they will try to hide in the bowels of that organization, which you can do in a lot of ways. Yes, we have metrics, but people confuse activity with results and activity with productivity all the time. And so if you don't want to take personal accountability and you want to, to hide, so to speak, in the bowels of the organization, you can. It's not a perfectly transparent performance environment, clearly. I remember, being in manufacturing, I remember people deliberately, they seemed to... Some people would spend more time trying to get outta work than just getting the work done. What an aspiration. But some people were doing that. It was interesting. So for me, as a young person, I remember seeing that thinking, Wow, look at all the ingenuity and the creativity that people use to get outta work. That's ironic. Let's just do the work and let's contribute.

0:19:02.0 Tim: Isn't it interesting? And that all goes back to how much accountability are you gonna take for yourself. Is it intrinsic? Or are you waiting for the control systems around you to keep you in line? 

0:19:13.4 Junior: I remember reading a headline a while back about some employee that I think worked for like a state utility and he was in charge of maintenance or observation or something for some system in some plant somewhere. And he would just go and clock in and leave and then come back and clock out at the end of the day. And he did this for a period of years where no work and there was no accountability mechanism and there certainly wasn't any internal accountability mechanism. And so he ends up getting caught, but not after years. Literally years of driving by, clocking in, going and doing whatever he was going to do and then coming in and clocking out.

0:19:56.2 Tim: That's amazing.


0:19:57.5 Junior: Oh my goodness.

0:19:58.3 Tim: Amazing. Yeah.

0:20:02.5 Junior: So there's another principle in here, and then we're gonna get into some solutions. Private choices eventually lead to public consequences. Tell me about that principle, Tim.

0:20:11.9 Tim: Well, often we argue, look, my private life is my private life and it has nothing to do with my public life, my professional life, my role, whatever that role may be in an organization of some kind. That's absolutely and patently false. Private choices will leak into public consequences eventually. That, you cannot separate the two. And so when people try to use that as an excuse, I'm not buying that. We see time and time again where private choices do turn into public consequences. And I can think of many examples of late with heads of state around the world and what their private choices, the devastating public consequences that those turn into and the negative and adverse impact has on society and on people. I think we need to be... I think we're grasping for excuses when we make that argument. Why would we want to reach for that argument in the first place? What is motivating us? Right? 

0:21:23.5 Junior: Yeah. Here's what we've covered so far. So we've talked about accountability as the ideal, as one of the cornerstones for character. We've talked about Washington, and we've talked about why that type of accountability is so hard to achieve. I think the first principle is because there's not complete transparency. So, where there isn't complete transparency, there's temptation to shirk responsibility. We try to hide, and we try and blame and excuse and deny. So if that's the situation in which we're operating, then what do we do? What are the things that we can do to improve our accountability? We're going to go through several. There are four that we want to talk about as solutions. It's things that we can do today and to practice to become more accountable. And the first one, the principle is don't just start, finish. We're really good at starting things, aren't we, Tim? 

0:22:22.9 Tim: We are. Humans are really good at starting things. Yep.

0:22:26.2 Junior: Exercise, school, waking up earlier, serving other people, listening, you think about your goals, and many of the goals that have been just that they never became achievements. And many of us have a lower goal to achievement ratio than we would like, because we start and we don't finish. So when we do start, let's say, let's take exercise or waking up or whatever the case may be, what motivates those changes? Peak emotional states, we get really excited. We get really motivated to start something, "Oh, this is gonna be amazing. I'm gonna go do this thing." But what sustains those changes? Not peak emotional states. The things that sustain those behavioral changes are behavioral patterns at the individual level. And it's a shift of accountability away from external, toward internal. It's private accountability in the dark, is the way that you put it in the book. I love that.

0:23:33.3 Tim: Well, Junior, what you said is true. What motivates us to start these changes, peak emotional states, what sustains them, not emphasis on not underscore not, not peak emotional states. That is not what is going to keep you going. I just want to come back to that and emphasize that because that is crucially important. Urgency is a catalyst, seldom a sustainer. It doesn't keep you going over the long haul. So you've gotta find some other source of motivation, some other source of power, right? 

