Accountability, Love and Fear: Steering the Course by Identifying the Source

How does it feel to be held accountable?  How does it feel when someone calls us out on behaviors and choices? How does it feel when someone we respect, and like, maybe even someone we love – holds us accountable for a “miss” on our part?  And what about the other side of accountability? The good stuff that we’ve done well?!  As we mentioned in the podcast today, holding someone accountable can certainly be for something he or she did well!  “Hey, I have to tell you – that event you pulled off last Saturday was amazing!  I can tell a great deal of planning went into it; well done!!”  It’s not too difficult for most of us to be “called out” for a win.  Even those of us who stumble over our words when accepting a compliment would likely not list this scenario as one of the top 10 or even top 100 most taxing, stressful ones of our lives.  But a direct, honest conversation about a behavior choice we have made that has negatively impacted our partner, our team, our company?  That’s usually another matter altogether.  In short, it is generally not fun to be told that we did something “wrong”.  Or “not enough”. Or that we are now not delivering on a promise made days, weeks or months ago.  Or that our actions and choices are not matching our stated values and accepted responsibilities.

Holding team members accountable out of love, not out of fear, is key.  Most leaders would not easily recognize the roots of their actions as being from fear.  After all, we usually think of “fearful” as cowering, shaking, unsure, whining, and generally “weak” behaviors and feelings.  However, when fear shows up for most of us, especially in leadership positions, we will usually feel things like:  frustration, exasperation, being offended/disrespected, disappointment, “stressed out”, overwhelmed, or fed up, to name a few.

Leading out of love means seeing and celebrating the positive in each individual team member, in each individual’s behaviors and actions while also having honest, adult conversations with them about where they may be missing the mark.  Leading out of love speaks to the very heart of real leadership, which is supporting and developing other people.  Simply put: Leaders lift others up.  Remember: We manage numbers; we lead people.  If you have a role that puts you in charge of people, lose the terms “Manager” and “manage” and instead step into your real job title of “Leader”.  Instead of, “I’m the Homecare Department Manager.  I manage 27 people. It’s my job to make sure everything runs smoothly and we hit our daily goals.”  Instead try on: “I Lead 27 people in our Homecare team.  As their Leader, my role is to support them as they hit their daily goals.”  Feel the shift?  Good!

Now that we’ve established some basic groundwork of leading out of love, let’s build on that and move to Accountability.  What might holding each other accountable out of love look like?

How do I approach accountability with my team?  Here are some examples of accountability out of love and out of fear.  Be awake to where any of these may show up for you:

Accountability out of love might look like:                                                                                –

– I want more for this person than what she is currently setting herself up for with her choices/behaviors   (i.e. “You’re better than this.”)

–  I respect and value this person enough to be honest with him – he may not ‘like’ me in this moment, but his growth as a person is more important than me being liked by him (selfless leadership rather than what I as the leader get out of this relationship).

– I love the rest of the team/clients/company, and I will advocate for them, even if it means having a difficult conversation with this individual right now. (i.e. “As a leader for the collective “we”, I hold what others need in any given moment, not just what one individual wants to hear.)

– I love this person enough to be a role model; I model accountability for her by my actions and words. “Letting it slide” is a choice – and I make sure if I do let something go, it is explicitly for a purpose, rather than because I don’t want to have the conversation/take the disciplinary action.

Accountability out of fear might look like:                                                                               –

–  I am frustrated that I have been over and over this before with this person.  Why isn’t she getting it? Why is there frequently yet another excuse?  What if I can’t get through to her or make her change her behavior?…..if she fails, what does that say about my leadership?

– I genuinely like this person, and I don’t want to lose the camaraderie that we have developed.  Our banter and interaction is part of what makes my job fun!  I may not want to admit it to myself, but I’m scared of losing that positive aspect of my work and our relationship.  Am I putting my needs before my team’s…?

– I may say that I am ‘all in’ for the department, team or company – but at a personal level, am I closer to my immediate team members than I am to the overall purpose of the company as a whole? Am I really afraid to ask what I get out of my job if I lose the close relationships I’ve built with my team members?  Will I have to look to other areas of myself and my career for fulfillment and joy if the relationship with my close team members shifts?

– If I don’t scare/intimidate my team, they may not listen to me. I’m scared that if I’m too nice, they will walk all over me, and I’ll lose their buy-in on anything I need them to do.

Both love and fear are powerful motivators.  Waking up to what may lie beneath our motives as we lead can be a game-changing first step in personal growth for us and for the teams we lead.

Most of us learn about accountability from our parents, teachers, mentors, previous leaders and “bosses”.  The ways in which we experienced receiving accountability probably still shows up in how we approach accountability with our teams now.  Were we coached and guided positively and patiently? Or were we sternly told to “get our act together” or to “Figure it out!”.  Did we experience accountability out of love or fear?   While it may not serve to go back to our past and re-play in great detail old experiences, it may be helpful simply to see that what we currently hold to be effective discipline and accountability steps may not be the only way  – or the way that best serves us and our teams right now.  We can be better, more effective leaders whenever we choose to be.  We have information, systems and resources available to us to make a change, if we decide a change is warranted!

This week, we invite you to look carefully at how you think about and handle accountability, and see if there are any shifts you’d like to try!  And remember – we are sharing what works well for us and our team, in conjunction with much intensive training, support, and tools!  So research, reach out to experts in your field,  do your due diligence, and find what accountability pieces will best serve you and your team!

As always, the invitation is to: Wake up. Level up. Lead!       

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