Essential Leadership Cycle Podcast – Episode 4

Welcome to episode 4 of the ELC podcast. I am your host and intentional leader, Rob Fisher, coming to you from the Studios in the FIT Center for Excellence, here in Concord, NC!

In the last episode, we described the second attribute of the ELC – Shared Vision and Values. I hope listeners immediately used some of the recommendations at the end of the podcast to start making changes in their intentional leadership. By now, you should have downloaded the E-Colors app and are using that information to manage your strengths and potential limiters in your day-to-day interactions. In this episode, I am going to discuss the Third attribute of the essential leadership cycle – Clarity of Roles and Processes. Once we are moving towards a better awareness of ourselves and our team, and we are working on creating and verifying a shared vision and values, then we can start to ensure that the roles of our team are clear and the processes that they use are usable and technically accurate. If you ask any good actor, they will tell you that the better they understand a role, the better they can play that role. I’m not saying our workforce is made up of actors, but the premise still holds, the better people understand the roles you are asking them to play in your organization, the better they can be equipped to play that role successfully. I remember years ago while working with a department of energy facility, we were helping them incorporate the human performance concepts into the DOE structure. One of the methods we used was to provide each person with the four categories they needed to be successful – or what became known as R2A2 – Roles, Responsibilities, Accountabilities, and Authorities.

What ROLE do I play, and how does that role, title or job relate to the visions and values of the organization. Why does the organization need someone to do this role (and why is it me?)

RESPONSIBILITIES – what am I responsible for? What are my tasks or jobs, and who am I responsible to? Is my responsibility limited to outcomes, or also process?

ACCOUNTABILITIES – what am I accountable for specifically. Is it my performance, my team’s performance, and who am I personally accountable to for those things.

AUTHORITIES – what do I have the authority to do, and what don’t I have the authority to do? What are the limits of those authorities? And WHY? We also use a technique called Mutual Expectations – what do you need from me to be successful, and what do I need from you to help you be successful? In addition to understanding our roles, responsibilities, accountabilities, and authorities or WHAT we do, it is the obligation of the organization to help us understand HOW we do that. It has been said that “consistency of outcome requires consistency of method” and that an allowance in the variability of the method is also an acceptance that variability of the outcome is okay. In any task that our workforce does, whether it is a technical task in the field, an engineering task, a support task or an administrative task, your very business existence, and the safety of our people can ride on the predictability of the outcome by the process. Don’t get me wrong – I have been on board with the difference between work as imagined versus work as done since Todd Conklin and I sat down at a table in Norway years ago and mapped it out. That doesn’t mean we don’t correctly and accurately try to describe the methods and outcomes as this has been misinterpreted lately. In fact, many of you work in worlds that there is a regulatory requirement for procedures and processes to be up to date, accurate, useable, and available – if these sound familiar, they are some of the systemic drivers associated with deviations.

Field Decisions


Vague or Misleading Information

Conflicting Information

Multiple or Embedded Actions

How many of these top 5 do you think the people that develop your written guidance know? One of my least favorite things to hear is when a leader says, “We have good processes; if we could just get people to follow them, we would be okay.” This shows a critical misunderstanding of what tends to drive incidents. It also shows that the leaders haven’t bought into the concepts of understanding human error and HOP. I remember a few years ago, a Senior leader sent an email after several fatalities in the organization that said – We have good processes and procedures and if you follow them, you will be safe. If you don’t, then you may wind up like those teammates. Not only did this seem to imply that it was the worker’s fault that they were killed in a workplace incident, but that it was their fault AND they didn’t follow procedures that would have worked. This email was sent to over 200,000 employees directly from this senior leader before the first step of any incident analysis process was even started. Unfortunately, when they did do the analyses, it was discovered that in neither case of the fatalities were the processes clear and accurate for the task the worker was tasked with doing. That sounds systemic to me – not like an individual problem. Something that the organization is responsible for when protecting the workers from being hurt, maimed, or killed. So what can you do? First – sit down with some of your folks and have a conversation about Roles, responsibilities, accountabilities, and authorities. Write them down and make some agreements. Next, create a “mutual expectations” document – one that you can occasionally revisit to make sure that you are both on a good path for success. Take each other’s personality tendencies into account so that it makes sense to both of you (by the way – this works at home too!) Look at the way your organization writes, reviews, approves, and uses written guidance. Many organizations that struggle with what they believe to be adherence to procedures and standards, actually have a much deeper systemic problem with the quality and usability of those procedures and processes. Learn to recognize the top 5 written guidance error traps and to minimize them in your processes. Go out an ENGAGE with people, discuss what we are talking about, and see if you don’t get different input and answers than you were getting in the past. Until next time, this has been your host, Rob Fisher. Thanks for listening, and, remember Intentional Leadership starts with YOU!