0:24:14.4 Junior: Yeah. This is something I think about a lot. And if that's true, that peak emotional states motivate those types of changes, but they don't sustain them, then we have to be very careful when we're feeling a peak emotional state in making a decision. Because if we back up and we say, "Okay, I think I know where this is headed," I'm in a peak emotional state and I'm about to make this decision. I'm about to assert that I'm gonna go do this thing. You have to be very careful and I think at that point, you have to understand what is going to pull you through the implementation of that decision and seeing it all the way through to the end, because you can't lean on that peak emotional state in the future.

0:24:58.3 Junior: So we talk about starting things at the individual level, here's another angle, what about starting and finishing things in organizations? I think that there's a big difference between the incentives to start and finish things as an individual and to start and finish things in an organization. Why? Because you're gonna be you forever. You may not be with an organization forever. And so at the individual level, you're gonna have to live with the consequences and we're not even good at that. So it would follow that if we aren't necessarily going to be with an organization forever, that there's even less incentive to finish, because we may not be around to see things through.

0:25:41.5 Tim: That's true.

0:25:42.2 Junior: That to me is really interesting. So is there real incentive in most organizations for people to start or to finish something that would give returns over a 10 to 20 year period? 

0:25:51.4 Tim: Yeah. Obviously not. [chuckle]

0:25:54.8 Junior: Obviously not? 

0:25:56.5 Tim: Yeah.

0:25:58.2 Junior: But there are some big pieces of logic there that you can't get around. So, if that's true, then what does that tell us about the longevity of an organization? That there's actual incentive against the longevity of an organization. If the organization lived perpetually, and individuals aren't going to be a part of that organization that's going to inform their behavior. They're not incentivized to choose what would be best for the organization over a long period of time. That's a fundamental.

0:26:31.0 Tim: Well, it is.

0:26:31.6 Junior: And I don't think we spend enough time thinking about that.

0:26:34.6 Tim: It is, Junior. The incentive structure is very different. There are so many forces at work in an organization that drive short-termism, right? Short-term demands for this or that, and short-term incentives for recognition and reward, but after that they go away. And so in an organizational context, the incentives to delay gratification and to exercise planned deprivation are very few and far between. But that's different, because individually, that's exactly what you need to do in order to accomplish something significant over time, there has to be delayed gratification, there has to be planned deprivation. Good things, significant things take time. They take consistent investment over time. And so look at all the disincentives, look at all the perverse incentives in an organizational context that would dissuade you from applying those principles. And that's accountability over time.

0:27:45.5 Junior: What makes me think about the principles to which we hold ourselves accountable, and if we're not explicit about those, then what is the default accountability mechanism? I think in some sense, that if you're not explicit about the principles to which you're accountable, then you're accountable to your own self-interest. And that's how you're behaving. And it makes me think about the Washington story and its relevance to this piece of the conversation. He was explicit about his ideals and those were counter self-interest. So there was intentional deprivation in order to maintain integrity with the higher ideal. If we don't do that, then what do we do? We establish the monarchy, we stay in the presidency, we make the short-term decision that nukes the organization over a 20 year period, but increases the return next quarter.

0:28:46.9 Tim: Yeah.

0:28:48.6 Junior: So there has to be something intentional, something higher, some north star, some higher motive. Otherwise that short-termism will take over and will act in self-interest. And I don't think that you can argue that that's not true. It seems pretty straightforward to me. So if it is straightforward, then we need to hedge against that and catch ourselves when we're in those situations, making those types of decisions when you would be explicit about the ideals that we espouse and the ones that we wanna maintain integrity to, the ones we wanna be accountable to.

0:29:22.4 Tim: That's really true, Junior. All of the good things that I can think of, significant things, whether in an organization or in personal life, they come out of short-term sacrifice, not short-term gratification. What significant reward comes out of short-term gratification? I can't think of any. So it goes back to intrinsically motivated accountability. You're right.

0:29:42.4 Junior: Yeah, and those rewards, if they're short-term, they're certainly not going to be enduring, at least as a pattern.

0:29:47.6 Tim: Right.

