The Power of Accountability Partners

For the past forty years, I’ve been helping people make changes in their life. Rarely, if ever, do I see lasting change without support and some accountability from others. It’s just too easy to drift back to familiar patterns and habits when we attempt to make changes on our own.

Years ago I came across the notion of Accountability Partners. After every seminar, I have everyone choose an Accountability Partner before getting back into the demands of their lives.

There are five criteria for an effective Accountability Partner:

  1. They are committed to supporting you to grow and change in a way that is right for you. They have no hidden agenda.
  2. You choose them. Like a good mentor that you reach out to, you have to decide who the right person is to work with.
  3. An effective accountability process involves clearly defined agreements: What do you agree to in the relationship? What are you committed to change? What does support and accountability look like in this relationship to ensure the needed change?
  4. Accountability Partners help hold you accountable in a way that supports your growth and change, whatever way you define that to be.
  5. There must be mutual benefit. As you define the expectations and parameters of the Accountability Partner relationship, be sure to be explicit about the value each person is getting from the relationship.

I’d love to hear what your experience is working with Accountability Partners.

What’s The Difference Between “Value Statements” and Real “Values?”

A senior manager recently told me how her boss criticized their work to a contractor she had hired without speaking with her first. Because the values in the company included respect, open communication, and collaboration, she respectfully approached him about her feelings and a proposed plan of action going forward. He abruptly dismissed her, saying in no uncertain terms that it was his prerogative to speak with whomever he wanted, and held her comments against her thereafter.

Values are meant to guide our decisions and our actions, but we really don’t know what our values are until they are tested under pressure. Most of us are skeptical of the lofty declarations of those in leadership positions as we experience the hypocrisy of their actions.

Most organizations have “value statements,” but few have a process to turn these statements into real “values” – a process of accountability that ensures everyone is expected to live them.

Here’s a few guidelines for making your values real:

  1. Make your values aspirational, not just descriptive. Values need to inspire everyone in the organization to bring their best self to their work.
  2. Ensure that each value is accompanied by expected behaviors of every employee.
  3. Every positional leader needs a Values Conversation with every person they serve that includes:
    • What do these values mean to you?
    • What do we expect from each other?
    • How will we know that we are living the values here?
    • How can we support each other to live these values in a meaningful way?
    • What happens when we discover a gap between what we espouse and the reality of our actions?
    • How will we hold each other accountable – in a way that honours our values?

There’s an ending to my friend’s story. Through a continued series of actions incongruent with the values of the company, the executive was eventually fired. The Senior Executive Team understood that they needed to lead in alignment with what they espoused. The decision to fire this person made a significant positive impact on the culture. People started to have regain faith in their positional leaders and in the culture.

Let’s renew our workplaces with a firm resolve to know what we stand for and follow it up with a promise to turn value statements into real values. Talk is cheap but behaviour is expensive; that’s why behaviour is a credible indicator of authenticity.

If you need support with getting your value statements off the wall and into the hearts of your people, feel free to reach out and schedule a complimentary call:

RAISING ACCOUNTABLE KIDS: It’s About Principles, Not Perfection

You can observe a lot by watching. – Yogi Berra
When grandparenting you aren’t in the thick of the responsibilities that come with raising kids, so you have a bit of time to observe. So, as a grandparent, here’s three observations I have about the state of child raising these days:
  • There’s no more important leadership responsibility than within the walls of our home. The greatest success lies in building strong character in our young people that will enable them to be contributing citizens of the world.
  • We’ve never been more aware of the needs of our children because we have access to extensive information on child development, the impacts of trauma on brain functioning, mental health, the importance of attachment, emotional regulation, and self-esteem and well-being.
  • We are now extremely anxious about how we’re doing as a parent and how our kids are going to turn out. And all the anxiety is spilling over onto our children. Paradoxically, the more we worry about our kids, the more anxious they become. Anxious parents raise anxious kids. They have enough of their own anxiety without us contributing to it.
For those who have assumed the vital and arduous work of leading young people, here are four strategies to consider:
  1. Don’t make life too easy for your kids. On the wall of my daughter’s high school English class was a quote by Van Jones, the political commentator: I don’t want you to be safe, ideologically. I don’t want you to be safe, emotionally. I want you to be strong. That’s different. I’m not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots and learn how to deal with adversity. I’m not going to take all the weights out of the gym; that’s the whole point of the gym. This is the gym. In other words, making the space within the walls of our homes and our schools safe doesn’t mean rescuing our children from the challenges of life. Just as the struggle to break through the cocoon builds the strength of the butterfly’s wings, if we want our children to fly one day, they must struggle and develop strong wings. Don’t raise your children to be happy. Raise your children to be strong. Strength comes when our kids know they are not alone. We are right beside them, in their corner. Loving without rescuing. Being there without doing for them what they can do for themselves. With strength, happiness will follow.
  2. Don’t be afraid to parent. Saying no is not abuse. Our children do not need us to be their friend. Their friends are their peer group. What our children need is a parent. There’s a big difference between pleasing your kids and loving your kids. Pleasing is about giving them what they want so they will be happy and like you. Pleasing comes from insecurity. Loving them is giving them what they need – and what they need may very well be different than what they think they need or what their friends have. Children are not born with accountability – the ability to be counted on; they have to learn it. And they learn it, in part, when they can count on the caregivers in their life. If you are a parent, your kids are counting on you to be one. Let’s work at being secure enough with ourselves that we don’t depend on our kids for our self-worth. It’s not their job.
  3. Set clear boundaries around digital media. Digital media was originally developed for two reasons: information and communication. When it exceeds its function and is used, like any product or substance, to meet our emotional needs or to escape from our life it becomes addictive. Monitoring our own use and consciously and carefully supervising the use of devices with our kids is now an integral part of parenting. You can’t leave it to chance.
  4. Relax. You don’t have to get it perfectly. I remember a time when our youngest daughter wanted to change her curfew to go to a friend’s party. The easy road would have been a quick “yes” or a quick “no.” Instead, we spent the better part of a week negotiating with her and struggling to do the right thing. I don’t know, to this day, if we did the right thing. What I do know is that my daughter knows she was loved. She knows she was loved because she knows that we invested in the relationship. As parents and caregivers of children, we never really know what “right” is. There’s no formula. The goal is not necessarily to be a better parent. The goal is to find joy on the journey. And finding the joy will make us a better parent.
In Blackfoot culture, turtles are considered to be a symbol of creation and motherhood and embody the concept that is similar to “Mother Earth” in English. To the Blackfoot, the turtle is patient, wise, knowledgeable, and long-lived. The Blackfoot saying Iikakimat mookakiit means be wise and preserve and can be used to describe the turtle’s characteristics. And these characteristics fit well into my own approach and philosophy of raising accountable kids: be patient, wise, a good role model and the kids will be alright.

