Early in my career, during the mid-90’s I was in a role that allowed me to help an organization grow very rapidly. My responsibilities included both talent acquisition and helping develop and deliver leadership training programs. It was very rewarding to not only help recruit top talent to a growing company, but to be a part of helping them grow professionally with respect to their leadership skills.
The ownership of the organization would routinely review our training content to ensure alignment to the mission and vision of the company. During one such point, an executive the family had hired requested our training team incorporate some content around “accountability”. Following some research, our team adopted the content and principles within the book The Oz Principle by Roger Conners, Craig Hickman, and Tom Smith. This book focuses on how personal accountability is the critical path/journey to organizational accountability. I cannot go into much detail, but during the mid-90’s, while incorporating The Oz Principle into our training programs, I experienced a work-related challenge that was very painful for me personally and professionally. Basically, I was very deflated and unimpressed by a hiring decision that ownership had made. Initially for several months, everyone knew how I felt about this decision; not only my co-workers but my friends and family. Looking back, I’m not very proud of my actions and attitude during that time. In fact, it almost cost me my job! But, fortunately and thanks to some very concerned team members, I was able to apply the principles outlined within The Oz Principle and “rise above my circumstances” while learning and growing from the experience. I’ve told many people, I’m a much more successful professional and leader today as a result of this experience.
The diagram to the left, in my opinion, is the heart of the book. My cliffnotes and interpretation is as follows: there are going to be circumstances in your life (work and home) that cause you to be “below the line” which can result in you not being nearly as accountable as you think. If not realized, your circumstances will overwhelm you and you will blame others, finger point, and deny ownership. It’s not until you realize you are “below the line” and “own” the issues and identify a path forward resulting in greater accountability. It’s important to understand that you can be “below the line” for 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 months, or even 5 years. The goal is NOT to never get below the line, you will! The goal should be to be aware when you are there, and minimize the amount of time you are “below the line.”
I recently led a webinar that focused on “accountability.” Our team at AgCareers.com has heard me reference “above and below the line” many times over the years. We try and help each other minimize our time below the line and I truly believe this has helped us be successful at work and in our personal lives. Personal accountability, in my opinion, should be a journey as opposed to a destination. Kudos to the authors of The Oz Principle!
The Oz Principle is listed on AgCareers.com’s “Leaders are Readers” Pinterest page. Check out more staff-recommended picks there.