0:29:48.2 Junior: So, here's something that has to do with, don't just start, finish. If something leaves your mouth that starts something, you are responsible to finish it.


0:30:00.0 Junior: Now, take this with a grain of salt, okay? There's some exceptions. There's a time to quit and there's a time to change course. But if you look at humans in general, how many times do you hear, I'm gonna go do this thing, I'm going to go to culinary school, I'm gonna run a marathon, I'm gonna do whatever the thing is. And then that's all. You never hear anything else about it. To me, this speaks to part of the core of leadership is say what you mean and mean what you say. That's a line that I think about often. It's a line that I say often. And you're accountable for everything that leaves your mouth. And so if you say you're gonna do something, then you better do it because everyone else is looking.

0:30:51.3 Tim: Yeah. It's true.

0:30:52.1 Junior: There is an eye in the sky. And if your ratio's not good between what you say you're going to do and what you actually do, and people aren't going to be trust, they're not gonna be able to trust you, your behavior's not predictable. And so the closer that ratio is, let's say that it gets pretty close to one-to-one. If people see that over a period of a hundred things that you say you're gonna do, that hundred and first thing that you say you're gonna do, people take as stone. Like, "Okay, I have a tremendous amount of confidence that that's true."

0:31:29.3 Tim: So that relationship between trust and accountability is unmistakable.

0:31:35.9 Junior: It's like one-to-one, it may actually be the same thing.

0:31:37.7 Tim: Well, trust is based on the principle of reliability. I can rely on you to follow through with what you say you're going to do. And now I have predictive understanding about you as a human being. That becomes very, very important.

0:31:58.3 Junior: Well, there's this idea of forecastability, right? Someone's behavior.

0:32:02.6 Tim: That's right.

0:32:02.7 Junior: And I think a lot about this, I think, okay, how much do I trust a person? Well, it's correlated with how confident I am in my prediction about how they'll respond to a certain environment, a certain situation.

0:32:16.3 Tim: So Junior, that brings up a thought in my mind because several months ago, you said, "I'm going to run this half marathon mountain run." And I thought, "Okay, what?" You had never done anything like that before and you just did it. So tell us about that. Tell us about the beginning to the end. Sometimes when something leaves your mouth and sometimes when you sign up for something, you think you know the price, right? We always say, find the price, pay the price, but you don't really know the price and there's no way to know the price. And this happens very frequently in life where we sign up for something or we make a commitment, we say we're going to do something, but we don't fully understand what that's going to require. Talk to us about this experience that you had.

0:33:14.7 Junior: Well, my commitment to achievement ratio isn't perfectly one. I don't bat a thousand, but I think about it a lot, and I try to get as close as I can. And so I would say that, yeah, no, I had never done anything like this before, but I had a pretty good idea of what it would take. And as you say, you don't know the full price, but I was pretty intentional about saying that that was something I was going to do. And I can't remember the research, but I remember reading somewhere that we get gratification from saying that we're going to do things. We experience some of the achievement in just verbalizing that that's what we're going to do. And you can see how that can lead to some dangerous things. You just say you're gonna do a whole bunch of things, and people think that that's cool that you're gonna go do those things and maybe they'll never find out that you didn't actually do them and you get to experience some of that pleasure.

0:34:14.3 Junior: So I would say the first thing is that I was pretty intentional about committing to that and understanding what it was going to take. And then, yeah, we were about 20 weeks out from the race and knew the training plan and then executed the training plan. And so that training plan was three runs a week on top of some of the other training that we were doing, long runs on the weekends. And as we all are, I'm busy. And so some of those runs had to take place very early before the sun wakes up. And in the snow, and...

