Accountability is an Act of Love

I have been doing a lot of thinking about accountability lately. Holding others accountable is not something that comes easy for me. I have often struggled with the desire for the approval of others. So, it can be difficult to give people the kind of feedback necessary to hold them accountable. That said, holding others accountable is the loving thing to do. In essence, it says that you love them so much, you are going to help them get better. Realizing this truth has been helpful because the last thing I want to be is unloving, yet, that is what I become when I stay silent. 

Holding others accountable is one of the main reasons we follow leaders. I have always known this to be true because a leader does the things that are hard, and the things that most other people do not do. But, what I have come to realize is that this is only partially true. What I mean is that people are much more inclined to follow leaders who hold them accountable. I have found that people are willing to jump through hoops for the few leaders that nurture accountability in an uplifting  way. Here are some examples to illustrate what I mean. To differentiate, I will refer to the kind of leader that uplifts others as the “indispensable leader” for the remainder of this post. 

First, the indispensable leader holds others accountable in private, not in public. While this is obvious, it is absolutely critical. While some public accountability around the “what” is unavoidable (public metrics like sales figures, operational metrics, etc.), no public accountability around the “how” should ever happen. By the “how” I am referring to the activities the individual person engages in to perform their task. All discussions about the “how” should take place privately so the individual is not embarrassed publicly. 

Second, the indispensable leader encourages more than criticizes. There has been a lot written on the 5:1 ratio, or 5 messages of encouragement for every 1 message of critique. I have found that I am at my best when I do this at home, work, and everywhere else. Admittedly, it is easy when performance slips (mine or others) for me to be overly critical. I am a terrible leader when I do this.

Third, the indispensable leader processes an accountability issue with the person they are holding accountable. This sounds obvious because it is, yet I have succumb to the temptation of processing an issue with others in the past, so I note it here. While I continue to be a firm believer in perspective gathering because I often have the wrong view of a situation, it is important to keep this to a minimum within the organization. If it is absolutely necessary, be sure to process an issue with someone of equal organizational status or a superior. Secondly, make sure that you recount the situation in such a way that you would not be embarrassed if every word got back to the person not present. 

Finally, the indispensable leader is indispensable because they persist. I use the word persist intentionally because I have discovered that holding others accountable is not a one time event. The older I get, the more I realize how long change takes in myself and others. The only way this happens is through persistence. 

I turn 40 in the weeks to come, so I am doing a lot of reflection on my personal leadership as well as many other topics. If you come back to this blog you will probably notice a lot more reflections in the posts to come. I make mention here, however, because holding others accountable is an area I need to grow in, especially as it relates to peers and siblings working in the business. I am being ruthlessly honest here because the biggest takeaway for me has been learning that I am actually unloving when I am not holding others accountable. 

Said differently, the deepest longing of my heart is to be loved by God and loved by others. Therefore, it can be said that I desire being held accountable by others as well. To that end, may all our team members reading this post hear the invitation to my office when I need to be held accountable. Please tell me. And, please remember the 5:1 ratio when you are giving me the feedback I need to hear. 

I will do likewise. 

Let us be an organization where iron sharpens iron.