Accountability....What is that? Is that part of leadership? Really?
Uh Oh!! Another thing to add to my ToDo List. I can't keep up now, so how can I manage accountability? Every hear yourself say or ask something similar in your own life?
This is the reaction to interesting questions almost every leader has made in this day and age. In reality, the real questions need to be, "How do I lead and manage with accountability?" Why is it important and why is it important to me and the health of the organization, company and/or family that I lead?
When I am teaching, training, and coaching gymnastics, leadership, character education, WatchGuard firewalls, VPNs, and Internet Security, the subject of trust and accountability comes up every time. So many organizations, companies, and people have come to me in the last 6 months and without directly using the word "accountability," they were very concerned about things going on in their organization. Think about it...trust can't develop to healthy levels if no one can be trusted to perform and execute on time when promised. That is why we all need accountability.
We also own a gymnastics training center and we see and coach accountability every day in the gym. Many children today are not held accountable for their actions or for their results. So, in the gym, we talk with the athletes about goal setting, daily performance, and we let them know what the expectations and rewards/consequences are before we get to the finished product. I am learning a lot about accountability every month. I have also made accountability one of my personal life goals.
Let me explain. I am still learning about accountability. This is a tough subject that almost no one wants to wrestle with. Accountability seems to be a taboo subject. However, accountability is one of the critical learning processes in coaching athletes, especially young children K-12. Furthermore, they sometimes are even the best teacher. Recently, one of my high level athletes heard me set an expectation for one of her teammates that was not practicing well. What I had forgotten to do was set the expectations for performance earlier in practice and when it came time to "call out" this gymnast for her behavior, I had not "front loaded" my expectations, but I still provided an ultimatum if her attitude and behavior did not change. This other teammate called me on it and said, "you change your rules often don't you." That gymnast held me accountable and without even realizing it, she was reminding me that I needed to tell the athletes what is expected as a result of their performance, before a situation might arise, and I needed to take corrective action. That was a great question by this athlete. If I had not been accountable to my gymnast or myself, I would have missed this great opportunity to receive this teaching on accountability. Sometimes I have found that the best teacher is actually the student...and I must stay accountable to receive that teaching. I am grateful for the privilege to coach each and every one of our athletes for a "window of time." No one is perfect, but I am growing and learning to be accountable and help others to be accountable as well. I hope my athletes are as well.
Coaches and leaders at all levels at one time believed that their athletes people and teams were doing the right thing, but they may not have addressed accountability, nor did they "front load" accountability with the job descriptions and expectations. So now they are finding out that without the accountability, stuff never got done, or managed or executed on time. Goals were not met, and people were disappointed. That is generally what leads to disappointment and miscommunication in the end, which then keeps a "culture of ownership" from developing.
All of those things that concerned these leaders really referred back to what we call accountability. That is a big word, and has HUGE implications for the health and vitality of every organization, company, family and person. Every leader needs to be very good at inserting accountability into their personal lives to grow and develop healthy trusting relationships with themselves, their family, and their companies...and no, it does not mean discipline...it is so much more than that. Furthermore, they need to "front load" the accountability and expectations up front before the journey or task even starts. Don't wait until the issue arises, or the task is done or the event is over to think about accountability. Building accountability, and building it in pre-loaded beforehand, is the tough stuff that great organizations and strong leaders know best, act on, and are built with.
In this link to Lee Ellis' part 1 of his 6 part blog series on Accountability, he talks about: Leaders and Accountability.
Lee says, "Even though there are 14 lessons in my book, , three foundational attributes rise to the top—character, courage, and competency. To put it another way, the best leaders push through their selfishness and fear to skillfully do the right thing even when it’s painful. And part of doing the right thing is being accountable for one’s actions."
To read more on the tough subject of accountability and why it is critical to healthy relationships in every person's life, visit Lee's blog at:
On Leaders and Accountability: Notes from the Cliff | Lee Ellis on Leading with Honor:
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Until next time, "Keep leading with Character 1st." - Dane