0:34:52.1 Tim: Yeah, in the snow? [laughter]

0:34:52.9 Junior: Oh yeah. Yeah. And so, to me, accountability has a lot to do with confidence. And so the more accountable you are over a longer period of time, the more confidence you can have in yourself that you'll be able to go do what you say you're going to do. And so, one of the things that I would point out about this experience was just how much confidence I had at the starting line of that race, because I knew that I had been accountable to the training plan. And again to talk about obscure performance arenas, there's no perfect transparency in training. There's actually like zero. No one knows if you're out in the dark running. Only you know. Everyone else is sleeping. And you're the only one, you have to be accountable to you. And there's no on your long training days... And again, I mean, there are people that have accomplished feats way, way, way, way bigger than this. This is elementary and very amateurish in some sense, but I still am proud of it. There's no party at the finish line of a training run. You just finish and you're done. And those can be very, very grueling. And so yeah, there's so much that I can unpack from this experience, but it would be, be intentional about those commitments that you make and then as you're accountable to whatever inputs you need to put in, your confidence grows. And so when it's time to perform and the time for preparation has passed, you're ready to go.

0:36:32.3 Tim: Yeah.

0:36:33.1 Junior: And I was able to go out and run a successful run and have a new experience, new culture and it was a really gratifying thing to do.

0:36:41.5 Tim: It reminds me of the adage, Junior, in athletics. A lot of people have the will to win, but not very many people have the will to prepare. And that's very true. We're pretty loose with our words and the things that we say we want to do and or maybe we'll try to do, but we're not as good in actually following through. So it's that commitment to follow through ratio that we're talking about that becomes so important to your own personal confidence and to your credibility with others. Yeah.

0:37:14.6 Junior: Yeah. Okay, so that's number one. Don't just start, finish. Two is, avoid a sense of entitlement. In the book, Tim, you mentioned the Turkey story. Would you mind telling us the Turkey story? 

0:37:28.6 Tim: The turkey story. And out of that story, I kind of fashioned a rule that I learned about what I call the Two turkey rule. So when I was the plant manager at Geneva Steel, every Thanksgiving, we would provide turkeys to all the employees. We're talking, this is a lot of poultry, $50,000 in poultry for Thanksgiving turkeys because we had a lot of employees. $50,000. And we had done this, and then came a year where the economy turned down, we were in a downturn, and we needed to cut costs, we needed to tighten our belts. We needed to impose some austerity. So we did, and we had to get rid of all the discretionary spending. And so there was a line item that said turkey's at Thanksgiving, $50,000, so we cut that, among many, many other things. Now, you could make the argument that we should not have cut that, but that's a different discussion.

0:38:35.3 Tim: But here's the point. So we cut that and you would not have believed the backlash. I could not believe the backlash. It was, talk about a disproportionate relationship between cause and effect, I just couldn't believe it. A very, very small change just erupted into resistance and almost unrest. And so I learned an important principle, and that is that if you give something once, it's a gift, right? One turkey is a gift, but as soon as you give it a second time, it becomes an entitlement. So one turkey is a gift. Two turkeys become an entitlement. Well, why is that important? Because, first of all, look at how quickly the sense of being given a gift mutates and is transformed into a sense of being given something that you're entitled to and that you expect and you feel that you deserve. That's so amazing to me. And that's what it highlights is the danger of that other end of the spectrum that we talked about. We have accountability at one end, we have entitlement at the other. That entitlement end is dangerous for us as individuals and as organizations. So we have to be very careful about that. That's the lesson that came out of that experience.

0:40:13.6 Junior: We need to pay attention to both sides, right? So if you are the one giving the turkey, and if you are the one receiving the turkey, so one of the principles here is, that which is given consistently is expected consistently.

0:40:26.3 Tim: Yes.

0:40:28.7 Junior: And so you can take that to the bank if you're leading an organization. And on the other side, if you're receiving the turkey, understand that that's the pattern, that once you get that more than once, there's a tendency for you to start to expect it. And so doubt those expectations, doubt those entitlements and think twice. Say thank you, recognize it as a gift, and don't get into the entitlement mentality. That can be a difficult thing, especially when there's a pattern. I think is an important thing to call out. So that's number two, avoid a sense of entitlement. Three, let the achievement itself be the prize. Now, this is something that I was thinking about the last couple days. Why are you doing what you're doing? Is it for others? Is the accountability to your goal a function of something external? Are you doing it for fame, glory, and money? What can you do to shift that accountability to yourself? Because, as Washington, I would be so fascinated to talk about this over dinner with the general.

0:41:38.9 Tim: Yeah.

