One word. Six syllables. When many of us hear it, we get quiet and take notice. We pay more than the usual attention to things, processes, and people. This word places people into one of two categories: Those who are being held accountable and those who are holding people accountable.
All of us, at one point, whether it has been personal or professional, have had the experience of being on either side. Either you are having a difficult conversation, or someone has had to have one with you. No matter which seat you are sitting in, it is uncomfortable; even worse if you are a person who blames, denies, or avoids accepting accountability. Simply put, failure to “own your stuff.”
I am waist-deep in Brene Brown’s newest book Atlas of the Heart. I am always careful when I dive into her work because it makes me take a hard look at myself, my behaviors, how I am showing up. I have to read my friend Brene in small doses (She does not know me personally). If she only knew how much she made me work!
The audiobook is 8 hours long….and I am more excited with every page I turn! Yes, I have the audiobook and am reading it simultaneously. She pushes me to think, feel, and examine the hard stuff that is so easy for me to overlook. Brene forces me to lean into the uncomfortable bits of leading and managing my personal and professional life. Sometimes I feel as if she holding a magnifying glass to my world.
As a Leadership and Life Coach, I pride myself in being an “accountability partner” for my clients. I ask questions that promote ideas, movement, change. I do this while keeping in mind that my clients are whole, creative, and resourceful people. I am a tool helping drive the positive result they are seeking. In that dynamic, accountability is necessary. Whether it is a personal conversation with someone or a professional setting, I am always surprised when the accountability part happens, the emotional reaction that is reflected back to me. While I should be used to it, the emotional response always surprises me. I am frequently at a loss for words when this happens. (enter uncomfortable silence)
Something I read at the beginning of Atlas of the Heart resonated with me and will now become my mantra when faced with accountability backlash.
Brene writes, “I am responsible for holding you accountable in a respectful and productive way. I am NOT responsible for your emotional reaction to that accountability.”
When there are emotional reactions to feedback or counseling, the person giving it immediately has an emotional response. This diminishes the feedback and can quickly devolve into a comfort and apology party. What is more important is that the person receiving the feedback listens to the message.
When we come from a place of respect and compassion, they will hear us. Apologies are not necessary. There will always be hard conversations, incomplete tasks, hiccups, mishaps, and mistakes. We will sometimes give feedback, and other times we will receive it. Our thoughts and state of mind are so important on either side of the equation. Accountability does not have to be negative, but it does need to be constructive, and it is in short supply these days. Let’s be the leaders we wish we had. Starting with being more accountable for ourselves, our behaviors, and our outcomes.