Friday, August 8, 2008

Upwards Accountability

Khai Pad Kraphao is pretty much the best lunch around the FreshBooks offices. Though I do admit I pick out the chilies -- once I took what I thought was going to be a tasty bite of crisp green bean and found I'd chomped into an entire green chili.

I like the taste, but that was a little much. Not to gross anyone out, but I could tell exactly where that chili was in my digestive tract for the rest of the day. Oog.

But Rich and I were talking over our Thai food today, and in particular talking about the ideas of that crazy Brasilian, Ricardo Semler, and in particular particular, the notion of "public" salaries, and we decided that one of the things we liked best about that idea was how it enforced what we called "upwards accountability".

See, if everyone in the company knows when you give someone else in the company a raise, you'd better have good reasons for that raise or else you're going to have trouble answering their questions. Which forces you to actually THINK about how and why you give out raises, and to have a policy that's defensible in place. It makes you accountable to your employees, and it seemed to us, as aromas of basil, chili, and lemongrass came curling up from our plates, that such accountability is actually a good thing.

Because that accountability forces you to be active and organized, and to maintain your focus on the things that, as a leader, you should actually be focusing on. Defining your POLICY on raises is a more powerful action, a more important action, than deciding exactly how much one individual raise ought to be.

Of course, it's harder. Much easier to focus in on a narrower scope, a single relationship, than to try and design an organization. And yet, organizational design is, in my mind, the real job of a leader.

So policies that encourage or even enforce "upwards accountability" are the sorts of policies that a leader ought to seek out and pursue. We identified public salaries as such a policy. And I think public performance reviews are probably another.

I wonder if there are others?

That's the gas cap of an Aston Martin up there. Photo by Jeffrey van Bijleveld