Friday, October 31, 2008

Answer the Call of Accountability

Sometimes I get frustrated with my friend Julie. I haven't been working out as much as I used to and she reminds me that I need to get back at it. And sometimes I feel like snarling at my CPA who reminds me not to expand my business too fast. We all need people to hold us accountable. Sales goals, budgets, contracts and deadlines are just like my friend Julie - they hold us accountable for promises we've made. People in the Smart Zone create accountability by inspiring others to accept responsibility for their actions.
Accountability is really a call from your conscience. It's the voice that tells you to do the best you can and to hold others responsible for being their best selves. People lacking accountability are those who are "along for the ride" floating through life, blaming others for their failures and lacking integrity in relationships.

To stay in the Smart Zone remain accountable to yourself first and use the following Smart Moves to create accountability:

  • Don't confuse obedience with accountability. It is common to confuse accountability with a system for making sure people do what you want them to do using rewards and punishments. Those who obey are merely doing the work to avoid getting punished. And they may do work to avoid getting punished at the expense of other people, morale or customer goodwill. This month's Inc. magazine article, Sins of Commissions, gives great insight into this phenomenon. Just doing what you are told is not accountability. One must take ownership of his successes and failures to be accountable.
  • Discomfort and remorse are important teachers. When someone fails to perform don't minimize the remorse they feel for messing up. Let them experience the emotions so you don't take away their learning. But remember that people don't learn when they feel threatened - so tread lightly.
  • Lead by example. I am guilty of telling my staff to keep our administrative area clutter free and then letting my desk pile up with stuff. If I want my staff to be more accountable, I must be more accountable.
  • Make expectations clear. I recently met Steve Goodson, General Manager of Green Grass Inc., while delivering the opening keynote at the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association's Annual Conference. His system of accountability in his business consists of three morning meetings per week: Monday (set weekly expectations), Wednesday (mid-week status check) and Friday (end of week status check). These meetings created extra work at first. But now everyone looks forward to them because they provide communication about specific company and customer expectations and hold all team members accountable for their promises. His staff appreciates the meetings and his overall business runs smoother.
  • Accountability and responsibility are first cousins. Make and keep your promises. Click here for a funny example of Jerry Seinfeld holding someone accountable for her promise. If you find yourself getting off track stop and check yourself. Be honest with yourself and be honest enough to hold others on your team to their personal best.Accountability comes from within and helps you catch problems early on so that you can take ownership of responding to them. Stop yourself the next time you have the urge to say, "That's not MY job." Hold yourself and others accountable so that everyone will perform at their personal best and work in the Smart Zone.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Little Fun

Never let it be said that employees of Smart Zone Solutions don't have fun. My Director of Client Relations, Zan, had lots of fun this weekend at a neighborhood Halloween party. Guess who she is:

Here's another view (think vice presidential):

That's right - Sarah Palin! She was the hit of the party next to Wonder Woman.

In honor of the upcoming election I couldn't resist sharing these pictures. (Thanks Zan for letting me). And don't forget to vote!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Feeling Down in the Dumps

With the recent hurricane devastation in south Texas and financial industry crisis, we are all aware of the potential for depression in those whose lives have been affected. It makes sense that feelings of depression are logical after such major events.

Those of you who have experienced coping with the loss of someone you love, the loss of your job, the loss of health, or even the changes in where you live can relate to the hopelessness of those affected by Hurricane Ike. But when is the sadness you feel appropriate and when is it a significant clinical depression?

In any given year, it is expected that 1 out of 10 adults suffer from clinical depression. The symptoms of depression that require professional intervention include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.
  • In the extreme: thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts. Click here for a list of suicide facts.

Experiencing one of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you are clinically depressed. Rather, it's a combination of these symptoms that warrants professional attention.

A new study in the Archives of General Psychiatry suggests that cognitive therapy (or "talk therapy") may be as effective as antidepressant drugs in the initial treatment of moderate to severe depression. Cognitive therapy involves a person talking through what they think is causing their depression. The therapist then can give specific skills to help change the way they view the problem and then learn how to better manage it. Of course, you should never quit taking medication for depression without the guidance of your doctor or therapist.

Most people believe that there is little hope for depression even with proper treatment. Not true! It is estimated that 80% of people with depression improve with proper treatment. The real problem is that people are unwilling to get treatment in the first place. And people with depression can't just "snap out of it."

If you are just feeling "down in the dumps" the following things can boost your mood:

  • Take a walk outside. Sunshine actually increases the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that will trigger a more active you.
  • Break down large tasks into small ones and do what you can.
  • Set realistic goals about what you want to accomplish.
  • Volunteer for a cause. Shifting your focus on helping someone else can lift your mood. Some of my office staff recently volunteered for the Red Cross to help hurricane victims.
  • Be willing to seek treatment. The true barrier to successfully eliminating depression is to be willing to participate in counseling.
A good first step is to talk with your doctor, a psychologist and/or psychiatrist, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or a qualified leader where you worship. For more information, you can go to or