Sam Silverstein Blog


Are you? Do you really want to be?

There are two major problems with the sentence that forms the title of this article. Can you spot them both?

Look at it in two halves. Here’s the first half:

“I am a manager …”

Are you really a manager? Are you sure?

We manage resources. We manage things: computers, real estate, product inventory. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t, and can’t, manage people. The minute we try, we come up against a major obstacle: The person we’re trying to “manage” immediately senses that he or she is being treated like a thing …and resents it, either consciously or unconsciously. That bad feeling of resentment makes personal growth – and peak performance – impossible. People disengage. They go through the motions. Organizations suffer.

What does it feel like when someone manages you? Like you’re being treated as an inferior – as a resource. As a thing. All too often, as something that needs to be fixed. Nobody wants to be fixed. Nobody wants to be managed, either.
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If you’re looking for a case study in the perils of unaccountable leadership, look no further than RyanAir.

You may or may not have seen the video that recently went viral because of its jaw-dropping scenes of a RyanAir passenger who launched a sickening racist rant and physically threatened his assigned seatmate, an elderly black woman. Whether you’ve seen the video or not really doesn’t matter, because, frankly, the lesson to be learned here is not that, when you fly enough flights and book enough tickets, ill-tempered idiots can occasionally be expected to go off on fellow passengers. We already knew that. That wasn’t what turned this into a crisis.

What turned this into a crisis was RyanAir’s refusal to make a decision … its refusal to take action .. and its refusal to engage with its customers and stakeholders.
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Tell the truth. Commit to “It’s all of us.”

This week, the author and human rights activist Nadia Murad — a survivor of horrific sexual, social, and psychological abuse suffered after she was kidnapped in 2014 by operatives of the so-called Islamic State — was named one of the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

After enduring three months of torture, Murad escaped her captors and eventually founded Nadia’s Initiative, a group dedicated to “helping women and children victimized by genocide, mass atrocities, and human trafficking to heal and rebuild their lives and communities.” She wants to track down ISIS leaders and put them on trial for human rights violations. She has been named a special UN Ambassador for the Dignity of for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. In announcing the award, the Nobel committee cited Murad for putting her “own personal security at risk by courageously combatting war crimes and securing justice for victims.” That’s a diplomatic way of saying that the articles and books Murad writes, the speeches she gives, and the justice she seeks, all make extremists want to kill her. She tells the truth anyway, on behalf of the thousands of victims of human trafficking in Iraq, and the hundreds of thousands worldwide. She has emerged as their leader – their voice.
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Accountability is All About Relationships

Sam Silverstein Blog

Following through on the commitment “It’s all of us.”

When a leader commits to the value I call “It’s all of us,” that leader is personally committing to a rewarding relationship with every single member of the team.

These leaders have the attitude of “We succeed together; we fail together; we are all on the journey together.” They know that if one person looks good, the whole team looks good … and if one person looks bad, the whole team looks bad. They are willing to connect with, engage with, and support everyone on the team, regardless of rank, because they know that is part of the process of building something that is bigger than they are. The accountable leader knows their commitment to that value of “It’s all of us! is contagious – everyone on the team picks up on it and tries to emulate it – and they know that “It’s all of us” reinforces the essential reality that accountability in the workplace is all about relationships.

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Sam Silverstein Blog

That story of the reckless baggage handler in Manchester has a silver lining.

You may have seen the video that went viral recently about a luggage handler recklessly throwing passenger bags around at Manchester Airport in England. If you didn’t, here’s a look. The flight’s passengers (and plenty of others) were furious at the sight of the bags being tossed right through the baggage cart, and rightly so.

In a world where there are many, many accounts of customer sharing (valid) complaints about their flying experiences, I was reluctant to write another blog post about another such story … unless it focused on something positive. Fortunately, this one does. It demonstrates exactly what accountable leadership looks like in action, although that many people did not notice that part of the story as the video made the “trending” lists on various social media platforms.
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Sam Silverstein Blog

Accountable leadership creates accountability in the workplace!

You may have seen an amazing piece on the news recently about a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, Vicki Heath. Her story, which quickly became the kind of viral social media topic most companies only dream of generating, was a testimony to that airline’s remarkable, enduring capacity to make passengers feel not just good, but great about its brand. In these days of crowded terminals, late flights, and customer-service breakdowns, that’s an achievement, one that’s worth examining closely. First, I’m going to tell you Heath’s story, just in case you haven’t heard it yet. And then I’m going to tell you why accountability made that story possible.

On a flight out of Houston, Vicki Heath struck up a conversation with one of her passengers, Tracy Sharp. Sharp has Down Syndrome, which as you may know is a genetic disorder associated with mild to moderate intellectual impairment. As they chatted, Sharp happened to mention that becoming a flight attendant was one of her major aspirations in life.

How unusual is it for a flight attendant to have a conversation like that with a passenger? Maybe not all that unusual. What was unusual, though, was how Heath followed up on that chat.
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Transparency: The Secret Weapon of Accountability in The Workplace

Sam Silverstein Blog

  • Transparency means involving everyone you can in the conversation, and giving people all the information they need. This is the secret to accountability in relationships with team members – and with customers.

Many organizations focus so much on how their employees are going to treat the customer that they make a classic mistake: They fail to address the equally important issue of how the organization’s people treat each other. Leaders in these companies often overlook one of the secret weapons of accountability in the workplace … namely, transparency.

By this I mean my commitment to you to be transparent with you, to tell you what’s really going on. Transparency, the habit of telling the truth even when there’s a sensitive issue or a problem that might make me look bad, is one of the things that makes an “It’s all of us” mindset possible. This “It’s all of us” mindset is one of the things that allows organizations to deliver great service to customers. And as leaders, we need to commit ourselves to supporting that mindset.
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