The Oz Principle A Book Review

The Oz Principle

To start this review, instead of paraphrasing, I am taking a direct quote from the book which summarizes the authors proposition for the book.  “The story recounts a journey toward awareness; and from the beginning of their journey, the story’s main characters gradually learn that they possess the power within themselves to get the results they want…The journey empowers them…a journey from ignorance to knowledge, from fear to courage, from paralysis to powerfulness, from victimization to accountability…Don’t get stuck on the yellow brick road; don’t blame others for your circumstances; don’t wait for wizards to wave their magic wands.”

In addressing accountability, the book explores below the line behaviors that include; wait and see; confusion-tell me what to do; it’s not my job; ignore/deny; and finger pointing/covering your tail.  All of these behaviors can impact a team and are self-evident so I will not explain each one separately rather commenting on two I have observed with a team I was working with recently.  About a year ago, I was working with a team in which one of the members remarked “I am not going to do anything until the vision and strategy is laid out for me.”  Luckily this team member had a great coach who could help him evaluate the consequences of the choice he was making.  One of the worst behaviors in a team is the aspect of blaming.  When communication is strong and team members are clear about expectations, successes are celebrated and failures are integrated into learnings.  Advice from Connors and Hickman is to realize that we can sometimes fall below the line, however we are most successful when we move above the line as quickly as possible.

In moving above the line, we take accountability for ourselves and our actions.  The first step is to see it-the whole picture-and your connection to the issue.  In this step, we recognize that we may have fallen below the line in one of the five areas and also acknowledge the consequences of leaving the issue unresolved.  Next, we own it.  I had a friend who often used the analogy that “if the furniture is not in your house, you cannot move it”.  I share that analogy frequently in my own coaching.  Owning the problem does not mean we take full responsibility for the problem, rather we own our own contribution to the problem because that is where change will occur.  Owning it also gives us a starting point for advancing to solution.  The third step is to solve the problem.  Solving the problem can sometimes be complex so being able to look at multiple perspectives and or solutions prior to acting on a solution can lead to greater success.  Asking the question “what else can we do” helps to generate multiple solutions so that teams do not select what appears to be the simplest or most expedient solution.  The fourth and final step is to do it.  This seems elementary; however, some teams do stop short of this step due potentially to fear of failure, going back below the line or individual heroics.  The key here is a willingness to take accountability for behaviors and then follow through with the actions that resolve problems so that new behaviors and actions become the norm.

The success of team is a critical component of organizational success.  As teams explore problems that are being encounters, owning their own specific contribution to the problem, looking for solutions that engage and help the entire team and then moving forward to action, they are setting the entire team up for success.

Connors, R., Smith, T., & Hickman, C. (2004) The Oz Principle. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

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