THE BLOG

Three Letters that Will Make You a Better Manager

04/27/2015 06:28 pm ET | Updated Jun 27, 2015

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Some people and companies confuse management with cheerleading. Now... there is nothing wrong with rallying the troops, encouraging people, inspiring behavior -- au contraire... it is critical, and when done right can lead to a better workplace and happier folks.

But in and of itself the pom-poms are not a strategy for management. They are a good and useful tactic, when applied properly and judiciously, to get people over humps and slumps -- and we all experience them from time to time.

And to be honest I always like being a cheerleader and appreciate when I am a recipient as well.

I want to talk about RAA RAA, not RAH RAH... and there is a world of difference.

RAA RAA management is a strategy and, in my book, a critical one as it provides a power grid for getting the most out of yourself and others. I have also found it to be a key diagnostic tool in understanding company culture.

Let me explain...

RAA stands for RESPONSIBILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY, AUTHORITY and to me those are the three key building blocks of any successful management structure and personal commitment to work.

Let me begin...

Responsibility is owned by the employee -- you, me... it is the lowest form of commitment. It is simply the price of entry. You have agreed to accept a job or task; you are being remunerated in one way or another and it's your job to get it done, show up on time, put in your hours, you get the picture. And by the way, even if you hate it -- the compact you have accepted is morally yours until you leave. You don't like it? Go... until then be responsible.

Accountability is way, way up the food chain and it's also owned by us. Accountability means that you put your hand up when the world comes crashing down. It means that the buck stops with you and not conveniently further up the chain. It means that you accept full and total consequence for your actions and outcomes. Accountability is hard, but we all know that we follow and love the people who are not afraid to be counted.

Authority is the trickiest of them all. Authority has to be given by the company... and is the price that has to be paid for true accountability. It's actually a simple equation -- if you expect people to be accountable, to step up to the plate and own what they are working on and you have not given them the authority to get their part of the job done, you have created a finger-pointing culture. I can guarantee it. Managers who demand accountability and even assign it, but micromanage and control without giving up authority, are the first to point fingers when it all hits the fan. I've seen it time and time again -- good people who end up being accountable for what wasn't in their control while the real culprit walks with the authority and no accountability. BAD...

Bottom line - RAA RAA management can be a game changer as it filters out those who feel entitled by their job and mistake their basic responsibility to perform with a higher purpose; those who want power and no liability -- the "Teflon Managers" I call them -- and it assigns a premium to those who have the courage to stand their ground.

Finally, I'd argue, that it's accountability that leads to innovation and new thinking -- but that is only the accountability that comes with authority, because without it people are too worried about CYA and adverse to risk taking as that pointed finger can be damning...

Listen to someone who always accepts accountability and knows about authority:

"There is no accountability today...no willingness to focus on big ideas." - Michael Bloomberg

And, again, I'd argue because we are not doing our best to make sure that the right authority comes with it... and that the authority is taken from the finger pointers....

So cheerlead when you must -- but RAA RAA every day -- and ask yourself if you and your company have the right balance... and if you don't? Be accountable to make it happen and be accountable with the authority to create a culture that drives BIG IDEAS.

What do you think?