A Tale of Teflon and Velcro...



A colleague of mine once remarked that when it comes to accountability, there are two types of people in the world - 'teflon' and 'velcro'. 

'Teflon' people are those who have a seemingly amazing ability to avoid taking on any kind of accountability for action. 'Teflon' people are 'style over substance', or 'all sizzle and no steak'. 'Teflon' people are those who could also have the nickname 'mirrors' because, when they're asked for an opinion on something, they respond that they'll 'look into it'. Ultimately, 'teflon' people are able to navigate through their work day without anything 'sticking' to them. 

In contrast, 'velcro' people are those who are always happy to give things a go and to take on more responsibility. They're the 'salt of the earth' types who take on tasks and run with them. They rarely complain about something 'not being my job', but are content to be contributing to the broader achievement of goals, even when their individual contribution may be overlooked or unappreciated. 'Velcro' people are the quiet achievers that move things forward. 

Over time, people start to see 'teflon' people for what they are, and ultimately their success is limited by their unwillingness to take on accountability. However, 'velcro' people can also experience problems over time. For those with kids, you may have noticed their shoes with velcro 'laces' have a pretty limited life-span. They start to lose their 'velcro-icity', gradually accumulating fluff that prevents the velcro from working properly. At the risk of taking the analogy too far, 'velcro' people can suffer a similar fate by accumulating tasks that they then can't get rid of, or by not being selective about what they choose to take on.

The really successful leaders take accountability, but also know when to 'let go'. They also know how to hire 'velcro' people like themselves, and don't become distracted by the flashy antics of the 'teflon' people that exist in every organisation.