0:41:39.5 Junior: And what did you feel? Like, what was the sense of achievement that you felt? Because, was the achievement in that scenario, winning? Was it fame and glory? What was it? It was the adherence to the principles, come hell or high water. That was the ideal, regardless of where it took him. And so achievement was the culmination of those ideals, being able to express those ideals. So the nation got to a point where it could express and live in that independence, that republicanism, and that was the achievement itself. And so now, okay, we're done with that and we can go home. So as we mentioned in the beginning, we need to shift that accountability from external to internal.

0:42:34.1 Tim: I think there's another principle at play here, Junior, and that is that, when you are holding yourself accountable, you're trying to figure out how to pay the full price and how to do it right. And generally speaking, even if you fail along the way, you're going to have a superior outcome. If you're not committed to accountability, if you're not committed to holding yourself accountable, then what will you do? As a natural result of that, you will be looking for shortcuts. You will be looking for a back door. You will be looking for an easier way. You will start to be tempted to negotiate with the real price of something. And I think that's where it gets dangerous. And then that's where you start to put your integrity at stake because you're looking for an easy way out. That's the danger zone.

0:43:35.6 Junior: Lastly, we have put stewardship above self-interest. So how would this help us become more accountable? Putting stewardship above self-interest. This means that you are accountable to things other than yourself. And we talked about this a little bit, but each of us has stewardship of other things, people, organizations, ideals. It's not always just us. If you live in a world in which you're accountable just to yourself, then you're gonna live a probably a not very happy life, and you're probably not gonna be a very high performing person. And it makes me think a little bit about General Washington, again, being accountable to some of these ideals. Now, one of the things that I pulled away from this idea of stewardship above self-interest is that, you need to be accountable to something that outlives you. Because if you're not accountable to something that outlives you, then it stays inside your domain and you're operating out of self-interest. Knowingly or unwittingly, you're operating out of self-interest. And so ideals are things that live longer than you do.

0:44:55.3 Junior: So what does that mean? That accountability to integrity as an ideal, that lives longer than you, it's an aspiration that you can have for a lifetime. Accountability to improvement, accountability to compassion, accountability to name your ideal. But that's something that I've been thinking about that I think at least it helps me add some color to this idea.

0:45:28.1 Tim: I love the way you've framed that, Junior. It has to go beyond you. And then it changes your entire perspective.

0:45:33.6 Junior: Yeah.

0:45:34.6 Tim: Yeah. Thank you for that.

0:45:36.6 Junior: Okay. So we've covered a lot of ground. Accountability is the third cornerstone of character. Next week, we'll be talking about the fourth. So check in then. If you haven't read the book, I would highly recommend it. So a lot of the things that we talked about today are in the book. We'll put a link to the book, Leading with Character and Competence, in the show notes. So what can we do to gain more integrity? Don't just start, finish. Avoid a sense of entitlement. Let achievement itself be the prize. And put stewardship above self-interest. These are difficult things to do, but it is the aspiration of a lifetime, something that I hope to become better at and something that's worth our time and attention. Tim, any final thoughts as we wrap up today? 

0:46:21.8 Tim: Well, I've just really enjoyed the the conversation, Junior. I'll just go back to the fact that accountability really is, it has to be intrinsic. It has to be inside out. You have to hold yourself accountable in the dark. And if you do, you know you're getting there.

0:46:37.1 Junior: Well, thank you everyone for your time and attention. I really appreciate it in today's conversation. We appreciate your listenership. We're thankful for the work that each of you does in the world, and we're here to support you. You can always reach out to us at As always, we appreciate your likes, your reviews, and your shares. If you found value in today's episode, please share it with someone that you think would find it valuable too. With that said, we will see you next time. Bye-bye.


0:47:09.1 Producer: Hey, Culture by Design listeners, this is the end of today's episode. You can find all the important links from today's episode at And if you've found today's episode helpful and useful in any way, please share with a friend and leave a review. If you'd like to learn more about Leader Factor and what we do, then please visit us at Lastly, if you'd like to give any feedback to the Culture by Design podcast or even request a topic from Tim and Junior, then reach out to us at or find and tag us on LinkedIn. Thanks again for listening and making culture something you do by design, not by default.

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