Five Common Mistakes Leaders Make That Break Trust

We all understand the importance of trust and how it’s the glue that holds organizations together. However, trust is like a delicate flower. What can take years to earn can be destroyed in a decision.

What are the biggest mistakes leaders make to break trust – and how can we avoid them? We all get that lying, stealing, committing fraud, or making ethical or legal violations will destroy trust. But there are also more subtle, pervasive, corrosive actions that will erode trust in relationships if we aren’t conscious.

  1. Making sloppy agreements. Don’t be vague about when you’ve promised to do something.
  2. Not showing up on time. Some people don’t care if you’re five minutes late to a meeting. For others, it will cost you a contract or even a job. Why take the chance?
  3. Gossip. Make up your mind to be loyal in people’s absence. It will earn you self-respect and the respect of others.
  4. Not delivering on promises. Be a person who never makes a promise they don’t intend to keep.
  5. Covering up errors. No one will ever think less of you for putting your hand up and saying, “I’m responsible for that.”

Are you guilty of any of the mistakes that erode trust? Decide to be a leader that fosters trust by avoiding the mistakes that break trust.

How Do You Lead When Your Boss Can’t

We’ve all had them or met them: dismissive, insensitive, controlling, absent, volatile, or mean bosses who lack vision, compassion, or purpose.

People who suck the energy out of the room.

Here’s a few suggestions for dealing with difficult people:

  1. Embrace the situation. When you’re invested with people, you are going to be frustrated from time to time. It’s okay not to feel okay. Be sure you have a trusted support system in your life so you are aren’t going through this alone.
  2. See the opportunity. Every person has something to teach us, so before you do anything, ask why this person is in your life at this time.
  3. Be careful of labels. Maybe they aren’t a bad boss. Maybe they simply don’t meet your expectations. There’s a huge difference between violating the values of an organization and just being unpleasant.
  4. Be compassionate. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Empathy gets you further than criticism.
  5. Be courageous. If they are violating the values of your organization, it must be directly addressed – courageously and compassionately.
  6. Create your own vision. Rather than waiting for others to change (never a good leadership strategy), establish your own reason for coming to work that inspires you and serves the greater good.
  7. Give what you expect. Life is a mirror. What you give is reflected back to you. Instead of complaining you aren’t appreciated or valued, get so busy appreciating and valuing those around you that you don’t have time to complain.
  8. Know where the exit is. The first thing a flight attendant tells you is where the exits are. You don’t focus on them, but knowing your values means that exiting is always an option as a last resort. Remember also that your boss is not the only person who is your source of validation.

Does the word accountability have a positive or negative association for you?

Does the word accountability have a positive or negative association for you?

Throughout my career, accountability has been a central focus of my research and teaching.

Here are ten things I’ve learned about accountability:

  1. Accountability is the ability to be counted on. Never make a promise you don’t intend to keep, and when you make a promise, keep it, whether you feel like it or not.
  2. Think carefully before you make an agreement – then painstakingly keep the agreements you make. It’s much easier to say no upfront than it is to get out of an agreement that you no longer want to keep. And when you say yes, follow through.
  3. It’s easier to see a lack of accountability in others. It’s a lot easier to be mad at someone else for being late than to be mad at yourself for not showing up on time.
  4. Accountability is the cornerstone of self-respect. No one takes pride in doing something easy. Keeping a promise always leaves you feeling better about yourself. And when you respect yourself, you earn the trust and respect of others.
  5. Accountability inspires others. Accountability is usually used to hammer rather than inspire people. When properly understood, accountability is meant to create safety, alignment, and trust. It’s inspiring to be around people who can be counted on. You’ll get much further building accountability with a flashlight rather than a stick.
  6. Accountability is about ownership. Blaming and finger-pointing are all symptoms of a lack of accountability. Decide that all blame is a waste of time and your life will change forever. Accountability is ultimately about looking in the mirror.
  7. Accountability is about growing up. There’s a difference between maturity and aging. All beings grow oldbut growing up is the duty of human beings.
  8. Accountability requires a recovery plan. When you can’t keep a promise here’s a three-step recovery plan: a) Let your creditor know as soon as you know if your agreement is jeopardized; b) Negotiate with your creditor to minimize damages and re-commit to a new agreement; 3) Learn from your experience so it doesn’t happen again.
  9. To avoid downstream problems, get the agreements right. The vast majority of accountability problems stem from a lack of clear agreements and understanding the consequences. Courageous conversations upstream will prevent problems down the line.
  10. Accountability lies at the core of leadership. If you want your best people to produce results, stay engaged, be inspired, find value in coming back to the office after working from home, and be loyal, it all starts with a well-designed and delivered accountability process.